Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is the early front-runner to win New Hampshire's 2016 Republican primary, according to a Suffolk University poll of the state's likely GOP voters. Bush received support from about 19 percent of respondents, followed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at 14 percent.
The New Hampshire primary -- which will be the nation's first in the 2016 presidential campaign -- is scheduled for Feb. 9, 2016.
In the poll, which was released Thursday, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul finished third with 7 percent. Behind him was real estate mogul and reality TV show host Donald Trump with about 6 percent. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the first GOP candidate to officially enter the race, was fifth, with support from about 5 percent of respondents, the poll showed.
Although a lot can change between now and next February, the poll results offered some valuable information to prospective candidates, a poll official said.
“The single-digit candidates need to go to New Hampshire and make a personal appeal to likely Republican voters there if they want to become the Republican alternative to Jeb Bush,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “There are still plenty of undecided voters to who might be won over if they make their case.”
About a quarter of respondents said they were undecided, and about a third said they were either somewhat or very dissatisfied with the Republican field, the poll found. A strong majority -- 80 percent – said they believe the country is on the wrong track.
“These are the kinds of numbers that provide fertile ground for a well-financed independent candidate, looking at the dissatisfaction among political party loyalists, to present a third alternative,” Paleologos said.
While Bush is in the lead, his name conjured up phrases among respondents that may signal some weariness with the notion of another Bush presidency. About 20 percent of respondents said “Jeb Bush” made them think “family/legacy/dynasty,” while 12 percent said his name brought “George Bush/brother/son” to mind. About 7 percent said “Jeb Bush” made them think “tired of the Bushes/too many Bushes.” About 7 percent said their first thought was “like him.”
Walker was most associated with his fight against unions in Wisconsin, although 40 percent said they weren’t sure what phrase they would link with the governor. About 7 percent said “Scott Walker” evoked “anti-union/right to work.”
The poll of 500 likely voters in New Hampshire's Republican presidential primary was taken March 21-24. It has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.4 percentage points.