Hillary’s NH Performance: Two Simple Explanations

I will leave it to the pundits to speculate as to whether or not Senator Clinton’s emotional moment prior to the primary contributed to her “surprising” victory, but there are at least two hard differences between the 2008 data and the 2004 data that truly tell the tale. The pre-election opinion polls (which we do not do) all had Obama winning, and Edwards in third. While these polls were actually generally in agreement with the final results in terms of the Obama/Edwards numbers, they were dramatically off with respect to Clinton’s final tally. The story in NH, as in Iowa, was one of turnout.

We will have a lot more detailed analysis on the turnout issue very soon in this space. For now, here are two big differences between 2004 and 2008: In 2004, the NH Democratic primary turnout was 54% Female, while this year it was 57%–and Clinton was very strong with women. Also, and perhaps even more significant, while the 2004 Democratic sample was 45% Democrat (and 45% Independent), in 2008 those numbers were 52% Democrat and 42% Independent. With the 2004 Republican Primary not as competitive as the 2008 contest, a higher proportion of Independent voters actually participated in the Democratic primary four years ago.  Thus, while all the talk of these first two state contests has been the number of Independents mobilized to vote, the NH story is that registered Democrats supported Clinton by an 11 percentage point margin over Obama, and lots more registered Democrats (as a proportion) turned out this year than they did four years ago. The turnout issue is a deep one, with many implications for the pre-election polls–watch this space for more on this issue in the days to come.