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Poll: 61 percent give Sununu thumbs-up; 81 percent undecided on re-election

  • Gov. Chris Sununu is gifted a jersey signed by Tom Brady from New England Patriots Chairman at the State House for a launch of a Patriots scratch ticket game in Concord on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ



For the Monitor
Tuesday, February 13, 2018

As New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu prepares to deliver his first State of the State address, a new poll indicated that 61 percent of Granite Staters approve of the job he’s doing in the corner office, with only 17 percent giving him a thumbs-down.

Even as the so-called “blue wave” bringing a backlash against many Republicans across the country, the poll numbers put Sununu in good stead compared with some of his GOP counterparts elsewhere.

Yet the University of New Hampshire Survey Center Granite State Poll released Tuesday, also suggested only 1 in 10 have made up their minds when it comes to November’s gubernatorial election. And the survey, conducted Jan. 28-Feb. 10, indicated that Steve Marchand – the only declared Democratic candidate in the race – remains virtually unknown.

Sununu’s 61 percent approval rating is unchanged from the last UNH poll, which was conducted in October. And it’s in line with most other recent surveys, which indicate the governor’s approval ratings hovering from the mid-50s to low 60s. The 17 percent disapproval rating is a slight uptick from UNH’s October poll.

Broken down by party, 74 percent of Republicans approved of the job Sununu is doing, but that’s down five percentage points from October. Among independents or undeclared voters, 71 percent gave him a thumbs-up, which is a marked improvement from October. And the governor has a 47 percent approval among Democrats, down slightly.

“Sununu also remains quite popular personally among New Hampshire adults,” pollster Andrew Smith said. “Fifty-six percent say they have a favorable opinion of him. Fifteen percent have an unfavorable opinion.”

As Sununu prepares for Thursday’s State of the State address, the poll indicates that the opioid epidemic remains by far New Hampshire’s most pressing problem. Fifty-one percent of those questioned listed the drug crisis as the state’s most important problem, with jobs and the economy a distant second at 10 percent.

Two-thirds said New Hampshire is heading in the right direction. While that’s an impressive number, it’s been trending down since hitting a high last summer. Nearly 20 percent of those polled said the state is on the wrong track.

Sununu gives his speech in front of the state Legislature, which enjoys a record 56 percent approval rating in the poll. Smith pointed out that “approval of the state Legislature is bipartisan,” with 62 percent of Republicans, 54 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of independents giving state lawmakers good reviews.

Sununu, the state’s first Republican governor in a dozen years, is up for re-election this year. Only one incumbent has failed to win re-election to a second two-year term in the past nine decades. That dubious honor goes to Republican Gov. Craig Benson, who lost his 2004 re-election bid to Democratic challenger John Lynch.

Only 1 in 10 said they’ve definitely made up their minds when it comes to November’s gubernatorial election, with 81 percent saying they’re still trying to decide and 9 percent saying they are leaning in one direction.

Marchand, the former Portsmouth mayor who ran for the 2016 Democratic gubernatorial nomination, is his party’s only declared candidate so far this cycle. But he remains unknown to most Granite Staters.

“Despite having campaigned since April 2017 ... nearly three-quarters of respondents say they don’t know or have never heard of Marchand,” Smith said.

It was a similar story for Mark Connolly, another 2016 Democratic gubernatorial candidate who hasn’t ruled out another bid.

Even 2016 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Colin Van Ostern, who lost to Sununu by some 16,000 votes in the general election, remains a relative unknown. Two-thirds of those questioned said they didn’t know enough about Van Ostern, a former member of the state’s Executive Council, to form an opinion. Van Ostern also hasn’t ruled out another run for governor.

Sununu topped Marchand by 14 points, Connolly by 12 points and Van Ostern by 10 points in the poll’s hypothetical 2018 general election matchups, with around 3 in 10 undecided.

The UNH Survey Center Granite State Poll questioned 523 randomly selected New Hampshire adults by live operator telephone. The survey’s overall sampling error is plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.