NBC News/Marist poll: Sanders, Buttigieg continue to lead in New Hampshire

Just days away from the first-in-the-nation primary, Sanders holds a narrow lead but Buttigieg has seen enthusiasm for his candidacy rise.
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Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Feb. 1, 2020.John Locher / AP

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By Mark Murray

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg remain atop the Democratic field in New Hampshire just four days before the state's primary and after the messy results that have marred the Iowa caucuses, a new NBC News/Marist poll finds.

Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, gets support from 25 percent of likely Democratic primary voters in the Granite State, while Buttigieg gets support from 21 percent.

The separation between the two candidates — within the poll’s margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.7 percentage points — is essentially unchanged from January’s NBC/Marist poll, when Sanders was at 22 percent and Buttigieg was at 17 percent.

They’re followed in the new poll by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., at 14 percent (she was at 13 percent last month) and former Vice President Joe Biden at 13 percent (he was at 15 percent).

And Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is at 8 percent support among likely Democratic primary voters — down 2 points from her 10 percent in January.

No other Democratic candidate gets more than 4 percent in the poll.

“It’s a close race which still has more than one-in-five persuadable voters, a notable proportion,” says Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted this survey for NBC News.

The NBC/Marist poll was conducted Feb. 4 though 6, immediately after the results of the Iowa caucuses, in which Buttigieg and Sanders essentially tied in winning state delegates, although the final outcome has been tarnished by reporting and technological problems, and NBC News won’t be projecting a winner of the contest.

Maybe the biggest change in the poll since January is the enthusiasm for Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind.

Sixty-three percent of Buttigieg’s backers say they strongly support him — up from 44 percent in January.

By comparison, 73 percent of Sanders voters strongly support his candidacy — down 3 percentage points from last month.

And 60 percent of Biden voters strongly back him, while 56 percent of Warren supporters are firmly behind her.

Inside the horserace numbers

Looking inside the horserace numbers, the Democratic field continues to be divided by age and ideology.

Sixty-three percent of likely Democratic primary voters are 45 or older, and Buttigieg is the top choice of 24 percent of these voters — followed by Sanders at 18 percent, Biden at 16 percent and Warren at 12 percent and Klobuchar at 10 percent.

By contrast, 37 percent of the likely electorate is under 45, and Sanders gets support from 35 percent of these voters — followed by Warren at 18 percent, Buttigieg at 17 percent and Biden at just 7 percent.

When it comes to ideology, 53 percent of likely Democratic primary voters identify as being progressive, and Sanders is the top choice here at 41 percent, while Warren gets 22 percent and Buttigieg 15 percent.

Among the 43 percent of moderate Democratic voters, Buttigieg leads at 30 percent — followed by Biden at 22 percent, Klobuchar at 15 percent, Warren at 9 percent and Sanders at just 8 percent.

And among independents, who are the largest share of all voters in the state and who can choose the primary in which they want to participate, Buttigieg gets support from 25 percent, while Sanders gets 22 percent.

Trump, GOP improve from last month

Turning to the general electorate in New Hampshire, 45 percent of registered voters approve of President Donald Trump’s job, versus 51 percent who disapprove.

That’s an improvement for Trump from last month, when his job rating was 42 percent approve, 53 percent disapprove.

In another change from January, 45 percent of all New Hampshire voters say they prefer a Republican-controlled Congress as a result of the November elections, while 44 percent want Democrats in charge.

Last month, New Hampshire voters preferred Democrats in control by 5 points, 47 percent to 42 percent.

Trump holds commanding lead in GOP contest

And in the Republican primary in New Hampshire, President Trump enjoys a commanding lead over his nominal GOP opposition.

Eighty-eight percent of likely GOP primary voters say they support Trump, while former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld gets 7 percent.

An additional 1 percent of GOP primary voters say they support former Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., but he dropped out of the Republican race on Friday.

The NBC/Marist poll of New Hampshire was conducted Feb. 4-6 of 2,241 registered voters, and that has a margin of error of plus-minus 2.5 percentage points.

The survey also measured 709 likely Democratic primary voters (which has a margin of error of plus-minus 4.7 percentage points), and 441 likely Republican primary voters (plus-minus 5.8 percentage points).