New Hampshire Volatility – Again

Over the past four election cycles, no state has generated more political ups and downs than the Granite State of New Hampshire.

During that time more US House incumbents have been defeated than re-elected, an extraordinary statistic for any state. (In the stretch from 2006 through 2012 in the state, five House incumbents have lost their seats and only two have been re-elected consecutively. Two incumbents have both lost and won during this span of elections.) New Hampshire voters have also defeated a US Senator and a House incumbent attempting to win the statewide office. They have also changed majorities in the state legislative chambers virtually at will.

Now the University of New Hampshire just released a poll (July 18-29; 516 New Hampshire adults) testing their federal incumbents’ job approval scores and again found signs that the electorate may already be getting restless.

It is wise to approach the UNH polls with caution, however. First, the University’s polling institute hasn’t been among the most accurate of pollsters during that past few years. It is fair to consider their numbers with skepticism. Second, as is typical for their polls, the sampling period of 12 days is much too long, especially for a sample size of just 516 respondents. Finally, this particular poll only tested “adults” and not registered voters.

That being said, the data does give us some insight as to how the four all-female federal office holders are faring.

The Senators

The strongest is Sen. Jeanne Shaheen who stands for her first re-election next year. In 2006, after serving from 1997-2003 as the state’s governor, Shaheen defeated then-Sen. John E. Sununu (R), 52-45 percent after losing to him 47-51 percent in 2002. According to the poll results, Sen. Shaheen scores a strong 53:23 percent positive to negative on the personal favorability scale. Fifty percent of the sample believes she deserves to be re-elected in 2014, while 34 percent say they would prefer a generic “someone else.” Her re-elect score among Democrats is 78 percent. Among the self-identified Republicans, 27 percent favor her re-election.

Though first-term Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) is not on the ballot again until 2016, she was also tested. Her favorability score is a less impressive 41:32 percent, down from 50:25 percent from the last UNH poll conducted in April.

The Representatives

In the House, both incumbents are demonstrating some weakness. 1st District Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) was elected in 2006, defeating then-Rep. Jeb Bradley (R). She was re-elected in 2008, defeated in 2010, and re-gained the seat in the last election. In all of her elections, the congresswoman has never reached the 52 percent threshold.

Though her favorability index is not overwhelming, it is on the upswing when measured against the April UNH poll. Currently, the respondents give her a 37:28 percent positive to negative rating, up from her 31:32 percent score three months ago. Her re-elect score is upside down, with 36 percent responding that they favor her re-election versus 42 percent who say they would support someone else.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the poll is freshman Rep. Annie Kuster’s (D-NH-2) standing. Considering that the 2nd District is more liberal and Democratic that the eastern 1st CD, it is eye opening to see the new congresswoman already in marginal approval territory.

UNH forecasts her favorability index at 27:25 percent, actually up a bit from April where she only posted a 29:30 percent rating. Her re-elect scores are not good as only 26 percent of the respondents indicated that she should return to Washington in the next Congress versus 39 percent who say they want someone new. On this question, her numbers are low even among Democrats. Only 49 percent of her own party say they want to re-elect her, but just 17 percent prefer a new person. The others claim to want more information. Among Republicans, only 12 percent favor her 2014 re-election.

It appears the markers are set for more New Hampshire political turbulence in 2014.

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