BOSTON (CBS) – Since this seemingly-endless campaign began, Donald Trump has made at least 34 trips to New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton has made at least 24 trips. But after all that work, according to the new WBZ-TV, WBZ NewsRadio, UMass Amherst poll, she leads him by just four points, within our poll’s margin of error.
Why is it so close?
“They’ve spent a lot of time in that state and they haven’t really changed the perceptions of voters,” says WBZ-UMass Amherst pollster Ray La Raja
Sure enough, after all that campaigning, those perceptions are not very flattering. We asked voters what word they would use to describe the candidates, and the results for Clinton are awful, dominated by terms like “liar” and “corrupt.” Positive adjectives like “qualified” and “experienced” get some play, but the Trump campaign narrative of her as “criminal” has found fertile ground.
But if Clinton’s word cloud is ominous, Trump’s is downright apocalyptic. When voters most commonly say you’re a “dangerous, crazy, disgusting, insane idiot and bully,” that doesn’t leave much room for positive like “strong” and “leader” to break through.
“That is a basket of negatives, the Trump word cloud, it’s unbelievable,” says La Raja. “It’s all over the place. Hillary’s really has a focus on the word liar, so the opposition has done a good job framing her that way. But you can’t be happy as a Trump supporter to see how many different types of negatives come out clearly.”
So where does Clinton’s narrow edge come from?
Our poll finds she has support from 84 percent of Democrats, a standard partisan result for presidential candidates. But Trump has only 73 percent of the Republicans in his corner, a problem that’s plagued him all along.
And while Clinton’s eight-point edge among women is a key to her small lead, that’s smaller than the usual gender gap Democrats enjoy, a troubling sign for the first female major-party nominee.
Our poll suggests Clinton is in position to close the deal in New Hampshire, but has yet to do so. Why?
This is, after all, the same state that chose Bernie Sanders over her nine months ago. And while political experts often speak of an “enthusiasm gap” between candidates, in New Hampshire, there seems to be one between the candidates and the voters.