A Look At The Final New Hampshire Polls, Plus Projections

Unless the polls are very wrong, it looks to be a good night for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Beyond that, there's a lot that's still up in the air.

With voters heading to the polls in New Hampshire since early this morning, and some having already voted in small hamlets like Dixville Notch, where Bernie Sanders and John Kasich ended up pulling off the big but largely symbolic wins shortly after midnight, it can be said that the 2016 campaign for President feels like it has officially begun. Yes, we heard from voters in Iowa last week, but in many ways the New Hampshire primary ha always felt more like the traditional beginning of the quadrennial race for the White House, in no small part because it is the first time that voters actually have a chance to head to the polls rather than participating in an arcane caucus system. More importantly, even though it is hardly representatives of the nation as a whole, it’s clear that New Hampshire voters take their role in the process seriously. Between Democrats and Republicans, it is expected that more than 60% of New Hampshire’s eligible voters will turn out to vote today, a sharp contract to the less than 20% of voters who, on average, participate in the Iowa Caucuses. Additionally, once we put New Hampshire behind us, the race truly begins in earnest, with Republicans and Democrats both headed to Nevada and South Carolina, albeit on different days for reason that are utterly incomprehensible, ahead of the big stretch of candidates headed into March.

So, with the whistle officially blown to begin the voting in the Granite State today, let’s take a look at the final polling data and make a few projections.


Of the two races this one would seem to be the easiest to project. Bernie Sanders has led in New Hampshire for several months now with the exception of a few periods during which Clinton managed to close the gap for a brief period of time. Sanders has also led in every poll since the start of 2016 with the exception of one, and has largely kept a double digit lead for several weeks now. More importantly, unlikely eight years ago, there are no signs that Clinton has significantly closed the gap this time around, never mind making any moves that would suggest that she has even the slightest shot at winning the state. The final reports of the tracking polls from the University of Massachusetts and CNN/WMUR both show him continuing to hold on to that lead heading into Primary Day. Additionally, a final poll from Emerson shows Sanders with a twelve point lead. The one outlier seems to be a the tracking poll from ARG which is showing Sanders with a nine point lead, but even that seems like a lead solid enough to overcome any last minute surge by Clinton. All of this leaves Sanders with a lead of 13.3 points in the RealClearPolitics poll average, According to Pollster’s broader average that includes non-traditional polls, Sanders holds a slightly larger 14.1 point lead.

The one caveat in the Democratic race is that the numbers suggest that there still appears to be some five to six percent of the voters who are undecided. This could end up undercutting Sanders’ eventual margin, or it could indicate Independent voters who may end up being inclined to cross the aisle and vote in the Republican primary instead.

In any case, here’s my projection for the Democratic race:

  1. Bernie Sanders — 58%
  2. Hillary Clinton — 42%

This would put Sanders winning percentage just a bit above his current lead in the RealClearPolitics average, but it would be consistent with most of the recent polling. In all honestly, though, anything above a 10-12% margin, which seems to be within reach, will be seen as a great night for Sanders and another humbling for Clinton.


With the polls ahead of the New Hampshire primary showing the same Donald Trump lead that they final Iowa polling did, and the final results in Iowa showing Trump failing to meet those polling projections, it would be understandable to project that Trump will again fall short of the standing suggested by the polls. This is especially true given the fact that Trump still doesn’t seem to have invested as much in traditional ground game operations as the other candidates, something that suggests that we could be looking at Trump falling short yet again, and event that would clearly call the genuineness of his campaign into question. At the same time, though, there are plenty of reasons to believe that what happened in Iowa isn’t necessarily a likely guide for the outcome in New Hampshire. For one thing, given the different nature of the voting methods, it’s often far more difficult to to poll a caucus than a primary. Voting today in New Hampshire asks far less of voters than voting in the caucus did on February 1st, so when voters tell pollster that they are indeed likely to vote it’s more likely that they will actually follow through on that intention. Additionally, as I note above, voter participation in the Granite State’s Presidential Primary is traditionally quite high and there’s every reason to believe that tradition will continue this week. Finally, it’s worth noting that there were some indications in the final hours before the Iowa Caucuses that Trump’s numbers in the Hawkeye State were slipping while Marco Rubio’s were rising. Many people, myself included, dismissed those polls as outliers but they clearly had picked up on a trend in the final days before the caucuses that carried through to last Monday night.

