New Hampshire stlil loves Mitt Romney.
New Hampshire stlil loves Mitt Romney.
Charles Dharapak/AP

A poll of New Hampshire residents found Mitt Romney to be an overwhelming favorite among potential 2016 Republican candidates. But before you gear up for a third Romney presidential run, one of the poll’s authors says, essentially, to take a chill pill.

First, let’s take a look at the poll in question, from WMUR [PDF]. When New Hampshire residents were asked which Republican candidate they’d support in the 2016 presidential primaries, given the hypothetical that Mitt Romney will run, 39 percent answered they’d vote Romney. (Romney has repeatedly said he will not run.) Romney’s poll number was a huge edge over the next-most chosen candidate, down at seven percent.

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That big Romney lead is causing political commentators to push the Romney-in-2016 angle. “Romney in 2016? Mitt’s still the man in New Hampshire,” USA Today writes. “Voters may not be over Mitt Romney,” MSNBC notes. “Mitt-mentum,” Business Insider’s Brett LoGiurato tweets.

But before you begin to freak out about the prospect of another Romney candidacy, the poll isn’t at all suggestive of 2016. So says one of the poll’s authors, University of New Hampshire Survey Center’s Andrew Smith. “[It’s in] no way indicative of what’s going to happen,” Smith said in a phone interview.

“A lot of this is name recognition,” Smith explained. This far away from 2016, the expected forerunners for the Republican nomination – names like Chris Christie, Rand Paul, and Paul Ryan – just don’t have the name recognition that Romney has. “For legitimate candidates, the ones with the highest name recognition are at the top of the list,” Smith said.

The particular phrasing of the question posed to responders also likely had an impact on Romney’s big advantage. The pollers first asked a bevy of questions and opinions about the expected Republican contestants, including Christie, Ryan, Paul, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and others. The poller then asked a follow-up question: “If Mitt Romney were to run for the Republican nomination...” followed by a list of all those same potential candidates. Specifically calling out Romney before mentioning the other names may have had the effect of highlighting him above others and influencing the response.

Despite those clarifications, there is still one clear conclusion to draw here, Smith said. “There is not antipathy within the Republican electorate at Romney.” Well, at least in New Hampshire, that is.