McCain and Gore Emerge as Front-runners in New Hampshire Primary

by Lydia Saad

Independent voters tip election scales in McCain's favor

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- With one week to go before the nation's first presidential primary in New Hampshire, voters in the Granite State seemed poised to deliver an upset to George W. Bush, despite his nearly two-year domination over his Republican competitors in national public opinion polls. The national Democratic front-runner Al Gore, on the other hand, is leading his only rival, Bill Bradley, in New Hampshire, albeit by a substantially smaller margin than that seen nationally.

The latest results from the CNN/USA Today/Gallup New Hampshire tracking poll, based on likely primary voters interviewed January 21-23, find Arizona Senator John McCain leading the Republican six-pack with 43% of the vote while Bush trails by nine points, with 34%. Of the four other major Republican candidates running, only Steve Forbes enjoys support in the double digits, with 13%. Alan Keyes draws 7% of the New Hampshire Republican vote, Gary Bauer 1%, and Orrin Hatch less than 1%.

Among New Hampshire adults likely to vote in the Democratic primary, Al Gore is favored for his party's nomination by 50% to 45% over Bill Bradley.

Potential for Change Before Primary Day
As they say, it ain't over 'til it's over, and both races could be altered by whatever political momentum candidates are able to take away from the Iowa caucuses held last night.

One factor works in George Bush's favor as he tries to attract new support: despite lagging behind in the New Hampshire polls, he is viewed favorably by seven in ten voters who are likely to participate in the New Hampshire Republican primary, with only 27% of voters in this group viewing him unfavorably. John McCain is also viewed highly positively, with 82% viewing him favorably and only 14% unfavorably. But other candidates in the GOP race have accumulated substantial negatives among potential New Hampshire voters, and thus seem less well positioned to pick up new support in the final week. This includes Gary Bauer, of whom only 25% of voters have a favorable opinion and 44% an unfavorable opinion. Similarly, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch receives a 30% favorable score and a 43% unfavorable score. Steve Forbes has a relatively high favorable rating of 52%, but at 41%, he also has a high unfavorable rating. Alan Keyes has a similarly mixed image: 46% favorable and 35% unfavorable.

Independents Driving McCain's Lead
New Hampshire election law allows for unaffiliated and nonregistered voters to participate in party primaries by registering to vote with either the Republican or Democratic Party as late as primary day, February 1. Gallup's New Hampshire tracking poll shows John McCain has independent voters to thank for his current lead in the Republican primary campaign.

In both parties' races, Gallup finds different patterns of support between pure partisans and political independents who intend to vote. In the Democratic race, Gore leads Bradley among registered Democrats, 53% to 42%, while Bradley leads Gore 49% to 47% among independents who plan to vote in the Democratic primary. However, the pattern is particularly strong in the Republican race. Bush leads McCain by 39% to 36% among Republican likely voters, but among independents who plan to vote in the Republican primary, McCain leads Bush by a striking 58% to 22% margin.

What is McCain's appeal among independents? According to a set of questions asking voters to compare their party's two front-runners on a series of characteristics, McCain significantly outscores George W. Bush among independents on the personal dimensions of having a vision for the country's future and as being someone you can trust. McCain is also much more likely to be perceived among independents as being in touch with average Americans. Much smaller ratings differences are seen between Republicans and independents when it comes to the candidates' perceived abilities to win in November, get things done in Washington, or keep the economy strong.

Issues Vs. Character
One interesting contrast evident in the new poll concerns the image of the party front-runners. All four of the top candidates across the two parties -- Al Gore, John McCain, Bill Bradley and George W. Bush -- enjoy high favorable ratings from voters likely to participate in their party's primary. However, in terms of their preferences in the primary, New Hampshire Republicans and Democrats are drawn to very different images of their leading candidates. The Republicans favor character, while the Democrats are backing competence.

In part because of the opinions of political independents, likely Republican primary voters choose McCain over Bush when it comes to vision, trust and the ability to relate to average Americans -- all qualities associated with his personal character. His rival George W. Bush scores better on keeping the economy strong and the ability to win in November, and is roughly equal to McCain on the perception he can get things done in Washington.