Keeping all that in mind, the numbers heading into today on the Republican side all continued to show Donald Trump with a double digit lead over the rest of the field. The tracking polls from the University of Massachusetts and CNN/WMUR give Trump a twenty-one and fourteen point lead, while other polls such as Emerson (Trump +15), Gravis (Trump +11), and ARG (Trump +16) show similarly large leads. All of this combines to give Trump an average 17.2 point lead in the RealClearPolitics average, and a 17.2 point lead according to Pollster, one of those rare times when the two poll averages agree with each other, Additionally, Trump has led in  75 consecutive poll in the State of New Hampshire, a fact which indicate that his lead seems to be both real and his support strong enough to believe that his supporters will indeed show up at the polls today.Given all of this, Trump failing to come in first place would be a massive surprise for everyone and would call polling of all kinds into question. While this is possible, it certainly doesn’t seem likely.

Beyond Trump, though, the rest of the field is entirely unclear. Nominally, Marco Rubio is in second place but Ohio Governor John Kasich has surged in recent weeks and seems to be on Rubio’s heels. Additionally, there hasn’t been nearly enough time for pollsters to determine what impact Saturday’s debate, universally seen as bad for Rubio, may have had on the race. It’s also unclear how voters will reach to the clump of “establishment” candidates in the middle of the pack. Will New Hampshire Republicans stay loyal to their man, or will they jump to the candidate seen as most likely to be able to carry a noteworthy win in New Hampshire forward to other states? Another unknown is what New Hampshire’s independents, who can choose to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primaries will do. Will they get behind the mavericks in either race and back Trump or Sanders, or will they perhaps go for the message of a candidate like John Kasich, who has seemingly spent more time than anyone else in the state? Additionally, as I noted yesterday, there’s the possibility that the Republican race could end up with a number of candidates clumped together with only small percentages separating them and all of them having a legitimate argument for staying in the race going forward. As one pollster puts it, below first place the outcome of New Hampshire on the Republican side is entirely up in the air.

Keeping that in mind, here’s my projection on the GOP side:

  1. Donald Trump — 28%
  2. John Kasich —- 17.5%
  3. Marco Rubio — 16.5%
  4. Jeb Bush — 14.5%
  5. Ted Cruz — 13.5%
  6. Chris Christie — 6%
  7. Carly Fiorina — 3%
  8. Ben Carson — 1%
  9. Jim Gilmore < 1%

Putting Kasich in second is a bit of a wild guess on my part but it’s based on polling that has shown him polling strongly in the Granite State, where he has campaigned relentlessly since August, as well as something of a negative impact for Rubio from the debate. Jeb Bush finishing fourth is a bit of a guess too, but it’s based on his own recent strength and the fact that Ted Cruz seems to have largely disappeared from the state in recent days while the Governors, especially Kasich and Bush, have gotten generally positive press. Christie could do better than sixth place but it’s going to require his actual voter turnout to be better than recent polling and Ted Cruz’s to be much worse. Whether Christie performs well enough to be able to make a credible case to continue in the race after tonight is an open question. Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson, meanwhile, should get the message already and get out of the race.

Feel free to make your own predictions, and we’ll see where things end up by the end of tonight.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. charon says:

    If Clinton can hold the margin below 12.5%, she splits delegates 4-4 in the relevant jurisdiction, these being 8 delegates each for 2 congressional districts plus statewide (total of 24 at stake.)

  2. Neil Hudelson says:

    Here’s what I posted on facebook this morning, with some light edits after reflection.


    Trump decisively–32%
    Virtual tie between Kasich and Rubio–around 15% each. This will be seen as a win for Kasich and a loss for Rubio.

    My money is on Kasich narrowly edging out Rubio, so let’s say Kasich at 17%, Rubio at 15%.

    [Edited] Bush comes in fourth with a decently strong showing–13%.

    Cruz gets around 10%. Pundits will declare his campaign over, due to an inability to look at a map.

    Christie gets 7%. The rest, 3% or less.

    So I’m betting Bush over performs a bit (at this point matching the polls is over-performing for Bush), Rubio gets hit hard by his debate performance, and Kasich takes the mantle of establishment choice. Christie’s pummeling of Rubio helps other candidates, not him.



