New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu was the very first governor in New England to remove his state’s mask mandate and capacity restrictions on businesses, and Granite Staters are giving his performance a thumbs up.
The latest Granite State Poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, shows Sununu’s approval rating for his handling of the pandemic has soared to 72 percent, a sharp uptick from April.
Notably, 80 percent of independents approve of Sununu’s handling of COVID-19, as do a slim majority of Democrats.
New Hampshire is continuing to outperform the nation in putting shots into arms. As of Tuesday, New Hampshire was fourth in the country in first doses, beating neighboring Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
Currently, just two New England states, Vermont and Massachusetts, are enforcing restrictions on businesses and social gatherings. Massachusetts is planning on reopening at the end of the week.
Vermont’s governor has taken the unusual step of setting a target for vaccinations in order to reopen his state. Republican Gov. Phil Scott is keeping restrictions in place until 80 percent of the state has received at least one dose. The number, which is completely arbitrary and has no scientific underpinning, is preventing the state from returning fully to business by Memorial Day weekend — a lucrative weekend for many businesses.
According to Scott’s office, the state stands at 76.9 percent, below the threshold that would trigger a significant rollback of COVID-19 restrictions. If the target isn’t reached, the state will reopen on the Fourth of July.
Sununu’s overall job approval continues to hover around 68 percent. He enjoys widespread support from 93 percent of Republicans. With a number that high, Sununu is unlikely to face a serious primary challenge should seek the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2022.
In purple New Hampshire, reaching out to independent voters is key for any public official, and Sununu keeps making inroads with nonpartisan voters. In April, his job approval among independents soared to 79 percent, and 41 percent of Democrats support the work Sununu has been doing from the corner office.
While Sununu’s personal favorability is lower — 51 percent — he’s still +29 in the survey overall, and +48 with independents. That’s significantly higher than incumbent Democrat Sen. Maggie Hassan, who struggles to keep her favorability numbers above water. (A politician’s approval is considered “underwater” when the approval rating is lower than the disapproval.)
The latest UNH survey adds to a continuing trend of good news for Sununu.
Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced New Hampshire was tied for the lowest unemployment rate in the country at 2.8 percent, far below the national rate of 6.1 percent.
The Republican Governors Association praised the new poll numbers.
“Thanks to Governor Sununu’s strong leadership, New Hampshire is leading the nation in vaccinations and has the lowest unemployment rate in America,” tweeted RGA spokesperson Chris Gustafson. “The results speak for themselves, and Granite Staters know it.