Built on a foundation of robust enthusiasm for his candidacy and a widespread acceptance among Republican primary voters of his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, Donald Trump holds a commanding 28-point lead in New Hampshire in his bid to capture the party’s 2024 presidential nomination, according to a Washington Post-Monmouth University poll.
The poll confirms other recent surveys that show former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley moving into a distant second place, after a series of well-received debate performances that have elevated her standing. The survey also contains signs the former South Carolina governor has potential to rise further among the state's relatively moderate primary electorate.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, meanwhile, has lost considerable ground in New Hampshire, where at least one other public poll showed him leading Trump at the beginning of the year. Now mired behind four others in New Hampshire, according to the Post-Monmouth poll, DeSantis has put his hopes on a strong second-place finish in Iowa to move him into contention elsewhere.
Most New Hampshire Republican primary voters say they would be satisfied with either Haley or DeSantis as the party’s presidential nominee, but the Post-Monmouth poll underscores that taking down Trump in that state remains a daunting task. The poll is a reminder that Trump’s false claims that there was widespread fraud in 2020, which he continues to assert without evidence, nonetheless provide a boost to his candidacy.
Two months before the Jan. 23 primary, 46 percent of potential New Hampshire primary voters support Trump while 18 percent support Haley. Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie stands at 11 percent, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy at 8 percent, and DeSantis at 7 percent.
More than 1 in 3 voters, or 35 percent, say Haley is either their first or second choice for the nomination. Among those voters who do not currently support Trump, 56 percent name Haley as their top or second choice. A majority of New Hampshire primary voters — 60 percent — say they would be satisfied or enthusiastic with her becoming the GOP nominee, including majorities across demographic and ideological groups.
But Haley and others also face a steep climb to consolidate support against Trump. The former president is in a stronger position than in 2016, when he won the New Hampshire primary with 35 percent, while eight other Republicans split the rest of the vote.
In a Monmouth poll of GOP voters eight years ago, 26 percent said they would be enthusiastic about Trump as the nominee; that's up to 41 percent today. About half as many are enthusiastic about Haley (20 percent), while 16 percent are enthusiastic about DeSantis and 6 percent about Christie.
Trump's support rises to 58 percent among those who are "extremely motivated" to vote in the primary. Four out of 5 Trump supporters say they will "definitely" vote for him. Fewer than half of voters supporting Haley and other candidates say they are committed to their current choice, and some of these voters say Trump is their second choice.
New Hampshire's primary will come eight days after the Jan. 15 Iowa caucuses. In past campaigns, Republican voters in Iowa and New Hampshire have gone in different directions in their preferences. Dating back to 1980, in elections not involving a sitting president, the winner of the Iowa caucuses has gone on to lose in New Hampshire.
Trump, however, is running as a quasi-incumbent, the rare case of someone who lost the presidency after one term coming back four years later to seek the White House again. He currently dominates the field in Iowa, and the new Post-Monmouth poll shows he could put himself on a quick path to the 2024 nomination with victories in the first two states. That highlights the hurdles that his GOP challengers face as they attempt to blunt his strength starting in Iowa and continuing in New Hampshire.
The sharpest dividing line among New Hampshire's voters are false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, which Trump has persistently promoted. A 55 percent majority of potential primary voters say Biden won "due to voter fraud." Among that group, 72 percent support Trump, while all other candidates are in single digits. Among the 38 percent who say Biden won "fair and square," 35 percent support Haley, 27 percent back Christie, and 11 percent support Trump, with other candidates below.
Christie, who has staked his candidacy on a strong showing in New Hampshire, faces the most difficult path to victory, with 60 percent of potential voters rating him unfavorably, up from 36 percent before the 2016 primary. An identical 60 percent say they would be dissatisfied or upset if he won the nomination. Yet Christie retains 11 percent support — about five times his standing in national polls — driven primarily by moderates, independents and college graduates. Ramaswamy also faces headwinds, with equal shares of voters rating him favorably and unfavorably (40 percent).
DeSantis is narrowly popular among New Hampshire primary voters, with 47 percent rating him favorably and 40 percent unfavorably, though a larger 55 percent say they would be satisfied or enthusiastic with him as the nominee. And while 7 percent say DeSantis is their first choice, 20 percent say they would pick him second, including 31 percent of Trump supporters.
Illegal immigration tops the list of important issues facing the country, with 25 percent saying it is the most important, followed by inflation and rising prices at 20 percent, then the Justice Department being used for political purposes at 10 percent, abortion at 7 percent and government debt at 6 percent. Just 3 percent say the Israel-Gaza war is most important, and 1 percent name crime.
Trump's supporters are far more likely to say illegal immigration or politicization of the Justice Department are the nation's top issues than voters supporting other Republican candidates.
In one sign of New Hampshire's moderate streak, most potential GOP voters say abortion should be legal in most or all cases (54 percent). By contrast, 58 percent of potential South Carolina primary voters said abortion should be mostly or always illegal in a September Post-Monmouth poll.
Republican voters in New Hampshire offer different prescriptions on military aid to Israel and Ukraine. Nearly 7 in 10 potential primary voters support providing additional arms and military supplies to Israel in its war with Hamas, including an identical share of Trump and non-Trump voters. But 51 percent of primary voters oppose providing additional military support for Ukraine in its war with Russia. More than 7 in 10 Trump supporters oppose further Ukraine aid, while more than 6 in 10 of those backing other candidates support it.
Candidates' support divides sharply on both ideological and educational lines. Trump's support peaks at 75 percent among voters identifying as very conservative, dropping to 14 percent among Republican voters who call themselves moderate or liberal. Trump leads Haley, 48 percent to 15 percent, among "somewhat conservative" voters, who made up the largest group of primary voters in 2016 exit polls.
By education, Trump's support is strongest, at 66 percent, among voters with a high school education or less, compared with 50 percent of those with some college, 36 percent of those with a bachelor's degree and 26 percent of those with an advanced degree. Haley's support rises with each education level, but she only leads Trump among those with a postgraduate education, with 36 percent support.
Regular Fox News viewers are also among Trump's stronger supporters, with 57 percent of those who watch the network often or sometimes supporting the former president. Among GOP voters in the state who say they get their news from Fox rarely or never, Trump has the support of a much smaller 35 percent but is still in the lead.
The Post-Monmouth poll was conducted Nov. 9-14 among a random sample of 606 potential GOP primary voters in New Hampshire sampled from a statewide voter file. The sample was limited to voters who are registered as Republicans or undeclared and said they are likely to vote in the Republican primary.
Interviews were completed by live callers on cellphones and landlines, as well as through an online survey via cellphone text invitation. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points among the full sample of potential Republican primary voters.