    Bernie wins, overwhelmingly so, but Hillary beats the polls and comes in around 12% behind Bernie.


    Fiorina, Carson, Christie drops out in that order. Christie takes a week or so to decide.

    (Post was edited when I realized that I had 16% voting for Fiorina, Carson, or Gilmore. A highly unlikely scenario.)

  3. Moosebreath says:

    I suspect the ability to vote in either primary may play a role here. If the perception is that Sanders has the Democratic side locked up, some swing voters may want to vote in the Republican primary to push for Kasich or Rubio or Bush to do better than expected. This could keep Sanders win below 10% and increase the numbers for those three, with Neil Hudelson’s numbers looking pretty reasonable to me.

  4. Mikey says:

    @Neil Hudelson:


    He needs to quit running for President and come back to Virginia to kill the car tax like he promised he would in the 90s…

  5. C. Clavin says:

    a great night for Sanders and another humbling for Clinton.

    The last three Presidents all lost New Hampshire.
    Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama.

  6. grumpy realist says:

    OT, but this cracked me up. Only in Florida.

  7. Jen says:

    Turnout appears to be incredibly high. I’ll wait to see what the final numbers are, but some polling places had hit their normal turnout numbers by lunchtime. Some polling places have lines of traffic that are crazy.

    Ultimately, it might not matter much for campaigns in the long run, but it is fascinating to be in the middle of it.

  8. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @C. Clavin:

    It’s almost comical how Doug is fervently trying to convince himself that Clinton won’t be the nominee.

  9. @HarvardLaw92:

    I’m not sure what alternate reality version of OTB you are reading, but I have never once said, speculated, or even thought that Hillary Clinton will not be the nominee. Either your web browser is pointed at an alternate universe, or you are reading something that isn’t there.

  10. Tony W says:

    @HarvardLaw92: You are confusing Doug’s preferences with his actual statements. I am as positive that Doug does not want Hillary to be president as I am confident that he thinks she will be.

  11. @Tony W:

    I’ve always thought she was favored in the General Election.

    As for the nomination, I’ve said repeatedly that she appears to have a firewall in Nevada, South Carolina, and the SEC Primary states that it will be hard for Sanders to get past. So I’m not not sure why HarvardLaw is getting the impression that I have either the belief or the hope that she won’t be the nominee notwithstanding her campaign’s current issues. The only real question is how long it will take HRC to get the majority of delegates she needs to win.

  12. CSK says:

    Trump and Sanders walked away with it, Trump with 35% and Sanders with 58% of the vote.

    As of now, Kasich is at 16%. Jeb and Ted at 12%. Rubio at 10%. Per CNN.

  13. C. Clavin says:

    Republicans are going to nominate a pathological liar, a xenophobic mysoginist, a buffoon who speaks at a fourth grade level. A guy who couldn’t convince the Republican propaganda network to remove Megyn Kelly but is going to convince Mexico to pay billions for a ridiculous idea.
    And yet they act like it’s all perfectly normal. Perfectly credible. Nothing wrong here.
    This is friggin’ hilarious.

  14. Tillman says:

    These margins are ridiculous all around.

  15. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Let’s just say that (IMO) you seem to spend an awful lot of time and column inches grabbing onto anything and everything that has the scent of being bad news for Clinton. I don’t think you’re remotely stupid – you’re well aware that she’s going to be the nominee. I think you’re just expending a lot of effort essentially saying you don’t like it.

  16. Todd says:

    Some of you really need to start facing reality. This win tonight by Sanders was not just an “oh he’s from a neighboring State” thing. The margin of victory was the largest ever in a contested Democratic primary. That’s not nothing.

    Clinton is clearly in trouble.

    She may well win in NV and SC, but those results are much more likely be like IA, where at best she manages to eke out a smaller than expected win, then tries to spin it as something that should (but likely won’t) change the narrative.

    Also, probably starting as soon as tomorrow, the Clintons and their surrogates are likely to get much, much nastier in their attacks. This will backfire.

