George W. Bush won New Hampshire by only 7,000 votes in 2000, a narrow victory that helped make the difference in the controversial Bush victory in the Electoral College, while Al Gore won the popular vote nationwide. The reverse may occur this year, with Mitt Romney winning the popular vote on Tuesday, and Barack Obama eking out an Electoral College win. Where does New Hampshire stand now? Polls show an evenly-divided electorate, and with small samples and wide margins of error, either candidate could win the Granite State on November 6.
If people don't know math, they may see good news for the president in these recent New Hampshire polls. But a look below all of these polls' toplines shows that these breakdowns do not mean the same thing at all.
The most recent PPP poll is a telephone poll that requests those who answer to press a button to give their party identification. The party identification for this survey of about 1,100 "likely voters" is 31% Democrat 33% Republican and 37% Independent/Other. The same survey, interestingly, got 55% female and 45% male responses. The survey does not so much oversample Democrats as it oversamples women and Independents, and undersamples Republicans. Gallup's 2011 party identification surveys for New Hampshire voters show 30% Democrat, 40% Republican and 25% Independent/Other. PPP shows Obama and Romney tied at 48% each with independent voters. Similarly to other polls, below topline polling the president has a less than 50% approval rating (50% of those polled disapproved, 45% approved of the president's performance).
The University of New Hampshire poll shows Obama and Romney tied at 48% each, with a very different story among independent New Hampshire voters, with 54% choosing Romney to 32% for Obama. The Gravis survey for November 1 showed Obama ahead of Romney by 1 percentage point, 50-49, but 63 to 37% among early voters. The catch regarding early voters is, Gravis surveyed 497 likely voters, and 6% of them, or 30 people, said they had voted early. Even though New Hampshire is a small state, 30 people is not enough to extrapolate any reliable results.
The real story with all of these recent New Hampshire polls is that President Obama appears to have reached the "magic" 50% number with New Hampshire voters during the past few days. Yet the Granite State/UNH poll found that "87% of 2008 Obama voters say they will vote for him this time while 94% of McCain voters say they will vote for Romney." McCain got sufficiently fewer votes than Obama in 2008 that the support drop may not be significant, even in New Hampshire.
The president does not think New Hampshire is "all sewn up," as he campaigned in Concord with Bill Clinton on Sunday. On November 5, Romney is scheduled to appear for a rally in Manchester with Kid Rock.
For live election results from the state of New Hampshire, see here.