NH; predictable but not understandable

by Alex Fulling (2/15/2016)

Having gone to high school just thirty minutes from the New Hampshire border in Massachusetts, I always had a sense that NH is generally an odd state.

Preface: it’s not just because its presidential primary is endlessly trolled by a semi-serious candidate named Vermin Supreme who wears a boot on his head and campaigns on toothbrush policy (below)IMG_4165

But rather, it’s more about the average Granite Stater.

In political science, when evaluating Iowan voters you think of blue collared workers, often in agriculture, who know that regardless of how far Washington might be from Des Moines or Cedar Falls, federal policy of all varieties, no matter how grand or lofty in its inception, will inevitably affect their daily lives as ‘middle Americans.’ Furthermore, we understand that the Christian faith runs strong in the Midwest and subsequently affects the policy stances of members of both parties. Iowa has historically been regarded as an accurate representation of the nation’s overall political spectrum due to its balance of classic right-wing conservatives and inner-city progressives, and everyone in between. Virtually all of the trends that exist amongst the Iowan electorate, including the outcome of the caucuses, carry a sturdy scientific explanation that is usually obvious and/or evident. But New Hampshire is different.

In New Hampshire, we can predict that something like John Kasich sneaking up and finishing in a strong second might happen, but we’re not too solidly sure why. Amongst the republican electorate in New Hampshire we find a solid representation of the usual far-right conservatives who live largely in rural areas, have low income and limited education, and vote for Trump or Cruz, but we also find more moderate-Republicans who helped propel Kasich to an impressive second place, and very little in between.

As for the moderates: Where did they come from? Who are they? Why do they live in New Hampshire? What do they do? Huh?

There are no notable cities that might explain the moderates, so does this large moderate sect of New Hampshire conservatives exist because New England is generally a more progressive region of the nation? Or is it something about the state economy in that a distinct set of employment opportunities foster moderateness?  We don’t really know. That said, although we can’t really understand the electorate, we can predict what it’s going to do. The Kasich success was not a shocker to political scientists, but at the same time, it can’t really be explained. It’s a peculiar balance in that we can predict what will probably happen, but we can’t understand it.

After spending a few days on the ground in New Hampshire I can confidently report that I still have no answers to any of these questions. New Hampshire to me will forever be a political anomaly, but nonetheless riveting to pursue an understanding of.


a shot of the sun setting in Manchester on primary night 2016



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