NEW YORK – While Mitt Romney holds the lead in New Hampshire, a new FOX News poll shows that John McCain and Rudy Giuliani are both within striking distance in the Granite State.
With just over five weeks to go, both McCain (21 percent) and Giuliani (19 percent) claim about one-fifth of likely Republican primary voters, while Romney leads with just under one-third of the vote (29 percent). Fourteen percent of voters remain undecided in the presidential contest.
Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the telephone poll of 500 likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire for FOX News from November 27 to November 29. The poll has a 4 point error margin.
The poll also finds that 29 percent of Giuliani’s supporters are "extremely confident" that he can defeat the Democratic candidate in the general election—while 19 percent of McCain supporters and 15 percent of Romney supporters feel the same way about their candidate.
A 21 percent plurality of likely Republican primary voters says the economy is the single most important issue they consider when deciding who to vote for, with the Iraq war next highest at 17 percent. Immigration finishes in third position (15 percent), followed by homeland security (14 percent) and health care (9 percent).
Regarding the key qualities these voters look for in a candidate, the poll found honesty (32 percent) and standing up for one’s beliefs (30 percent) about equally important, with experience trailing far behind (18 percent).
Almost 6 in 10 likely Republican voters (57 percent) approve of the job George W. Bush is doing as president, with about 4 in 10 (39 percent) disapproving of his job performance.
As their state undergoes a measure of political transition, New Hampshire voters can no longer be taken for granted by either party. Two factors that might play a big role in the state’s voting are gun ownership and attitudes toward abortion.
About 4 in 10 likely Republican primary voters (41 percent) own a gun, which could impact their assessment of some in the field who favor a degree of gun regulation. In fact, Romney holds an 8-point lead over McCain among those voters who own guns (29 percent to 21 percent), with Giuliani trailing in third place with 18 percent.
Voters are nearly evenly divided between pro-choice (44 percent) and pro-life (41 percent) sentiment—another area where there is a wide divergence of opinions among the Republican contenders.
Romney has stated that, despite being "pro-choice" earlier in his political career, he was "wrong" and is now "pro-life." Likely Republican voters who identify themselves as "pro-life" give Romney a 10-point lead over McCain (29 percent to 19 percent), with Giuliani (who is "pro-choice") netting only 15 percent of these voters.
The poll also shows that five percent of all likely Republican primary voters describe themselves as "evangelical Protestants," with most of the rest split between identifying themselves as Catholics (32 percent) and traditional Protestants (34 percent). Among evangelicals, Romney holds a sizeable lead over Mike Huckabee (37 percent to 23 percent), with McCain a close third at 21 percent and Giuliani trailing in fourth position with 11 percent.