A poll sponsored by a nonpartisan human rights organization shows that New Hampshire voters are nearly split between Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Gov. Maggie Hassan in a potential 2016 U.S. Senate matchup.
The poll for the Human Rights First organization, a self-described non-profit “independent advocacy and action organization,” shows Ayotte and Hassan in a virtual tie, with 46 percent favoring Ayotte, 44 percent favoring Hassan and 9 percent undecided. The poll’s margin of error is 4.7 percent.
The poll was conducted last month by a Republican pollster, Public Opinion Strategies, with a sample of 424 registered voters, 41 percent of whom were self-described independents, 30 percent Republican and 27 percent Democrats.
The sponsoring group, Human Rights First, says it is working to protect human rights on all levels. Its projects have included calling on the United States to come to the aid of oppressed LGBT Russians, favoring legislation banning the use of torture by the U.S. government and calling for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba.
In the poll, conducted Feb. 17 and 18 , 57 percent of the those surveyed said the country was on the wrong track while 38 percent said it is headed in the right direction. Opinion on President Barack Obama leaned unfavorably, with 53 percent disapproving of the jobs he is doing as President and 46 percent approving.
The poll then asked if the United States’ asylum and refugee system is working well given that “more than 11 million people worldwide have become refugees as they fled their home countries as a result of war or persecution, such as practicing the faith of their choosing, their social group or race, or even due to their political expression…a small portion of these refugees who fear persecution in their home countries come to the United States and ask for a form of legal protection known as asylum.”
Eight percent said the U.S. system is working well as it is, 39 percent said it is in need of minor modifications, 38 percent said it is “broken and in need of a major overhaul, while 14 percent said they did not know.
The pollster then provided more information to those surveyed, stating: “Since 2009, more than 185,000 people have applied for asylum in the United States because of persecution in their home country. But because there are so many cases backlogged right now, it’s taking on average over a year and a half, and sometimes as long as four years, to hear each case by immigration judges here in the United States.”
Given that information, 51 percent said the nation’s system is broken and in need of repair, while 39 percent said it was in need of minor modifications and 5 percent said it is working well.
The pollster then asked whether the likely voters would be more or less likely to vote for Ayotte if they knew that she was “a strong advocate for improving and strengthening the U.S. asylum and refugee system to better protect those who are persecuted.” Thirty percent said it would make them more likely to vote for her, 5 percent said it would make them less likely to vote for her and 60 percent said it would make no difference.
In other questions related to refugee issues:
_ 77 percent favored and 21 percent opposed increasing the number of immigration court judges.
_ 70 percent favored 25 percent opposed increasing funding for resettlement programs “that help refugees across the world, including Christians and other religious minorities, victims of political persecution, and vulnerable women at risk of rape or other violence.”
_ 65 percent favored and 28 percent disagreed with providing alternatives to jails and detention centers while “non-harmful” refugees await the outcomes of immigration proceedings.