The lay of the land in New Hampshire

For all the polling that’s being done in New Hampshire, we rarely get any sense of the geographical divisions in the state. A few polling organizations break the state into three or four crude regions, but much more attention has been given to gender, age and income groups, etc. The map below gives some sense of town-by-town leanings, based on the results of the past three competitive Democratic primaries here (Republican results to be discussed later), in 1992, 2000, and 2004.


Three groups of cities and towns are highlighted. In dark blue, there are the bellwethers, or the places that voted for the winner in all three primaries (Paul Tsongas, Al Gore, and John Kerry). These include four of the five communities that cast the most votes in the Democratic primary general election of 2004: Manchester, Nashua, Dover, and Derry. The fifth-biggest town in this group is Merrimack. They are concentrated in the populous southeastern part of the state.

A second group, in yellow, could be called the centrist, or pro-establishment, group of towns. They all went for the closest thing to a front-runner for the Democratic nomination at the time of the New Hampshire primary, and all did go on to win the nomination: Bill Clinton, Gore, and Kerry. This would seem to be Hillary Clinton’s base for 2008. It includes Concord, the only major city not in the bellwether category, plus Rochester, Claremont, Somersworth, and Berlin. According to the Boston Globe‘s New Hampshire Primary Tracker, Clinton has outdone Obama in the number of visits to Concord — but her eight appearances there have been tied by Joe Biden, who could also be characterized as an establishment candidate

The third group, in green, are communities that have backed the more reformist candidates (socially, if not economically more liberal than their rivals): Tsongas, Bill Bradley, and Howard Dean. The largest of these are Hanover, Durham, Peterborough, Plymouth, and New London. Some are university towns, and most are closer to Vermont than Massachusetts. This is logically Barack Obama’s base, and he has been making a lot of appearances here (but so have John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich). His most-frequently visited city, however, is Manchester, which makes sense given that it was a kind of Waterloo for Bradley and Dean.

NOTE: Places that have cast tie votes in at least one contest were discarded from this analysis, and there were a lot of them in the sparsely populated north. Other "white" towns didn’t fit any of the three major patterns discussed above.