Poll: NH voters sour on Chafee after debate

Democratic presidential candidates former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, left, listens as former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee speaks during the CNN Democratic presidential debate Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A new poll contains even more bad news for former Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s puzzling presidential campaign.

Chafee’s unfavorable rating among likely voters in New Hampshire’s Democratic primary shot up from 17% to 42% following his widely panned performance in last week’s televised debate, according to a survey of 401 voters conducted by the MassInc Polling Group for Boston-based WBUR.

The survey found the number of likely primary voters who’ve never heard of Chafee fell from 38% to 22% after the debate, and his favorable rating dropped from 14% to 6% – suggesting the debate left a bad taste in the mouths of those who previously liked Chafee as well as those who previously had no opinion about him.

Unsurprisingly, then, the poll found Chafee’s support among New Hampshire Democrats dwindling from 1% in September to less than 1% in October, putting him dead last in the poll, behind Hillary Clinton (38%), Bernie Sanders (34%), Joe Biden (9%), Jim Webb (2%) and Martin O’Malley (1%).

The numbers will be particularly disappointing for Chafee since he has been making frequent trips to New Hampshire, where he owns a home, and has repeatedly suggested its first-in-the-nation primary offered a prime opportunity for him as a fellow New Englander.

The WBUR survey was conducted Oct. 15 to 18 and released Wednesday morning. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

A separate poll of New Hampshire primary voters released late Tuesday contained slightly better news for Chafee.

The Bloomberg Politics/Saint Anselm survey of 400 likely Democratic primary voters had Chafee’s favorable rating at 19% and his unfavorable rating at 30%, putting him 11 points underwater, compared with 25 points underwater in the WBUR poll. The Bloomberg survey showed Chafee was the first choice of zero primary voters and the second choice of 1%; he was previously the first choice of 1%.

Chafee said last week he has no plans to end his White House bid despite the negative reaction to his debate performance and his anemic fundraising. The next televised Democratic debate will be hosted Nov. 14 by CBS News, which has not yet said whether Chafee will be invited.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He hosts Executive Suite and writes The Saturday Morning Post. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

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