Three weeks before voters in New Hampshire head to the polls to select their favorites to be their parties’ presidential nominees, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has built a commanding lead over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton among likely Democratic primary voters.
Sanders leads Clinton 60 percent to 33 percent in the latest WMUR/CNN New Hampshire Primary Poll, with former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley at 1 percent and 6 percent undecided.
View the full poll results HERE.
Sanders’ huge lead in his neighboring state is fueled by his remarkable popularity and broad appeal.
He is viewed favorably by 91 percent of likely Democratic primary voters and unfavorably by 7 percent. His support is strong among both men and women, among all age groups and in all geographic areas of the state.
He leads by a 3-1 margin among independents and has surpassed Clinton among Democrats.
Six weeks ago, a WMUR/CNN New Hampshire Primary Poll had Sanders ahead 50 percent to 40 percent. In September, Sanders led 46 percent to 30 percent.
But as the primary approaches and the race becomes increasingly contentious, voters who are making up their minds are strongly favoring Sanders.
At the same time, jobs and the economy has moved again into the top spot among voting issues on Democratic primary voters’ minds after being briefly supplanted by foreign policy and national security.
Currently, 26 percent of those polled named jobs and the economy as their top voting issue, while 13 percent named foreign policy and national security. Income inequality was named by 10 percent as the top voting issue as compared to only 3 percent in the December poll. Health care was also named by 10 percent as the top voting issue in the new poll.
Sanders and Clinton are both viewed favorably by likely voters, but Sanders’ rating is nothing short of astronomical.
Voters’ view of Sanders is even more favorable now than it was in December, when he was viewed favorably by 83 percent and unfavorably by 9 percent.
Survey Center director Andrew Smith said Sanders’ favorability rating the highest he has seen in his many years polling presidential races.
Clinton is currently viewed favorably by 65 percent and unfavorably by 26 percent. In December, Clinton was viewed favorably by 68 percent and unfavorably by 24 percent.
According to the new WMUR poll, 52 percent of likely Democratic primary votes say they have definitely decided who they will support on Feb. 9, while 23 percent are leaning toward a candidate and 26 percent are still fully undecided. In early December, 44 percent were still trying to decide.
Also, according to the survey center, interest in the Democratic primary has increased since early December, with 48 percent of undeclared, or independent voters saying they plan to vote in the Democratic primary and 44 percent saying they plan to vote in the Republican primary, while 8 percent are unsure which ballot they will take.
Voters were asked which candidate is most equipped to handle top issues.
Clinton was chosen by 55 percent as the candidate best able to handle ISIS, while Sanders was named by 26 percent. But, Sanders was picked by 57 percent as best able to handle the economy, while 33 percent chose Clinton.
Also, Sanders was named by 58 percent as the candidates with “the personal characteristics and qualities that a president should have.” Clinton was named by 33 percent. In December, Clinton was favored in that category, 38 percent to 27 percent.
In the new poll, Clinton was named by 55 percent as the “least honest” candidate, as compared to 2 percent for Sanders and 5 percent for O’Malley, while 36 percent said they did not know.
Sanders appears to be attracting large numbers of voters who have not voted in past primaries. The poll showed him leading 76 percent to 22 percent among voters who did not vote in the 2008 or 2012 presidential primary. But he also leads 55 percent to 36 percent among those who voted in both of those primaries.
Sanders leads among all age groups and runs strongest among those 18 to 34 years of age, leading 81 percent to 17 percent. Clinton fares best among those 65 and over, trailing Sanders 44 percent to 42 percent, which is a virtual tie.
Men strongly favor Sanders 70 percent to 26 percent, while he has widened his lead among women. In December, Sanders’ led among women, 48 percent to 42 percent. He now leads among women 52 percent to 38 percent.
Voters from union households favor Sanders, 62 percent to 35 percent, while those from non-union households favor him, 59 percent to 33 percent.
Geographically, Sanders leads in the 1st Congressional District 58 percent to 36 percent and in the 2nd Congressional District 62 percent to 29 percent.
Sanders will return to New Hampshire to campaign on Thursday and Friday. Clinton will return on Friday, while former President Bill Clinton and Hillary for American campaign manager John Podesta will campaign on Wednesday in Concord.