Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump is holding on to his top spot in New Hampshire, according to a new WBUR poll. The survey, which was taken over the weekend, asked 405 likely GOP primary voters several questions ranging from U.S. military involvement in the Middle East to candidate performances in the FOX Business/WSJ GOP debate. Donald Trump has 23% overall support, with Ben Carson and Marco Rubio sharing 13%, Ted Cruz 8% and Jeb Bush 7%.
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“These are small movements with respect to candidate preferences which could be the beginning of larger trends that may potentially shake things up in this race,” said Costas Panagopoulos PhD., Professor of Political Science and Director of the campaigns and elections program at Fordham University.
Panagopoulos says the sample size of the poll is small enough that it may not be statistically significant but the uptick in support for Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and “the bit of erosion of support for Ben Carson” could be a result of Carson’s recent debate performance and developments in his campaign.
The former pediatric neurosurgeon has been facing harsh criticism for inconsistencies with personal stories featured in his biography; ”Gifted Hands” and a new report in the New York Times on Tuesday featured Carson’s top advisors expressing concerns for the presidential candidate’s inability to comprehend foreign policy. In the report, former CIA operative and Carson adviser for national security and terrorism, Duane R. Clarridge says, ”Nobody has been able to sit down with him and have him get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East.”
Focus on foreign policy is emerging as the top issue for 2016 candidates with the recent terror attacks in Paris. In the poll, when asked what the next president should do with U.S. troops in the Middle East those surveyed responded with the following:
- Send more troops to the region 38%
- Keep troop levels about where they are 28%
- Remove as many troops as possible from the region 22%
- Don’t Know / Refused 11%
Another question focused on how much the U.S. currently spends on the military: 54% said it is too low, 14% said it is too high and 27% said it is about right.
“I’m not sure if the public is in the best position to make these judgments but some of these responses are telling in the sense that I think the public acknowledges that something needs to be done,” said Panagopoulos. “Voters need time to process these developments. Sometimes the effects of terrorism like in the Paris attacks take time to be detected in polls because people need to process what happened and then dig deeper into the candidate’s positions to see who might be able to handle a situation like this.”
That could explain one reason an “outsider” candidate with no political foreign policy experience still ranks at number one, the other being the public’s frustration with the gridlock in Washington. In the poll an overwhelming 64% say they disapprove with Republican Party leader’s performances. When questioned what type of president they would prefer, 46% supported someone outside the political establishment while 36% opted for someone with experience in elected office.
Panagopoulos says these numbers don’t necessarily reflect Trump’s chances on winning the New Hampshire primary or gaining more votes at the polls.
“It’s been all about sending a message to politicians. We are watching what you are doing, we see you not getting anything done, we are not seeing progress, we are not seeing anyone working together, we are not seeing any sort of effort to change anything to shake Washington up to get things done for the American people and we are willing to ditch you if you continue to do this.”
When surveyed which candidate did the best in the FOX Business/WSJ GOP Debate, 36% said Marco Rubio, 16% Ted Cruz and 9% Donald Trump. On the flip side, 20% of primary voters agreed Trump’s performance was among the worst which also included John Kasich with 26% and Jeb Bush 16%.
The Poll results are based on a survey of 405 likely voters in the 2016 New Hampshire Republican Primary. Live telephone interviews were conducted from November 14-15, 2015 from both landline and cell phone. Approximately 9 in 10 respondents are previous primary voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. The poll was sponsored by WBUR, a National Public Radio station in the Boston area.