Changing electorate could affect New Hampshire's primary

Students from local high schools and universities sit in the audience as they wait for the next speaker during the New Hampshire Youth Climate and Clean Energy Town Hall, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

New Hampshire has been holding the first-in-the-nation presidential primary for 100 years, but a significant number of Tuesday's ballots could be cast by newcomers to that storied tradition.

New Hampshire has one of the nation's lowest percentages of native-born residents, with only a third of those age 25 and older having been born in the state. And one-fifth of the state's potential voters either resided somewhere else four years ago or were not old enough to vote, according to a recent analysis of demographic trends by the University of New Hampshire.

Those shifts challenge some of the presumptions about New Hampshire voters and could affect Tuesday's results, given that surveys suggest the newcomers and young voters are less conservative than the established residents.

“Many people think of New Hampshire as a place where people have lived for 10 generations and their ancestors signed the Constitution or Declaration of Independence, and, in fact, I know someone like that,” said Ken Johnson, senior demographer at the UNH Carsey School of Public Policy. “But New Hampshire is one of the most mobile states in the country.”

From 2016 to 2020, nearly 70,000 residents turned 18 and became eligible to vote, while 46,000 older residents died. During the same period, about 160,000 voting-age adults moved into the state, and about 150,000 moved out.

It's unknown how that churn will shake out on Election Day. But according to University of New Hampshire Survey Center polls, both young residents and recent migrants are less likely to identify themselves as conservative than established residents are. Of the three groups, young residents are the most likely to identify as liberals, but they're also the least likely to have registered to vote. Just 61% have done so, compared to 54% of migrants and 88% of established residents.

About 40% of the new residents in recent years came from Massachusetts, and an additional 30% came from other Northeastern states. About a quarter came from Southern or Western states, with the smallest share coming from the Midwest.

That small group included Martha Carlson, 48, who moved to Hollis from Chicago in 2018 and plans to register as a Democrat on Tuesday. Her husband is from Minnesota and likes his home state Sen. Amy Klobuchar, but Carlson said she is about 90% sure she’ll vote for former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.