February 2, 1996

New Hampshire Voters Fault Candidates, Media And TV Ads

Introduction and Summary

New Hampshire voters are not very happy these days. Fully 71% are dissatisfied with conditions in the country. Like American voters elsewhere, large majorities are worried about meeting their financial obligations in the future, even though the condition of the economy is not as dominant an issue in the state as it was four years ago, a survey by the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press found.

Granite State voters are also critical of the primary campaign itself. Issues are being discussed less than in previous presidential campaigns, according to 54% of the 902 registered voters questioned in the poll. Campaign press coverage is rated as only fair or poor by as many as 43%. And a 64% majority of likely voters think that the candidates’ commercials are not helpful in deciding for whom to vote. Pointedly, many more of Senator Bob Dole’s supporters are critical of the New Hampshire air wars (77%) than are backers of big spender Steve Forbes (48%).

Most registered voters (70%) take a dim view of the overall field of Republican candidates. A 59% majority of registered Republicans judge the GOP slate as only fair or poor. Independent voters, who are permitted to vote in New Hampshire’s Republican primary, are even more dismayed: 73% rated the Republican candidates only fair or poor. This attitude of Independents is significant because, without a meaningful Democratic primary for the first time in 32 years, they are likely to play a larger than usual role in the GOP contest.

Discontent with the process has not translated into lack of interest in this year’s election, however. By a margin of 48% to 29%, likely primary voters say they are more interested in politics now than they were in 1992. Registered Republicans were only somewhat more interested (49%) than likely Independent voters (46% ). Further, 85% of New Hampshire registered voters say they personally care a good deal who wins the presidential election this year.