    But where the real cognitive dissonance among “establishment” Democrats seems to kick in is the refusal to admit just how mediocre (at best) Hillary Clinton is as a candidate. Sure, she’s got a great resume, and would likely do a very good job as President. But as a politician, she (and the people advising her) is just not very good. Even if she ends up as the eventual nominee, it’s absurd to imagine that she would somehow transform into a much better candidate in a general election against a Republican.

    This has been my main objection to Hillary Clinton all along. I don’t have confidence that she can win. I’m not naive enough to think that nominating Sanders wouldn’t be risky itself. I just happen to believe that selecting Clinton presents a much bigger risk of a Republican being sworn in as President in Jan 2017.

  17. Jen says:

    @Todd: Maybe. Sanders certainly does seem to be striking a chord with voters.

    CNN interviewed some random NH Trump supporter the other day, and that guy went on and on about Sanders and socialism, talking about the Soviet Union and planned economies.

    Americans DO NOT understand the distinction between democratic socialism and Soviet-style socialism. To think that a campaign can educate an entire country that is not predisposed to wanting to learn that much about the mechanics of politics or the political process is, I think, a bit naive. Sanders may get through the nominating process, although I still think the chances are less than likely. I’m starting to see the Democratic version of “we need a candidate with ideological purity” discussions that I’ve long found amusing on the right–it’s the left’s version of the Republican “we need to nominate a REAL conservative.”

    If both parties appear to be heading toward nominating purists rather than centrists, I’d wager Bloomberg gets in the race. Even if he doesn’t, under any likely scenario, that throws the race to the Republicans, which I would shrug off were it not for the Supreme Court nominations–the republic has managed to survive. As for how Sanders would be treated in a general election, I’m reminded of another very nice Jewish man who had the interests of the poor, the downtrodden, and the sick at heart. This time the crucifixion would be metaphorical, not literal.

  18. Todd says:


    CNN interviewed some random NH Trump supporter the other day, and that guy went on and on about Sanders and socialism, talking about the Soviet Union and planned economies.

    This is exactly the kind of thinking that was so unsuccessful for so many “centrist” Democratic Senators in recent election cycles … worrying too much about what voters who are never, ever going to vote for them anyway might think, while not worrying nearly enough about inspiring the people who are much more likely to support them to actually show up and vote.

    Bernie Sanders has an easy to understand message. People like Bernie Sanders. People believe Bernie Sanders. People trust Bernie Sanders.

    Either Democrat who could be nominated is going to be called a socialist by Republicans (look at the rhetoric directed at President Obama, who is nothing close to a socialist, for the past 7 years as an example). The difference is, Hillary Clinton will act offended and list all the reasons why she’s not a socialist. Bernie Sanders will simply respond by telling people why European style democratic socialism would be good for America … and most people (even those who think they don’t like “socialism”) tend to find the actual proposals appealing.

    To win (not just the Presidency, but also the extremely important down ballot races), Democrats need 2016 (and subsequent elections) to be a very high-turnout election. I don’t see any objective way to imagine that Hillary Clinton is more (or even as) likely to make that happen as Bernie Sanders.

  19. An Interested Party says:

    …and most people (even those who think they don’t like “socialism”) tend to find the actual proposals appealing.

    Oh really? Than why don’t we have more elected politicians who are pushing those proposals? Surely the messaging by such politicians isn’t that horrible…

    I don’t see any objective way to imagine that Hillary Clinton is more (or even as) likely to make that happen as Bernie Sanders.

    If the GOP nominee is Trump or Cruz plenty of Democrats will be very motivated to get out and vote no matter who their nominee is…

  20. Grewgills says:


    Either Democrat who could be nominated is going to be called a socialist by Republicans

    That becomes much more effective when they can play multiple vids of the candidate proclaiming themselves a (democratic) socialist. Bernie made this more complicated for himself by (mis)identifying himself as a democratic socialist when he’s really more of a middle of the road European style social democrat. He is no Eugene Debs, nor is he in line with the far left, even by European standards, democratic socialists of South America (the only place where they hold any majorities) or Europe. That is a whole lot of education for the masses to take in when the message blaring across their tv screens is Bernie saying he’s a proud socialist with the most wild eyed image they can find of him.
    That attack is becoming less and less effective as time wears on and probably won’t be effective with the youth. Unfortunately the youth can’t be counted on to vote in large enough numbers to outweigh that attack’s effectiveness with the over 30s.