N.H. poll shows Trump, Clinton tied; Ayotte slightly ahead
With just five days before the presidential election, a new Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll in the swing state of New Hampshire found Hillary Clinton has lost her lead and is tied with Donald Trump, who appeared to pick up momentum after a surprising, late-hour disclosure by the FBI.
The poll, conducted Monday through Wednesday, found Clinton and Trump tied at 42 percent each. It also showed incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte ahead of her Democratic opponent, Governor Maggie Hassan, by two points — a statistical tie.
“Clinton has clearly had a rough patch, but what we simply don’t know about this swing for Trump is if we are halfway through it or if it is peaking and about to come back the other way for Clinton with a critical weekend ahead of us,” said David Paleologos, the director of the Suffolk poll.
The Globe poll found that independent voters were swayed by the announcement Friday by FBI Director James Comey that the agency had learned of e-mails that “appear to be pertinent” to the once-closed investigation of Clinton’s use of a private server while she was secretary of state. He said FBI investigators planned to review those e-mails to determine if they included classified information.
Among New Hampshire independent voters, 52 percent said the FBI announcement made them less likely to vote for Clinton, while 40 percent said it wouldn’t affect their vote. The Globe found that the FBI news solidified the positions held by partisan Republican and Democrats.
It’s clear that both presidential candidates now see New Hampshire and its four Electoral College votes in play. Trump will be in the state Friday and Monday. Clinton will be in the state on Sunday followed up by President Obama who will campaign there Monday.
The margins in the Suffolk/Globe poll are similar to a New Hampshire poll also released Thursday by WBUR, which found Trump up by a single point and Ayotte with a slight lead. A UMass Lowell poll of New Hampshire released late Thursday night mirrored the Globe/Suffolk results by showing the presidential race tied with Trump and Clinton at 44 percent each.
Just a week ago Clinton held leads nationally and consistently ahead in New Hampshire. But when Comey told Congress last Friday the agency was looking into newly found e-mails possibly related to Clinton’s private server, Trump began to pick up speed.
Clinton is now playing defense, campaigning in traditionally Democratic states like Michigan. And while the Democrats have believed Clinton would win 272 electoral voters even in their worst-case scenarios — two more than the 270 required to win the White House — that sum generally included the four electoral votes from New Hampshire.
Among those independent voters concerned about the FBI news was Carina Kidd, a 20-year-old chemical engineering student from Chester, who is still making up her mind about the election.
“I have had a pretty open mind on the presidential race, but these e-mails make me think pretty low of her,” Kidd said Thursday. “It almost makes me think that I would rather deal with Trump, who may have vomit of the mouth, but can at least learn to do better versus someone who has already done stuff you don’t like.”
But independent Jeff Brouillard, a 62-year-old construction consultant from Nashua, said the latest news about Clinton’s e-mail server doesn’t change his plan to cast a vote against Trump.
“Does it look good? No. It is just more drama,” said Brouillard. “But even if the FBI found she gave national security secrets to the North Koreans, Clinton would still be a better option than Donald Trump.”
Brouillard, like many interviewed in the survey, said he wished he had better options for president. But Andrew Dean, a pastor from Mont Vernon, said he is backing Trump out of a larger principle. “For me it is about the Supreme Court,” Dean said.
The poll, conducted by the Suffolk University Political Research Center, found that 5 percent of New Hampshire voters backed Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, another 2 percent supported Green Party candidate Jill Stein and 8 percent were undecided.
Clinton has led Trump in previous New Hampshire polls by various organizations. In October, Suffolk found Clinton with a two-point lead over Trump there.
In the state’s open seat for governor, Republican Chris Sununu was leading Democrat Colin Van Ostern, 41 percent to 37.
In the Senate race, those supporting the virtually unheard-of Libertarian nominee, Brian Chabot, may decide who wins. The poll found Chabot had 4 percent support, which more than separates Ayotte and Hassan. Digging deeper into the numbers, Paleologos said Chabot’s supporters are people who don’t like Ayotte and Hassan and are using him as a third option.
“The Chabot vote is like that of Gary Johnson in the presidential race, the option people pick if they don’t like the major party nominees,” Paleologos said. “But this could change later.”
The poll of 500 likely general election voters was conducted using landlines and cellphones. The poll’s margin of error was 4.4 percentage points.