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NEC Poll Also Offers Starting Point in 2014 Governor’s Race

An overwhelming number of Granite Staters supports the compromise Medicaid plan being considered this week in Concord. In a poll of 774 registered voters, the plan to extend private insurance to 50,000 New Hampshire citizens enjoys wide public support. Voters also strongly support any effort by lawmakers to extend health insurance coverage to the working poor.

According to the latest NEC Poll, 66% of respondents support the compromise proposal before lawmakers, 25% oppose the idea, and 10% say they are unsure.   Voters were asked if they could support the compromise plan supported by Governor Maggie Hassan and a bipartisan group of New Hampshire Senators.  In addition, 64% of respondents support increasing eligibility of Medicaid to families with incomes up to $32,000 per year.  26% of respondents oppose the idea.  11% said they were unsure. The margin of error in this poll is 3.57%.

“This is a clear message to lawmakers in Concord,” concludes Dr. Ben Tafoya, Director of the NEC Poll. “The public is telling our state leaders to move forward with this plan to expand health coverage to those who can least afford it.  They support the bipartisan approach between the Governor and republicans in the New Hampshire Senate.”

New Hampshire voters were also their opinion about a proposal for universal background checks for any guns purchased through dealers, gun shows or individual sales.  76% of respondents said they support background checks to just 22% who oppose the idea.  3% said they were unsure.

“This result mirrors numbers we have seen in previous polls on this issue,” explains Dr. Wayne Lesperance, Director of the Center of Civic Engagement at NEC. “Even though this has been a deeply partisan debate at the state house and even in Washington, the public views this issue differently.  Republicans, democrats and independents in New Hampshire support background checks for gun purchases.”

These issues will no doubt surface in the 2014 elections. Campaigns for major office have already begun in New Hampshire, and the race for Governor shows the republican challenger is a complete unknown.

Among 774 respondents, Democrat Maggie Hassan, the incumbent Governor, received 42% support.  Republican challenger Andrew Hemingway, the only announced candidate, received just 6% support.  25% of voters said they would prefer a third option, and 27% percent way they do not yet know who they will vote for in November of 2014.

“While the Governor clearly enjoys a sizeable lead in this poll, both candidates can look at these numbers with some level of optimism,” explains Dr. Tafoya.  “When an incumbent crosses the 50% threshold, it is very difficult to unseat him or her.  Governor Hassan is at 42% with many voters undecided. That gives her a deep pool of potential supporters to win over.”

However, Dr. Tafoya believes similar conclusions can be reached for the Republican challenger.  “Although Mr. Hemingway is only at 6%, this poll shows that more than 50% of voters have not decided between the two candidates.  If no other republican joins this race, then Mr. Hemingway can try to win over those voters who are not supporting Governor Hassan.”

That will be a tough task. “Governor Hassan’s job approval rating of 60% in this poll, versus 27% who do not approve of her job in the corner office, gives her a strong base of support from which to grow her support,” explains Tafoya.  “A +33 rating will make it difficult for any GOP challenger to defeat her in the fall.”

Interestingly, when asked which party should have control of the New Hampshire legislature, the results show an even split.  41% believe Democrats should hold the majority, 40% prefer the Republicans to have the majority in Concord, 15% said they were not sure.

“A popular Governor will have coattails on the ballot, which helps all democrats who are running for office,” says Dr. Lesperance.  “But one thing we have learned about New Hampshire voters; they like to see balance between the parties.  These numbers suggest both major parties are on somewhat even footing as we begin the 2014 campaign.”