Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has a commanding lead over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the crucial first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire, according to a new poll of Democratic voters.
The poll, from CNN and WMUR, found Sanders with a 16-point lead over Clinton, the overall Democratic front-runner.
In the Granite State, 46% of Democratic voters said they would vote for Sanders if the primary were held today, compared with just 30% who would back Clinton.
Vice President Joe Biden, who is still weighing whether to enter the race, was in third with 14% support.
Thirty-seven per cent of Democratic voters said Biden should run, compared with 32% who said he should sit out. If he does not run, the poll found the plurality of his support would go to Clinton.
But the poll offered fresh signs of weakness for the Democratic front-runner in the key early state, which neighbours Sanders’ home state of Vermont. Clinton’s support in New Hampshire has plunged from 42% in July — and from 51% in May.
She was viewed favourably by 67% of Democratic voters, down 6 points from July and 16 points from February. And 33% New Hampshire voters chose her as the “least honest” of the candidates — no other candidate got more than 2% in that category.
Sanders, meanwhile, has seen all of his numbers surge since the last CNN/WMUR poll in July. He’s the candidate with the most positive image score — 78% of New Hampshire Democratic voters viewed him favourably. His support overall has climbed 10 points.
And New Hampshire voters also now believe that Sanders is as likely to win the New Hampshire primary as Clinton — in July, though her overall support dipped, 68% of voters still thought Clinton was the most likely candidate to win in New Hampshire.
The poll follows a trend over the past two months. Sanders has been surging in the Granite State, leading Clinton in every public poll of the state since early August. Other polls of New Hampshire have given him more modest advantages. His strength in New Hampshire has not yet mirrored itself nationally, where Clinton still holds double-digit leads, on average.
Clinton received some signs of lingering strength in the survey — 51% of New Hampshire voters said she has the best chance of winning the general election, compared with 19% for Sanders and 15% for Biden. And 44% chose her as the candidate with the “right experience to be president.”
And Biden also could make the Democratic primary in New Hampshire a legitimate three-way race. He sits right behind Sanders as the second most “likable” Democratic candidate. And as he has publicly flirted with a run, his support has climbed 9 points over the last two months.