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New poll: N.H. Democratic Primary Is Too Close to Call

Sanders, Biden, Warren in tight race among likely voters

Pile of 2020 Presidential Election buttons Photo by Carsten Reisinger


Contact: Christine Gillette, 978-934-2209 (o), 978-758-4664 (c), or or Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944 or

With only eight days to go, the New Hampshire Democratic primary is wide open, with a close race for the lead and a large share of likely voters who say they could still change their mind, according to a new poll released today

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is at the head of the field with likely Democratic primary voters, with the support of 23 percent. But Sanders – who won the 2016 New Hampshire primary by 22 points – is now just 1 point ahead of former Vice President Joe Biden, who has the support of 22 percent of likely voters, and just 4 points ahead of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has 19 percent. With a margin of error of plus or minus 6.4 percent, the race is too close to call. 

The only other candidate registering double-digit support is Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who had 12 percent support among likely voters in the nonpartisan poll, which was independently funded and conducted by the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion. 

Tied for fifth place are U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer, with 6 percent, followed by U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (5 percent), Andrew Yang (2 percent) and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (1 percent) and 4 percent undecided. Detailed poll results – including how the candidates fare with likely voters by age and ideology, along with topline and methodology – are available at

Although the primary is next week, 39 percent of likely voters polled said they could change their mind about their choice for a presidential candidate. Sanders’ support appears the most stable, with 88 percent of respondents who favor him saying they will definitely vote for him and only 12 percent who reported they might change their mind. Among Biden supporters, 68 percent said their vote is definite and 32 percent said they could change their mind and with Warren, 62 percent of supporters are definite about their vote and 38 percent said they could choose another candidate. Among other candidates, support among those polled is less definite: 71 percent of Buttigieg voters said they could change their mind, followed by 64 percent among Steyer supporters and 58 percent among Klobuchar’s. These findings and the results due today from the Iowa caucuses suggest there could be large shifts in support leading up to the New Hampshire primary. 

“This is a true toss-up race. There are three candidates within the margin of error and when you count the persuadable voters for the other candidates, there is a high degree of instability in this race with just over a week to go. New Hampshire primaries are reputed for going down to the wire and it looks like Granite State Democrats are ready to live up to their reputation,” said Joshua Dyck, director of the Center for Public Opinion and associate professor of political science. 

The poll also asked likely first-in-the-nation primary voters which of the two national frontrunners – Sanders and Biden – is more likely to beat President Donald Trump in the November general election. Forty-two percent said Biden and 31 percent chose Sanders, with 27 percent saying they will fare about the same. However, when asked which candidate they agree with more on policy, 47 percent chose Sanders, 37 percent selected Biden and 16 percent said they agree with both equally. When asked who among all of the Democratic candidates will win the party’s nomination, 42 percent said Biden, 24 percent said Sanders and 8 percent said Warren; no other candidate registered above 5 percent. 

“With a neck-and-neck race between two, or possibly three candidates with Warren’s rise in our poll, it’s apparent that Democrats are caught in a dilemma between choosing a candidate who more closely approximates their policy desires and a candidate who they think can beat Donald Trump in November,” said Dyck. 

The survey also looked at likely Democratic primary voters’ views on Trump. Ninety-five percent said they disapprove of the job he is doing as president and only 8 percent said the country is headed in the right direction. A majority polled said they are not in favor of a compromise that would give Trump funding for a border wall in exchange for a national Medicare-for-all health care plan. And asked if they would rather see Trump re-elected or a giant meteor strike the Earth, 62 percent surveyed chose the meteor. 

“Democrats in the survey view Trump negatively, won’t make tough compromises with him and even prefer, probably in jest, an apocalyptic event to him winning re-election. Whether it’s about making stark policy contrasts or guaranteeing victory, Democrats badly want a win in November,” said John Cluverius, associate director of the Center for Public Opinion and assistant professor of political science.

The poll of likely Democratic primary voters also found:

  • Distrust of the federal government – a key issue in 2016 – remains a factor, with only 10 percent saying they trust it “most of the time,” compared with 34 percent who trust it “hardly ever” and 55 percent who trust it “some of the time.”
  • 67 percent believe that the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary should continue to be first, rather than rotating with other states. 

The poll of 400 likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters was independently funded by the University of Massachusetts Lowell, which has thousands of students, alumni and employees who call the Granite State home. The survey was designed and analyzed by the Center for Public Opinion and fielded by YouGov from Jan. 28 through Jan. 31. The center presents events and public-opinion polling on political and social issues to provide unique opportunities for civic engagement, experiential learning and real-world research. 

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its more than 18,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be leaders in their communities and around the globe.