New Hampshire GOP primary electorate split between registered Republicans and undeclared voters in early CNN exit poll

A voting booth at a polling station inside Plymouth Elementary School in Plymouth, New Hampshire, US, on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024.

A voting booth at a polling station inside Plymouth Elementary School in Plymouth, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, January 23, 2024.Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty ImagesCNN — 

The New Hampshire GOP primary electorate was relatively closely divided between voters registered as Republican and those registered as undeclared, the state’s term for independent voters, according to the initial results of CNN’s exit poll for the presidential primary.

Primary voters were also closely divided on whether or not former President Donald Trump, who faces four criminal trials, would be fit for the presidency if he’s convicted of a crime. But currently, a majority said they’d be satisfied to see Trump win the Republican nomination this year.

Trump voters and those backing former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley differed sharply in their attitudes toward their chosen candidate. The vast majority of voters who turned out to support Trump – roughly three-quarters — said that they cast their vote for the candidate they “strongly favored,” with only a few saying they liked Trump with reservations, or that their vote was driven largely by dislike of his rivals.

By contrast, roughly 4 in 10 Haley voters attributed their support of her mostly to distaste for her opponents, with about 3 in 10 saying they liked her with reservations, and only about a third that they strongly favored Haley.

Both Trump and Haley voters, however, would be unhappy to see the Republican Party nominate their chosen candidate’s rival. About three-quarters of Trump voters said they’d be dissatisfied if Haley won the nomination, while roughly 9 in 10 Haley voters said they’d be dissatisfied if Trump won a third nomination.

Nearly two-thirds of primary voters describe themselves as conservative, according to the initial results, with about one-quarter calling themselves very conservative, while about one-third describe themselves as moderates.

Exit polls are a valuable tool to help understand primary voters’ demographic profile and political views. Like all surveys, however, exit polls are estimates, not precise measurements of the electorate. That’s particularly true for the preliminary set of exit poll numbers, which haven’t yet been weighted to match the final results of the primary. But the results provide a glimpse of the types of voters turning out to participate.

Most said they did not consider themselves a part of the MAGA movement, referring to the “Make America Great Again” slogan popularized by Trump in 2016. And roughly half said they believed that President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump four years ago was legitimate. There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Those numbers form a substantially different backdrop than in Iowa’s caucuses, where nearly 9 in 10 described themselves as conservative – a designation that, in this election cycle, has largely correlated with support for the former president. Nearly half of Iowa caucus participants identified themselves as MAGA, and roughly two-thirds denied the legitimacy of Biden’s 2020 victory.

Issues driving voters

As in Iowa, New Hampshire’s Republican primary voters split closely between immigration and the economy as their top issues, with fewer citing abortion or foreign policy as their top concern.

Most, about 7 in 10, describe the state of the economy as not so good or poor. Roughly half say that they’d like to see most undocumented immigrants in the US deported to the countries they came from. In a contrast with Iowa, a majority of voters in New Hampshire say they’d oppose a federal ban on most or all abortions.

Voters are divided on the role of the US abroad, with roughly 4 in 10 saying they’d like the country to take a less active role, about 3 in 10 a more active role, and the rest saying it should remain roughly the same.

The exit poll for New Hampshire’s Republican presidential primary was conducted by Edison Research on behalf of the National Election Pool. It includes 1,565 interviews with Republican primary voters across 40 different polling places. Results for the full sample have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.0 percentage points; it is larger for subgroups.

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