Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton looks on as she is introduced to speak during a campaign stop at Uncle Nancy's Coffee House, Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015, in Newton, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a television interview before a town hall meeting, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015, in Grinnell, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Sanders drawing sharper contrasts with Clinton
03:53 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

In a new CNN/ORC/WMUR poll out Thursday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has 46% of the New Hampshire Democratic primary vote

Hillary Clinton has just 30%

CNN  — 

Hillary Clinton trails Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic nomination for president in New Hampshire, even if Vice President Joe Biden decides not to make a run for the White House, according to a new CNN/WMUR poll.

Sanders has the backing of nearly half of those who say they plan to vote in the first-in-the-nation Democratic primary next year – 46% support him – while just 30% say they back Clinton. Another 14% say they would support Biden, 2% former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, 1% former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, and less than half of 1% back former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee or Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig.

Clinton trails Sanders across most demographic groups, with broad gender and ideology divides bolstering Sanders’ run. He holds 56% of male Democratic voters compared with just 20% who back her, while the two are much closer among women, 39% back Sanders, 37% Clinton. Likewise, Sanders holds a 56% to 30% lead among liberals, versus a 37% to 31% race among moderates.

And opinions about the Democratic race have solidified more so than on the Republican side of the coin. More than half of Democrats now say they have made up their minds or are leaning toward someone, compared with 41% on the Republican side.

In most recent national polling, assessments of the Democratic race without Biden have boosted Clinton’s standing well above that of Sanders, but in New Hampshire, Biden’s backers aren’t enough to push Clinton back to the top of the field. Though Clinton picks up more of Biden’s supporters than Sanders when they are reallocated to their second choice, Sanders maintains control of the race, holding 49% to Clinton’s 36%.

And voters are split on who they think will ultimately win the state’s primary, with 42% saying Clinton will and 42% saying Sanders will. Another 6% say Biden will, and no respondents chose any other candidates.

Biden has gained ground in the poll as speculation about his candidacy has grown. While he stood at just 5% in the July poll, he now holds 14% support. And he’s now better liked than he was earlier this cycle, 69% now view him favorably, up from 63% in July and 57% back in May. But New Hampshire voters aren’t clamoring for Biden to make a go of it. While 37% say they’d like to see the vice president get in the race, 32% say that he shouldn’t and another 30% are neutral about it.

Looking ahead to 2016’s general election, voters have a clearer picture of which candidate they believe has the best chances nationally: 51% say Clinton does, 19% Sanders, 15% Biden and 1% O’Malley. Clinton is also more apt to be seen as the candidate with the right experience for the job: 44% say she has it, 23% for Biden, 18% for Sanders and 1% for O’Malley.

Sanders holds the cards as the most progressive in the field, as 63% see him that way versus just 16% who say Clinton is, and both Sanders (39%) and Biden (35%) are more likely than Clinton (15%) to be viewed as the most likeable in the field.

Clinton’s favorability ratings continue their slow fade in New Hampshire, according to the new poll, dipping slightly to 67% favorable, down from July’s 73%. Clinton began the year with an 83% favorable rating in February, but hasn’t come close to that since.

Sanders’ ratings, however, are shifting in the opposite direction, with 78% rating him positively, up from 69% in July.

The CNN/WMUR poll was conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center by telephone from Sept. 17 through 23. The poll includes interviews with a random sample of 820 residents of New Hampshire, including 314 who say they plan to vote in the Democratic presidential primary. For results among the sample of Democratic primary voters, the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 5.5 percentage points.