Romney’s Shifting New Hampshire Coalition

This is part of a series of posts analyzing how Mitt Romney’s 2012 coalition has changed from his 2008 coalition. Hopefully such analysis will provide clues as to Romney’s performance in the general election. A previous post, which I will refer to multiple times, looked at Iowa. This post will analyze New Hampshire.

New Hampshire

To do that, this post will examine exit polls of the New Hampshire primary in 2008 and exit polls of the New Hampshire primary in 2012.

We should also note, as has been stated before many times, that these exit polls should be taken with two heavy grains of salt. Exit polls consistently fail when it comes down to something as simple as predicting who will win the election. This fact should always be taken into account when using exit polls to examine much more complex relationships (such as the relationship between income and support for Romney). Only when a pattern appears again and again in multiple exit polls should it be possibly noted as valid.

With that said, let’s begin:

Gender Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Male 31% 39%
Female 32% 40%

Not much of interest here. Romney’s strength amongst males and females is virtually identical, as it was in Iowa.

Let’s take a look at age:

Age Romney 2008 Romney 2012
18-24 17% 28%
25-29 33%
30-39 28% 34%
40-49 31% 42%
50-64 30% 42%
65+ 44% 42%
Oldest vs. Youngest Support Gap 27% 14%

Romney does considerably better amongst elderly voters, which is something that occurred in the Iowa exit polls as well. Interestingly, however, the age gap has narrowed since 2008. The opposite occurred in the Iowa exit polls.

Education next:

Education Romney 2008 Romney 2012
High School or Less 28% 39%
Some College/Associate Degree 32% 35%
College Graduate 31% 43%
Postgraduate Study 35% 39%
Most vs. Least Education Support Gap 7% 0%

Education is something that the Iowa exit polls didn’t look at. In general, Romney seems to perform slightly better amongst more educated voters. On the other hand, the relationship isn’t very clear. It could very well be sampling error. For what it’s worth, the education gap seems also to have narrowed in 2012.

Next is marital status:

Married? Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Yes 34% 42%
No 27% 35%
Married vs. Unmarried Support Gap 7% 7%

This is something else which the Iowa post didn’t look at. Romney does slightly better amongst married individuals. Not very surprising, considering his strong family record. Interestingly, the difference in support he draws between married and unmarried individuals is completely unchanged.


Income Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Less than $30,000 18% 31%
$30,000 – $49,999 28% 31%
$50,000 – $99,999 31% 35%
$100,000 – $199,999 33% 47%
$200,000 or more 34% 52%
Highest Income vs. Lowest Income Support Gap 16% 21%

As was the case in Iowa’s exit polls, Romney does substantially better amongst higher-income families. The income gap has also widened since 2012. Something to watch for the general eleciton.

Here is the polling on party affiliation:

Party Affiliation Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Republican 35% 49%
Independent 27% 30%
Republican vs. Independent Support Gap 8% 19%

Romney does better amongst Republicans than Independents, and the gap has widened since 2008. This is something that also occurred in Iowa.

Here is a similar question on political registration:

Voter Registration Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Republican 33% 49%
Independent 30% 33%
Republican vs. Independent Support Gap 3% 16%

The difference here is that this question asks what party people are actually registered with, while the previous question asks what party people mentally identify with. This question is less accurate; for instance, many people registered decades ago as Democrats but now vote consistently Republican. They merely have been too lazy to change their registration, which is why conservative states like Kentucky or North Carolina still have massive Democratic registration advantages.

Anyways, we see basically the same thing as before. Romney does better with Republicans than Independents, and the gap has widened since 2008.

Next is political philosophy:

Political Philosophy Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Very Conservative 43% 33%
Somewhat Conservative 35% 48%
Moderate 27% 40%
Somewhat Liberal 15% 33%
Very Conservative vs. Somewhat Liberal Gap -28% 0%

In 2008, the more conservative the voter, the better Romney’s performance. This had a lot to do with John McCain’s candidacy (the same pattern didn’t exist in Iowa). However, in 2012 Romney’s support crests amongst somewhat conservative voters. This is different from Iowa, where he did best in 2012 amongst moderate voters.

