Just days after his defeat in Iowa, businessman Donald Trump, 30%, leads his closest competitors, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, 17%, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, 15%, among likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate or who have voted absentee. While Trump’s support is virtually unchanged from the 31% he had, his lead has declined from a 19 point advantage in the previous NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll to 13 points now. Rubio has gained momentum in the Granite State, up 6 points, following his strong third place finish in the Iowa caucus. Cruz had 12% in last week’s New Hampshire poll.
Trump continues to lead his GOP rivals among most key demographic groups. He runs best among likely Republican primary voters who are under 30, do not practice a religion, those without a college degree, Tea Party supporters, or men. But, Rubio has made notable gains across the board. Cruz does best and leads all competitors among likely GOP primary voters who describe themselves as very conservative.
Among self-identified Republicans, Trump’s lead has been cut in half. He now has 29% to 19% each for Rubio and Cruz. Among independents, Trump has 31% followed by Rubio with 16%, Ohio Governor John Kasich with 14%, and Cruz with 11%. Last week, Trump had a 12 point lead over his nearest rival, Kasich, among independents planning to vote in the GOP primary.
“Trump leads, but will he close it out this time?” asks Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “As in Iowa, Rubio and Cruz are second choice favorites.”
67% of likely Republican primary voters with a candidate preference report they strongly support their choice of candidate, up from 59% previously. Large proportions of Trump’s supporters, 78%, and Cruz’s backers, 76%, express a high level of commitment to their candidate selection. 54% of those behind Rubio say the same. Seven percent are undecided, and 11% say they might vote differently on Primary Day.
When it comes to the second choice of likely Republican primary voters with a candidate preference, Rubio, 20%, and Cruz, 16%, are the preferred selections. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Trump are the only other candidates with double digits.