New Hampshire Poll Shows Electorate Predictably Unpredictable

Since 2006, voters in no other place have created more pronounced political swings than in the Granite State of New Hampshire. Seven statewide or federal district incumbents have been defeated during that period, as opposed to only six who have been re-elected. In federal campaigns, the record is just three incumbent wins and seven defeats.

The University of New Hampshire and WMUR-TV have just released another Granite State poll (June 19-July 1, 669 New Hampshire adults; 263 likely voters in NH-1; 246 likely voters in NH-2) that suggests the 1st congressional district electorate is again primed to oust an incumbent.

According to UNH, former Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH-1), elected in 2010 and defeated in 2012, holds a 46-43 percent lead over Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH-1), elected in 2006, defeated in 2010, and re-elected in 2012. Against Republican Dan Innis, the former UNH business school dean, the congresswoman posts a 45-38 percent advantage. Should Guinta win re-nomination, this will be the third consecutive election in which Shea-Porter and he have faced each other, with each individual winning once.

Though the UNH-WMUR polls have been notoriously unreliable, the fact that they have projected this particular race as seesawing back and forth since last year – in October, Shea-Porter led by 16 points; in January, Guinta gained a six-point advantage; April’s poll restored Shea-Porter to a nine-point margin; and now Guinta rebounds to edge the incumbent by three points – may actually be accurate. After all, flipping back and forth between the Republican and Democratic candidate is systemic of the actual voting pattern here during the past eight years.

The UNH methodology problems, again present here, include sampling periods that are too long (in this case, 19 days), polling adults instead of concentrating on registered voters, and not fully weighting the sample (in the current poll, the respondent pool skews 2.7 percent higher in the 18-64 age group, in addition to capturing seven percent more Independents than are in the electorate as a whole).

Regardless of what any polling numbers might predict, count on the 2014 NH-1 race to again end in unpredictable fashion. While the margin will likely be close, either candidate can win this race … as they both have proven before.

The state’s western congressional district, the 2nd, has also seen its share of turnover since 2006, but the chances of unseating freshman Rep. Annie Kuster (D) are lesser.

Here, the Granite Poll finds the first-term representative holding consistent double-digit margins against all potential Republican opponents, each of whom has little in the way of district-wide name identification.

When paired with former state Sen. Gary Lambert (R), Rep. Kuster leads 45-36 percent. Opposite state Rep. Marilinda Garcia, Kuster’s margin is 49-35 percent. Should former state Rep. Jim Lawrence become the GOP standard bearer, the Democratic congresswoman’s advantage is a similar 47-35 percent.

Therefore, against what amounts to little more than placebo candidates, we see that Rep. Kuster approaches 50 percent, but does not exceed the benchmark, and find that all three opponents hover around the 35 percent mark. This suggests Kuster is in strong, but not invincible, political position in this spotty political district.

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