Dueling Polls Give Different Read on New Hampshire House Race

Democratic poll puts Shea-Porter up 10, GOP poll has Guinta up 4

Former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, right, talks with guests at a Pride Day event in Rochester, N.H., on Sept. 10. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, right, talks with guests at a Pride Day event in Rochester, N.H., on Sept. 10. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted September 23, 2016 at 4:37pm

Two polls released this week from New Hampshire’s swingy 1st District paint different pictures of the race for a seat that’s traded hands every two years since 2010.

On Friday, House Majority PAC released a poll conducted by Normington Petts that gave former Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter a 10-point lead over Republican incumbent Rep. Frank C. Guinta in a five-way matchup.

Shea-Porter lead Guinta 44 to 34 percent, with three other candidates taking 4 percent each. Ten percent remained undecided. The poll had a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points.

The New Hampshire Democratic Party had challenged independent Shawn O’Connor’s eligibility to appear on the ballot, but the state’s Ballot Law Commission ruled earlier this week that he will appear on the ballot. O’Connor was previously running as a Democrat.

Earlier in the week, the National Republican Congressional Committee released a North Star Opinion Research poll showing Guinta leading Shea-Porter 41 to 38 percent. O’Connor took 8 percent and libertarian Brendan Kelly took 4 percent. The polling memo did not disclose a margin of error.

Both polls were conducted at similar times among similar sample sizes. The Democratic poll surveyed 400 registered voters on both landlines and cell phones from Sept. 18-21. The GOP pollsters were in the field Sept. 14-18 and surveyed 427 registered voters on landlines and cell phones.

Where the polls differed is in the samples’ partisan breakdown. The GOP poll had a slightly more Republican sample with Republicans representing 36 percent and Democrats 31 percent of the voters. In the Democratic poll, Democrats made up 26 percent of the sample and Republicans 27 percent. 

[Rating Change: New Hampshire House Race Swings Towards Democrats]

Shea-Porter is running for this seat for the sixth time. It’s the fourth matchup between her and Guinta — He won the seat in 2010 and 2014, both strong midterm years for Republicans, while Shea-Porter carried the seat in 2012, a presidential year.

Both polls also tested the presidential race in the district. The Democratic poll showed Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump 46 percent to 38 percent. The Republican poll gave Trump a 43 percent to 39 percent edge over Clinton. 

Guinta barely survived his primary last week against businessman Rich Ashooh. The congressman has been plagued by campaign finance violations, and a year ago, a primary loss seemed likely. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, the only other Republican in the Granite State delegation, had called for him to resign, and she stood by that position on primary day this year.

But Guinta prevailed. Despite hammering Guinta on the FEC issue and outraising him, Ashooh and the super PACs backing him didn’t raise enough money to knock off an incumbent who still had some support from his fellow lawmakers.

For his part, Guinta said he felt the tide begin to turn in his favor this summer when his constituents saw that he was serious about running for re-election and heard more about his role as co-chairman of the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic.

But Guinta’s FEC issues, which stem from a $350,000 contribution to his 2010 campaign from a family account owned by his parents, will remain a big topic of conversation in the general election. The FEC fined Guinta for accepting a donation in excess of federal contribution limits, and Guinta was forced to pay back the money. The congressman has maintained that he did nothing wrong and that the money in the family account was also his. 

Shea-Porter went after him on the issue in 2014, accusing him of lying about being exonerated by the FEC. Guinta responded by saying that Shea-Porter was lying about his record. In what’s likely a preview of attacks to come, Shea-Porter posted on her Facebook page this week a clip of the 2014 debate in which she questioned Guinta about the investigation.