New Hampshire Republican primary voters opting for Romney, who maintains small lead in Iowa caucus polling

MANCHESTER, N.H. – Mitt Romney has opened up a commanding lead in New Hampshire, while Ron Paul is fending off Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman for second place according to a Suffolk University/7NEWS two-day tracking poll of likely voters in New Hampshire’s GOP presidential primary. In a newspaper poll, Romney had a small lead in Iowa, as that state’s caucus neared. 

The Suffolk poll showed the former Massachusetts governor leading with 41 percent of the vote, followed by U.S. Rep. Paul of Texas (15 percent), former U.S. House Speaker Gingrich of Georgia (11 percent) and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman (9 percent), while another 8 percent was split among GOP hopefuls Michele Bachmann (U.S. representative from Minnesota), Rick Santorum (former U.S. senator fro Pennsylvania and Rick Perry (governor of Texas).Sixteen percent remain undecided.
In Iowa, where the presidential caucus takes place Tuesday (January 3), the final Des Moines Register Iowa Poll found Romney narrowly ahead of Paul, 24-22 percent. Santorum has surged into third, with 15 percent, followed by Gingrich with 12 percent, Perry with 11 and Bachmann with seven. 

However, pollsters in Iowa said in the final days of the survey, conducted last week, Santorum had surged past Paul into second place. 

In the Granite State, Romney’s overall margin (+26) has returned to November levels as Gingrich has fallen out of second place since the last Suffolk University/7NEWS poll in mid-December. Paul has reemerged as the number two choice during the Gingrich decline, while Huntsman has not benefited from a recent Super PAC television ad blitz attacking Romney. In fact, with both Romney and Huntsman sharing similar demographics, the ads appear to be benefiting Romney.

“There is only one candidate who can win both Iowa and New Hampshire,” said David Paleologos, director of Suffolk University’s Political Research Center. “That candidate is Mitt Romney.Although the 16 percent undecided is high right now, it is unlikely that Romney will lose New Hampshire, despite what Iowa voters may do.”

Romney’s support is driven by older New Hampshire voters.Among registered Republicans 65 years of age and older, Romney led Gingrich 57 percent to 12 percent, and among women voters 65+, Romney led Paul 62 percent to 9 percent.
“Older voters are taking the reins in New Hampshire and are saying enough is enough with hemming and hawing over this 

Republican field,” said Paleologos. “They have lived through good and bad economies and appear to believe that Mitt Romney is the right Republican leader for the times.”
However, among women ages 18-44, Romney led Paul 31 percent to 23 percent, and among women 45-64, Romney led Huntsman 29 percent to 16 percent.

Overall, 50 percent of voters now say they are unlikely to change their minds, and among respondents who chose a candidate, 57 percent said they are unlikely to change their minds. Huntsman continues to have the most loyal following, with 76 percent saying they were unlikely to change their minds, followed by 69 percent of Romney supporters and 41 percent of Paul voters.

Only 29 percent of Gingrich voters said they were unlikely to change their minds, while 67 percent of Gingrich voters said they were somewhat likely or very likely to change their minds.
Fifty-four percent of women ages 65+ said they were unlikely to change their minds, while 66 percent of older men were unlikely to change.

The Tea Party movement is having little impact in New Hampshire. Among voters who say their values are similar to those of the Tea Party, Romney led Paul 39-19 percent; and among those who said their values were not aligned with the Tea Party, Romney led Huntsman 39 percent to17 percent.

Among self-identified conservatives, Romney led Gingrich 43 percent to 13 percent, and among self-identified moderates Romney (44 percent) led both Paul and Huntsman, who were tied at 16 percent.
Suffolk University will be releasing two-day tracking poll numbers every day through Jan. 10, with the data reflecting the previous two nights’ field.

Methodology: The statewide survey includes two nights of 250 likely respondents for a two-day tracking total of 500 likely voters in New Hampshire’s Republican Presidential Primary. This track was conducted Dec. 30-31, 2011, using live telephone interviews with landline and cell phone users. The margin of error is +/-4.4 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. 

Marginals and full cross-tabulation data will be posted today at 11 a.m. (Monday, Jan. 2, 2012), on the Suffulk University Political Research Center website. 

Suffolk University ( located in historic downtown Boston, with an international campus in Madrid, is a comprehensive global institution distinguished by the teaching and the intellectual contributions of its faculty. Suffolk University offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs in more than 90 areas of study.