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The headline from our first WBUR poll of the New Hampshire primary, out today, is retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson nipping at the heels of real estate tycoon/reality star Donald Trump. In third place behind them is Carly Fiorina, meaning three outsiders, none of whom have held political office, are preferred over a field of current and former senators and governors.

Not a real Craigslist ad.

We asked voters what attributes they valued in a presidential candidate, and the results shed light on why the outsiders are now the frontrunners.

Honesty, Strength, Change Most Important

The single most important attribute was that a candidate “says what he or she truly believes”; 87 percent of potential GOP primary voters consider that “very important” to their vote. Voters are also looking for a candidate who “can bring real change to Washington” (83 percent) and “shows strength and confidence” (80 percent).

These three traits are at or near the top of the list for supporters of almost every candidate with enough support to analyze. One notable exception is Jeb Bush. His supporters feel a candidate who “treats others with respect and courtesy” (82 percent very important) is much more important than bringing real change to Washington (62 percent). Bush is, in this respect, the anti-Trump.

attribute chart

Political Experience, True Conservatism Less Valued

Far less important are the qualities one would associate with the kind of establishment candidate  Republicans have tended to favor in recent years. When choosing a presidential nominee, New Hampshire Republican voters actually cared more about success in the private sector (40 percent) than experience in elected office (24 percent). And in a blow to more doctrinaire candidates like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul, only 36 percent think a candidate being a “true conservative” is very important to their vote. There is a gap between registered Republicans and undeclared voters (i.e. Independents) on this issue: 43 percent of Republicans value a true conservative, but only 22 percent of Independents feel the same way.

Somewhere in the middle is the crucial question of electability. Sixty-eight percent overall think a candidate being able to win in November is very important, but again there is a gap between partisans and Independents. Three-quarters of registered Republicans want a candidate who can win in the general election, while only slightly more than half (54 percent) of Independents consider this a very important attribute.


Much has been made of Donald Trump’s controversial comments, which would render a conventional candidate unelectable but seem only to have increased his appeal. Indeed, there is a “yuge” gap between Trump’s supporters and those of other candidates on this issue. Only 37 percent of Trump voters think treating others with respect is a very important attribute in a candidate. But for every other candidate with enough support to analyze, 75 percent or more think respect is very important.

This difference should be a note of caution for other candidates: Don’t mud wrestle with Trump. His supporters may not seem to mind his aggressive rhetoric, but other voters do.

Change They Can Believe In

Of course, as with all polling at this stage, it must be said that it is very early. But right now New Hampshire voters seem to be bucking traditional candidates in favor of outsiders and political newcomers who can change the status quo and who aren’t afraid to speak their minds. In other words, New Hampshire Republican primary voters are looking for Change They Can Believe In.


Moar 2016

Tune into Radio Boston on WBUR at 3pm for the Democratic results from our New Hampshire poll.

Speaking of WBUR, Dan Payne and Todd Domke discuss our new poll and preview tonight’s CNN GOP debate.

Monmouth University is a couple days ahead of us with their New Hampshire polling, which found Trump leading Carson by 11 and Sanders over Clinton by 7.

The latest New York Times/CBS News poll also finds Ben Carson closely trailing Trump nationally.

The Fix sums up Scott Walker’s remarkable collapse in Iowa polls in a single chart.

PPP finds that Floridians are not looking favorably on native sons Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.

The Wall Street Journal looks at the incredible amount of time cable news has dedicated to Trump  — and ratings they have reaped in return.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton’s support among Democratic women — the base of her base — dropped 30 points in the 8 weeks between ABC/Washington Post polls.

The Upshot charts Hillary Clinton’s collapsing favorable ratings and ponders whether they present an opening for Vice President Joe Biden.



In advance of Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States, Pew is out with a major new survey of American Catholics.

FiveThirtyEight debunks recent headlines about a “crime wave” in U.S. cities.

Governor Charlie Baker’s MBTA is looking to curb absenteeism. But given that absent drivers have impacted less than 2 percent of all trips, MPG’s Steve Koczela wonders whether riders will notice much of an improvement.

The Guardian compares the length of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, now the longest in British history, to those of other monarchs around the world.


In Memoriam

HuffPollster has a roundup of the heartfelt tributes to Pew Research’s Andy Kohut, who died last week at the age of 73 after a fight against leukemia. Kohut was truly a giant in the polling industry, and he will be missed.


—————————————-NERD ALERT TEARLINE—————————————–

Progressive political analyst Jon Robinson is out with the nerdiest take on Donald Trump you’ll read all week. The lay person summary: There’s evidence that people are less likely to say they support Donald Trump when talking to a live interviewer instead of an automated telephone or online survey.

Here’s a somewhat dewonked excerpt:

In the graph below, I plot the time series of Trump support among Republicans (a mix of registered voter, adult, and 2016 likely voting) broken out by whether a poll had any interviewer at all (live telephone interviewer or even a mix of live/Internet) as compared to polls that had no interviewer whatsoever involved in the process (IVR and internet only polls). … What you can see below is that consistent with a mode effect, Trump support among polls without an interviewer has been anywhere from five to ten points higher than in polls with interviewers since Trump’s rise in the polls began in July. …