« New Hampshire | Main | A Note on Methodology »

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

New Hampshire: Additional Thoughts

Posted by DavidNYC

A few posters over at DailyKos contributed some more thoughts to the New Hampshire race. DemFromCT glumly points out a recent Granite State Poll which gives Bush a 56% approval rating in NH (with 40% disapproving and 4% undecided). However, this is down considerably from Bush's post-war high of 71% in April, when his disapproval was a mere 23%. We'll have to keep an eye out to see if Bush continues to slide any further.

Carl Nyberg (who thinks Dean can win New Hampshire) also brings up a much more optimistic - and potentially important - demographic point. New arrivals from Boston and NYC constitute a fast-growing part of the NH population, and these folks are less likely to be Bush supporters. This presentation by UNH's Survey Center appears to bear out Carl's assertion. Forty-two percent of native-born New Hampshirites consider themselves Republicans, but much smaller proportions of those born in other states do. And indeed, New Hampshire has seen a fairly sizable positive net migration since 1992.

In fact, GOP voter registration has declined just a bit since a peak in the mid-90s, while the number of independents has shot up dramatically, making them the single-largest group of voters, as noted in a previous post. Interestingly, only 24% of native New Hampshirites self-identify as independents. So the conventional wisdom that New Hampshire is a state of prickly independents seems (at least these days) to rest in large part on the political proclivities of these new immigrants. The CW isn't wrong, per se - but it's obviously malleable. And since you may have been wondering, independents preferred Gore over Bush 47% to 43% - though that last pair of figures comes from the much-maligned Voter News Service, so the usual caveats apply.

It is clear that the political landscape in New Hampshire is shifting, and Bill Clinton's two victories there may not have been so much as an aberration but rather the start of a new trend. I'll count the 2000 results as part of this continued trend, since the Gore + Nader vote was greater than Bush's. The comparison I'd like to make here (and I know New Hampshirites will bristle at it, but indulge me) is to Vermont. Today, we think of Vermont as being an extremely liberal state. But until Bill Clinton came along, Vermont had gone Democrat exactly once during the entire 20th century (for Johnson in `64). Yep, VT managed to vote against FDR all four times. I don't think NH will become another Ben & Jerry's and Birkenstock paradise any time soon, but I also don't believe that the past is necessarily prologue here, either. The times (and the voters), they are a-changin'.

Update: In the comments section at the old BlogSpot site, Steady Eddie offers a worthy critique of my VT analogy.

Posted at 02:54 AM in New Hampshire | Technorati