By Christian Wade | The Center Square
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s controversial decision to lift a statewide mask mandate hasn’t dented his popularity, according to a new poll.
The University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll, released on Thursday, showed 69% of respondents think Sununu is doing a good job as governor. That’s virtually unchanged from a poll taken nearly a year ago.
“He still has a lot of support for a third-term governor,” UNH Pollster Andy Smith said. “His numbers really haven’t moved much in the past year, they’ve just shifted around.”
The poll of 1,900 likely voters between April 16-20 – after he had announced the lifting of the mask mandate – also showed that the public’s view of Sununu’s handling of COVID-19 crisis has slipped somewhat, primarily among Democrats.
Eighty-eight percent of Republicans and 68% of Independents approve of Sununu’s handling of COVID-19 but only 42% of Democrats agree, the pollsters found.
His approval has fallen among Democrats by 20 percentage points and by 7 points among Independents since March but has improved by 8 percentage points among Republicans.
Smith said those results speak to the increasingly polarized nature of American politics.
“People are coming back to their partisan support for him,” he said.
Ironically, another UNH poll, released Wednesday, showed New Hampshire residents divided over the governor’s decision to lift the mask mandate.
Forty-eight percent of respondents said they opposed the decision, while 43% said they supported the decision, according to the poll.
Nationally, mask requirements have created disputes between officials who want to keep rules on face coverings in place and those, mostly conservatives, who say the measures are government overreach. The disputes have escalated as more people become vaccinated and COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations have dropped.
In New Hampshire, Sununu’s mask mandate was the target of critics who have staged protests outside of his Newfields home. That prompted him to make his inauguration speech virtual.
Sununu, 46, was the youngest governor in the country when he took office in 2017. He handily won a third term in the Nov. 3, 2020, election with more than 65% of the vote, according to results.
The heir to one of New Hampshire’s most storied political dynasties, Sununu hasn’t said whether he will run for the Senate seat or seek a fourth term as governor in 2022, but has hinted of a run for higher office. A previous UNH poll showed Sununu with a small lead over Democratic U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan in a potential 2022 matchup between them.
Smith said Sununu has benefited from New Hampshire’s strong economy, which is bouncing back from the pandemic, and he has largely avoided partisan fights and political scandals.
“Most people don’t pay attention to what governors do,” he said. “So if the economy is going well – which it is – and there aren’t any scandals, people tend to support the governor.”