Steve Koczela

Steve Koczela is president of The MassINC Polling Group. He writes for NHPR about polling, voter demographics and other topics related to New Hampshire's presidential primary and 2016 state elections. Follow Steve on Twitter.

Complaints about skewed public polls are nothing new. Recent election cycles have included many such accusations from candidates – especially when they’re running behind. In 2012, many Republicans held onto the idea that the polls were skewed against Mitt Romney, right up until Barack Obama won reelection.

Chris Jenson

Kelly Ayotte’s reelection race was always going to be a steep uphill climb. She’s facing a relatively popular opponent in Gov. Maggie Hassan, an electorate looking for change, and the more Democrat-friendly New Hampshire voters who typically turn out in presidential years.

But as Ayotte struggles to reach escape velocity, the pull of Donald Trump’s unpopularity threatens to keep her earthbound. 

For political observers and journalists, there is something appealing about the idea of a bellwether town -- a place whose vote in an election consistently matches up with the statewide totals. Journalists can patrol the main streets of bellwethers for man-on-the-street interviews, confident they will feel shifts in the broader political winds.

But the data shows that true bellwethers are an endangered species in many parts of the country. 

AP

Ronald Reagan clobbered Jimmy Carter in the 1980 New Hampshire presidential election. Four years later, he did the same to Walter Mondale. So resounding were those thumpings, Carter won just two towns in the state, Mondale five. 

Republican supremacy in the state did not start with Reagan, nor did it end with him. But Reagan’s two victories may represent the GOP high-water mark in New Hampshire presidential contests. The question now is: Has Republican support in the state bottomed out, or could it continue to fall in 2016? And what might Donald Trump, this year's unconventional GOP nominee, mean for this trend?

Allegra Boverman / NHPR

John Kasich needs New Hampshire’s undeclared voters to surge to the Republican primary. Bernie Sanders would like to see those same voters pick the Democratic race.

Recent history shows either scenario is plausible.

But ongoing upheaval in the ranks of New Hampshire’s undeclared (or “independent”) voters makes it hard to know what (if any) direction they're moving over the long term. 

Elaine Grant / NHPR

There is a certain mystique to the New Hampshire presidential primary: flinty New Englanders trudging to the polls through snow and cold to be the first voters in the nation to cast their ballots. That earnest, Norman Rockwell image applies to how candidates are expected to campaign in the Granite State: shaking hands at coffee shops; chatting with locals at small-town diners; courting activists one by one.

The field is set for tomorrow’s GOP presidential debate, with eight candidates set to take the stage for the evening’s main event. The lineup hasn't changed much from the last debate, the main difference being the addition of Chris Christie thanks to his improving poll numbers in New Hampshire.

But the stability onstage belies a shift in the structure of the race, particularly in New Hampshire. After a summer when political neophytes pulled the lion’s share of support, the last few weeks of New Hampshire polling have seen a resurgence by “insider” candidates.

Allegra Boverman / NHPR

I don’t expect this will get me invited to many Manchester dinner parties or Sioux City porkfests. But here goes:

It’s time for Democrats to ditch Iowa and New Hampshire’s one-two punch at the front of the party’s presidential nominating calendar.

Sara Plourde for NHPR

Every four years or so, someone proposes replacing Iowa and New Hampshire as the first two states on the presidential nomination calendar, raising the hackles of activists and politicos in both states. This year the call is perhaps more newsworthy, since it came from Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus, in an interview with National Journal.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

New Hampshire’s independent streak is wider than ever and still growing. And that could make predicting the outcome of the 2016 presidential primary tougher than usual.

In political terms, increasing numbers of New Hampshire voters are showing their independence by declining to register with either major party. There are more of these “undeclared” voters in New Hampshire today than in any previous election cycle, and they are playing a bigger role in the state's primary elections.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The presidential field is crowded: sardine-can crowded. Voters trying to keep up on the race have more than twenty candidates to follow. On the Republican side alone, there are more candidates (17) than there are voters in Dixville Notch. With such a packed GOP field, the leaders are often only polling in the teens, and there is little daylight between clusters of candidates.