New Hampshire poll: Haley moves into 2nd behind Trump

By Jennifer Agiesta and Ariel Edwards-Levy | CNN

Former President Donald Trump maintains a significant lead among likely voters in New Hampshire’s Republican presidential primary, but former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has moved ahead of Trump’s other rivals and holds second place, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire.

Trump’s advantage in New Hampshire remains short of the majority support he garners in primary polling nationally: 42% say they would vote for him, followed by Haley at 20%, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 14%, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at 9%, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy at 8%, and no other candidate holding more than 2% support. Haley’s support has climbed 8 percentage points from the last CNN/UNH poll in September, with Ramaswamy dipping 5 points and support for Trump, Christie and DeSantis remaining relatively steady.

The survey finds that Trump’s standing in New Hampshire is boosted by majority support among registered Republicans (55% back him, 17% Haley, 11% DeSantis), while undeclared voters – those who are not registered with either party but say they are likely to vote in the Republican primary – are split between Haley (25%), Trump (24%) and Christie (24%).

Undeclared voters, who can choose which party’s primary to vote in, make up about 43% of likely GOP primary voters in the new poll. That’s roughly the same as their share of the GOP primary electorate in 2012 – the last time there was a competitive Republican primary with an incumbent Democratic president seeking reelection – but a larger share than the 36% they represented in the 2016 GOP primary when Trump made his first run at the presidency, according to CNN’s exit polls.

New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan announced Wednesday that the state’s first-in-the-nation primary would be held on January 23, about a week after Iowa’s caucuses kick off the GOP nomination contest.

There’s been a sharp increase since September in the share of likely Granite State Republican voters who say their vote is locked in: Just 36% of them in September said they’d definitely decided. Now, 52% say their minds are made up. More than 8 in 10 Trump supporters (83%) say their choice is definite, compared with 29% who back other candidates, including roughly a quarter of Haley’s supporters (27%) and Christie’s backers (25%).

Christie remains the candidate who likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire most often say they would never support (47% say they would never back him, 15 points ahead of the 32% who feel that way about Trump), yet that reflects a softening in views toward the former New Jersey governor, or at least in voters’ definition of “never.” In September, 60% of likely Republican primary voters said they would never support him.

Republican primary voters here aren’t buying the electability arguments some rivals have made against Trump – 57% say the former president has the best shot of winning the general election next year, up from 51% who said so in September and significantly higher than his overall support in the primary. And nearly two-thirds of likely GOP primary voters (63%) say they’d be at least satisfied with Trump as the nominee, greater than the share saying the same about any other major candidate. Still, those who aren’t current Trump supporters express mostly negative views about the idea of a Trump nomination: While 38% would be at least satisfied, 59% would be dissatisfied or angry about it.

Overall, a majority of likely Republican primary voters (54%) would feel at least satisfied should Haley become the nominee. Haley narrowly outpaces Trump on this score among those voters who are registered undeclared (50% in this group would be satisfied should she become the nominee, 44% would be with Trump). Overall, about half of all likely GOP primary voters (49%) would be at least satisfied with DeSantis at the top of the ticket, 44% with Ramaswamy and just 32% with Christie.

Asked to rate Trump on a range of attributes, likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire give him broadly positive ratings for his policy positions (67%), decision-making abilities (66%), physical and mental fitness (63%), and ability to understand the problems facing people like them (60%). Fewer have a positive impression of his temperament (37%) or his honesty and integrity (46%). Still, even among those not backing Trump for the party’s nomination, sizable minorities rate his policy positions (46%) and decision-making skills (42%) positively. The gap between Trump backers and others is a chasm, however, when it comes to perceptions of his honesty level: While 90% of Trump’s own supporters say his honesty and integrity are good or very good, just 13% of likely primary voters backing other candidates say the same.

A steady share of likely Republican primary voters name the economy or jobs as the most important issue in deciding their primary vote (39% in September, 40% now), and there’s a similarly consistent number mentioning immigration or the border (19% in September, 18% now). But there has been a sharp increase in the share who mention a foreign policy issue as decisive to their primary vote, from 6% in September to 15% now.

Half of likely GOP primary voters in New Hampshire (50%) trust Trump the most out of the GOP presidential candidates to handle the war between Israel and Hamas, while 20% say they trust Haley the most. Trump holds a wider edge as the most trusted on the economy (58% say he can best handle it compared with 11% for Haley and 10% for Christie), but a significantly smaller advantage on handling abortion (37% for Trump to 29% for Haley).