Reports that President Barack Obama is vulnerable to a primary challenge in 2012 are exaggerated, according to a new survey conducted by Magellan Mapping and Data Strategies on behalf of NH Journal. [POLL RESULTS BELOW.]

Obama would handily defeat three well-known politicians sometimes mentioned as potential challengers for the 2012 Democratic presidential nomination.

The survey of 1,002 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents shows Obama would beat former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean by a 78% to 10% margin. He would beat Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders by 79% to 8%. Technically Sanders would need to register as a Democrat as he is currently an independent, though he often sides with the Democrats in the Senate.

The only Democrat in the survey who eats into Obama’s vote share in a significant way is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Nevertheless, Obama would still beat Clinton handily, 59% to 28%. Clinton defeated Obama in New Hampshire when the two faced off for the nomination in 2008.

“The survey results refute the notion that there is a ‘significant’ opening on President Obama’s left among likely New Hampshire Democrat primary voters,” said Magellan’s David Flaherty. “While Hillary Clinton’s 28% of support among the New Hampshire Democrats base is notable, it is not a big surprise considering her ‘comeback’ performance in the 2008 Presidential primary. Hypothetical candidates Howard Dean and Bernie Sanders only garner 10% and 8% support respectively in ballot tests with the President. If President Obama was in significant trouble with the Democrat base, we would expect to see more support for Howard Dean and Bernie Sanders.”

Eight-four percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of President Obama, while only 13% did not.

The survey does contain some troubling news for Obama, however. Only 42% of respondents approve of the president’s tax cut deal with Congressional Republicans to extend the Bush era tax cuts. Forty-four percent oppose the deal while 14% express no opinion.

“What we find more relevant in the survey is the divide among of Democrats on the Bush-era tax cut compromise with Congressional Republicans,” Flaherty added. “More Democrats disapprove of the compromise that approve of it, 45%, and 42% respectively. If this is the reaction of the Democrat base on future compromises with Congressional Republicans, the Obama campaign will have a bigger challenge turning out their base in 2012 in comparison to 2008.”

Rumors that Obama might face a primary challenge for the Democratic nomination began to surface after the Democrats’ disappointing midterm elections and again after Obama announced the tax deal. Some surveys have shown Secretary Clinton performing better nationally against Obama. But New Hampshire is significant because it plays host to the nation’s first presidential preference primary and has helped set the tone for future states on the nominating calendar.

The survey was conducted on December 14th and 15th, 2010. It has a margin of error of +/‐ 3.09% at the 95 percent confidence interval. It was weighted based upon Democrat Presidential Primary turnout demographics from the 2008 and 2004 election cycles.

Magellan New Hampshire 2012 Dem Presidential Primary Survey Release