DURHAM — According to research released this week from the University of New Hampshire, there are 230,000 potential new voters for the 2020 first-in-the-nation presidential primary.
Researchers at the Carsey School of Public Policy say that number represents people who were not eligible to vote in 2016 or lived in another state.
The study shows that since 2016, about 69,000 residents have turned 18, making them eligible to vote in the primary. The remaining new potential voters are people who have relocated to the Granite State.
“The influx of potential voters to New Hampshire has significant implications because their political ideology and party identification may differ from that of longtime residents,” researchers said.
Senior demographer and professor of sociology Kenneth Johnson, political science professor and Carsey Fellow Dante Scala, and Andrew Smith, director of the UNH Survey Center and political science professor, divided potential voters into three groups to explore this concept further.
They compared the political ideology of these young potential voters to potential voters who have moved to the state since 2015 (“migrants”) and established potential voters.
A majority of each group self-identified as moderate, but young voters are more likely to have a liberal ideology than migrants or established voters, the researchers found.
Nearly 34 percent of young voters classified themselves as liberal, compared to 28 percent of migrants and 26 percent of established voters, according to the study.
Among recent migrants, 31 percent identify as Republicans, compared to 36 percent of established voters and 35 percent of young voters. Migrant voters were also more likely to identify as independent, according to the survey.
Researchers said that because more than 20 percent of the voters eligible to cast ballots in 2020 could not have participated in the 2016 primary — and roughly half of the current electorate could not have voted in 2008 — presidential candidates trying to win over residents and presidential commentators “should be careful about characterizing New Hampshire based solely on what happened in past primaries.”
They say this is particularly true in the Democratic presidential primary, which may have record voter turnout due to the large field of Democratic candidates and lack of Republican competition for President Donald Trump. The researchers say Democratic turnout could eclipse the 2008 primary.
The influx of new potential migrant voters may be due to, in part, a changing economy in which some residents leave while others move to New Hampshire for a better quality of life.
Will Stewart is the executive director of Stay Work Play, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization established in 2009 based upon recommendations by the Governor’s Task Force for the Recruitment and Retention of a Young Workforce for New Hampshire.
Stewart said that for workers to feel rooted in their communities, civic engagement is part of the recipe for success.
“From a political angle, when young people vote in elections, be it, at the presidential primary level, and even at the local level for their cities and towns, it helps get them involved and feel like they have had a voice to shape the future and our hope is that lends itself to getting more involved in other things and that ultimately people feel like they belong and they don’t want to leave,” Stewart said on Tuesday.
Stewart said one of the draws New Hampshire has for politically minded young people is having access to presidential primary candidates every four years.
“There aren’t too many opportunities for young people to really have that kind of outside influence on the national political scene as they can here in New Hampshire,” Stewart said.
Secretary of State Bill Gardner has announced that the primary this election cycle will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 11.