Let’s take a look at born-again evangelical Christians:

Born-Again Evangelical Christian? Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Yes 27% 31%
No 34% 40%
Non-Evangelical vs. Evangelical Support Gap 7% 9%

Non-evangelicals, as in Iowa, are more likely to support Romney. The evangelical versus non-evangelical support gap has slightly widened, again as happened in Iowa. However, New Hampshire’s evangelical versus non-evangelical support gap is substantially narrower compared with Iowa.

The next question is very interesting, and it wasn’t asked in Iowa:

Religion Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Protestant 31% 35%
Catholic 38% 45%
None 22% 23%

There’s pretty substantial variation on Romney’s support depending on one’s religion (this recalls the elections of the nineteenth century, when religious affiliation was a powerful indicator of one’s political party). Atheists dislike Romney the most, Protestants are lukewarm, and Catholics are fans.

It should be noted that this same pattern occurred in 2008. However, in later primaries (such as California), the exit polls showed Romney doing better amongst Protestants (even white Protestants) than Catholics. One should be cautious about concluding that Protestants like Romney less.

Here’s a question which tells a lot about the 2012 campaign:

More Important Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Issues 33% 31%
Personal Qualities 28% 55%
Personal Qualities vs. Issues Support Gap -5% 24%

On voters who find issues more important, Romney’s doing about the same as in 2008. However, he jumps double-digits ahead amongst those voting based on personal qualities.

Next is another question on income:

Family’s Financial Situation Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Falling Behind 26% 32%
Holding Steady 32% 36%
Getting Ahead 32% 45%
Good Financial Situation vs. Bad Financial Situation Support Gap 6% 13%

Romney’s doing better amongst those who are getting ahead. The support gap has also widened. Both are unsurprising considering how much more this year Romney has been attacked on class. It bodes poorly for him for the general election, however.

The next question almost contradicts the previous one:

Worried About Economy? Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Not Too Worried 35%
Somewhat Worried 33% 36%
Very Worried 24% 41%
Most Worried vs. Least Worried Support Gap -11% 5%

In 2008 Romney did steadily better amongst voters less concerned about the economy. In 2012, however, he actually does slightly better amongst those most concerned (unsurprisingly, the number of people not too worried about the economy has declined to basically zero). Apparently a lot of wealthier voters who are getting ahead are still very worried about the economy.

How important are debates?

Importance of Debates Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Very Important 31% 39%
Somewhat Important 34% 32%
Not Important 32% 38%

Not very.

What about when voters decided who to support?

Decided Whom to Support… Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Today 33% 31%
Past Few Days 29% 32%
Last Week 25% 41%
In December 32%
Before That 33% 56%
Earliest Decision vs. Latest Decision Support Gap 0% 25%

In 2008 there wasn’t much of a relationship. However, this year Romney opens an enormous gap between voters who decided late and those who decided early.

Finally, there’s the rural-urban gap:

Size of Community Romney 2008 Romney 2012
Rural 27% 33%
Suburban 34% 43%
Urban 34% 42%
Urban vs. Rural Support Gap 7% 9%

Romney does somewhat poorer amongst rural voters. The support gap hasn’t changed much since 2008.


In the 2008 New Hampshire Republican primary Romney did best, out of all these categories, amongst voters older than 65 (44% of the vote) and worst amongst voters describing themselves as somewhat liberal (15% of the vote). In 2012 Romney did best amongst voters deciding whom to vote for before December (56% of the vote) and worst amongst voters aged 18-24 (28% of the vote).

In 2008 the greatest gap in support for Romney was between conservatives and somewhat liberals (a 28% support gap); in 2012 it was between voters who decided before December and voters who decided on election-day whom to support (a 25% support gap).

There are several interesting similarities to the Iowa caucuses here. In 2008 Romney’s weakest Iowa supporters, amongst the categories examined in the Iowa post, were also those who decided whom to support on election-day. In 2012 his weakest supporters were voters aged 18-29. In addition, the greatest gap in support in 2012 occurred between conservatives and moderates.

So it seems so far that Romney is weak amongst young people and people who decide on election-day whom to support, and that Romney’s appeal differs substantially between those of different political philosophies.

A next post will examine the differences between Romney in 2008 and Romney in 2012 with respect to the South Carolina primary.

This entry was posted in 2012 Presidential Election, 2012 Republican Primary, Mitt Romney, New Hampshire and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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