CONCORD — If any surprise emerged from the Dartmouth College Rockefeller Center “State of the State” poll this week, it was that Bob Smith does nearly as well against incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen as Scott Brown does.
The poll of 412 Granite Staters between April 21 and 25, with a margin of error of 4.8 percent, had Shaheen ahead of Smith, 38.2 to 32.4 percent with 29.3 percent undecided. Shaheen led Brown, 39.2 to 35.7 percent with 25.2 percent undecided. She led Jim Rubens, 38.3 to 19 percent, with 43 percent undecided, and she led Karen Testerman, 39.2 to 18.2 percent with 42.7 percent unsure.
Former Sen. Smith’s campaign said the poll “reflects the continued momentum of the Smith campaign and its message of true conservative values with the voters of New Hampshire.”
“People know I am a true conservative who will fight for these values in Washington,” said Smith.
The pollsters said those surveyed “closely reflect the voting population in New Hampshire,” with 45 percent identifying as undeclared or independent, 23.6 percent as Democrats and 29.6 percent as Republicans.
The poll indicated that voters’ opinions of Shaheen have declined markedly since last year. In the 2013 Rockefeller Center poll, 46 percent viewed Shaheen favorably and 22 percent viewed her unfavorably. This year, 34.1 percent have a favorable opinion of Shaheen and she was viewed unfavorably by 37 percent.
Shaheen’s drop comes as approval ratings for President Barack Obama also declined. Only 27.8 percent of those polled had a favorable opinion of Obama this year, down from 41.0 in last year’s Rockefeller Center poll. Those with an unfavorable opinion of the President rose from 39.1 percent in 2013 to 49.4 percent this year.
Obama’s job approval rating dropped from 44.8 percent last year to 35.8 percent in the new poll. Disapproval of his job performance rose from 42.1 to 54.3 percent.
Obama’s job approval dropped even among Democrats, from 81 in 2013 to 70.9 percent this year, and among independents, from 43 percent in 2013 to 38.5 percent this year.
The poll showed the Affordable Care Act remains unpopular in New Hampshire. Overall, 34.1 percent of those polled approved of the law, while 57.5 percent disapproved and 8.4 percent were unsure.
Yet, 58 percent of those polled said the ACA has had a “neutral” impact on their “personal healthcare,” while 10 percent said “positive” and 28 percent said “negative.”
Gov. Maggie Hassan held significant leads over each of her prospective Republican challengers.
According to the poll, she led Walt Havenstein (whose name was inaccurately listed in the poll report as ‘Haverstein’) 40 to 19.2 percent, with 40.8 percent unsure. She led Andrew Hemingway 40.2 to 20.3 percent with 39.5 percent unsure.
The poll also matched up Democrat Hillary Clinton against several possible 2016 Republican presidential candidates.
_ Ron Paul edged Clinton, 38.4 to 35.8 percent with 25.8 percent undecided.
_ Clinton edged Mike Huckabee, 38.3 to 36.2 percent, with 24.4 percent undecided.
_ Clinton out-polled Jeb Bush, 42.1 to 32.2 percent with 34.4 percent undecided.
_ She also edged Chris Christie, 36.5 to 34.4 percent with 29 percent undecided.
No other potential GOP presidential candidates were included.
On a range of state issues,
_ 61.7 percent supported a state constitutional amendment banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, which was sent to interim study by the House and as a result won’t be on the ballot this year, while 17.8 percent opposed it.
_ 46.6 percent supported authorizing casino gambling, 39.6 percent opposed it, while and 13.8 percent were unsure.
_ Granite Staters remain divided over the Northern Pass project, with support increasing from 30 percent last year to 40 percent this year, and opposition increasing from 31 percent last year to 34 percent this year. Those who are unsure dropped from 39 to 26 percent.
_ Support for legislation that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana decreased from 55 percent in 2013 to 50 percent this year, while opposition increased from 23 to 36 percent.
_ 74.8 percent supported requiring a photo ID in order to vote in New Hampshire elections, while only 18.8 percent opposed it and 6.4 percent were unsure. Included among the supporters were 57.9 percent of Democrats and 92 percent of Republicans.
_ 51.9 pecent of those polled support the state’s death penalty law, while 28. 5 percent opposed it aned 19.6 percent were unsure.
On national issues:
_ 34.1 percent supported a “pathway to citizenship” for illegal immigrants, while 43.6 percent were opposed and 22.4 percent were unsure.
_ 46.4 percent said laws governing the sales of guns should be made more strict, while 34.2 percent said those laws should remain the same and 11.2 percent said they should be less strict.