By contrast, the Democratic front-runner in New Hampshire, Al Gore, is perceived as strong in the issues and competency areas of the economy, electability, and getting things done in Washington. Opponent Bill Bradley outscores Gore on trust, being in touch with average Americans, and nearly ties with Gore on vision.

Contrast With National Picture
The New Hampshire picture of a McCain victory and a slim Gore win contrasts sharply with Gallup's national pre-election polls. In the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup nationwide survey, conducted January 17-19, George W. Bush held a 44-point lead over John McCain for the Republican nomination, 63% vs. 19%. In the same survey, Al Gore led Bill Bradley by 33 points, 60% vs. 27%.

The CNN/USA Today/Gallup New Hampshire tracking poll will be conducted nightly between now and the February 1 primary; new results based on continuous rolling averages will be reported each day.

Survey Methods
The latest results are based on telephone interviews with New Hampshire voters conducted January 21 through January 23. Republican figures include interviews with 620 Republicans and independents who are likely to vote in the February 1 New Hampshire Republican primary, and have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points. Democratic figures include interviews with 487 Democrats and independents who are likely to vote in the February 1 New Hampshire Democratic primary, and have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus five percentage points. Results for tracking interviews for the January 20-22 poll contain similar numbers of interviews with Republicans and Democrats. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Suppose the Republican primary election for president were being held today. If you had to choose among the following candidates, which candidate would you vote for? [RANDOM ORDER: Gary Bauer, George W. Bush, Steve Forbes, John McCain, Orrin Hatch, Alan Keyes]

(If Unsure) As of today, to which Republican candidate do you lean most?

  Bauer Bush Forbes McCain Hatch Keyes Other/ Undecided
2000 Jan
21-23
1% 34 13 43 * 7 2
 
2000 Jan
20-22
1% 33 13 42 1 7 3

Suppose the Democratic primary election for president were being held today. If you had to choose between [ROTATED: Bill Bradley or Al Gore], which candidate would you vote for?

(If Unsure) As of today, to which Democratic candidate do you lean more?

  Bradley Gore Other/ undecided
2000 Jan 21-23 45% 50 5
 
2000 Jan 20-22 43% 52 5

Next, I'm going to read a list of characteristics a president might have. For each one, please tell me, regardless of which candidate you support, whether you think it applies more to [ROTATE: George W. Bush or John McCain]. How about … ? [RANDOM ORDER]

  Bush McCain SAME (vol.) No opinion
Can get things done in Washington
2000 Jan 20-22 43% 42 10 5
Has the better chance of beating the Democratic candidate in November
2000 Jan 20-22 73% 18 5 4
Has a vision for the country's future
2000 Jan 20-22 34% 45 17 4
Will keep the economy strong
2000 Jan 20-22 45% 34 14 7
Is in touch with the average American
2000 Jan 20-22 26% 58 12 4
Is someone you can trust
2000 Jan 20-22 26% 50 19 5

Next I'm going to read a list of characteristics a president might have. For each one, please tell me, regardless of which candidate you support, whether you think it applies more to [ROTATE: Al Gore or Bill Bradley]. How about … ?[RANDOM ORDER]

  Gore Bradley SAME (vol.) No opinion
Can get things done in Washington
2000 Jan 20-22 60% 25 10 5
Has the better chance of beating the Republican candidate in November
2000 Jan 20-22 66% 26 4 4
Has a vision for the country's future
2000 Jan 20-22 39% 38 20 3
Will keep the economy strong
2000 Jan 20-22 54% 25 13 8
Is in touch with the average American
2000 Jan 20-22 34% 49 13 4
Is someone you can trust
2000 Jan 20-22 34% 39 23 4

* = less than 0.5%
(vol.) = volunteered response

Get Articles in Related Topics:


Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/3310/McCain-Gore-Emerge-Frontrunners-New-Hampshire-Primary.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030