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>  News Releases >   2008 >   May

Economic worries top list for Granite Staters, Dartmouth poll finds

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 05/22/08 • Media Contact: Genevieve Haas • (603) 646-3661

State of the State survey was conducted by Dartmouth undergrads and faculty

In a recent State of the State Poll of New Hampshire voters conducted by the students and faculty of the Policy Research Shop at Dartmouth College's Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences, more than half of the respondents reported that they believe the economy is weak and 28 percent consider building the economy to be the most important issue facing lawmakers, but more than 43 percent of those surveyed say they will use their economic stimulus tax rebate to pay bills or augment savings.

Students in the Policy Research Shop interview poll respondents
Students in the Policy Research Shop interview poll respondents (Photo credit: Rockefeller Center)

"At least for the state of the economy in New Hampshire, perhaps 25 percent of the tax rebate will actually serve to stimulate the economy," said survey director and Associate Director of Curricular and Research Programs Ronald Shaiko. "The proposed uses of the federal rebate checks by respondents will do little to stimulate economic growth in the state."

Other concerns topping the list of policy issues important to New Hampshire voters were property tax relief, which  26.9 percent ranked highest, and improving education statewide, which 17.3 percent ranked as the top issue for state policymakers to address. When asked about the greatest threat to New Hampshire's future, 19 percent identified  the public education system, followed by 15.8 percent who cited the lack of high-paying jobs. Another 15.6 percent cited the lack of affordable housing, and 15.3 percent cited the cost of health care.

When asked to rate the job that public schools are doing in New Hampshire, only 7.5 percent of the respondents rated the public school system as excellent.  The largest plurality of respondents rated it as good (43.2 percent); whereas 30.1 percent of the respondents rated it fair and 13.1 percent rated it poor. When asked about the current state of public school financing in New Hampshire, almost 60 percent of respondents are dissatisfied (27.8 percent very satisfied and 30.4 percent somewhat dissatisfied).

Regarding the controversial issue of the "Pledge," in which candidates promise, in writing, to oppose the creation of an income or sales tax in New Hampshire, 56.5 percent consider the Pledge to be "very" or "somewhat" important, while 27.6 percent consider it to be "not very" or "not at all" important.

Survey respondents also assessed the subject of statewide elected officials and offered their vote choices for the upcoming presidential and U.S. Senate elections in November.  Almost two-thirds (65.3 percent) of the respondents approve of the way Governor John Lynch is handling his job as governor; less than ten percent of the respondents disapprove of the governor's job performance (8.9 percent).  The institutional job approval rating for the state legislature is less impressive as 36.6 percent of respondents approve of the way members of the legislature are handling their jobs.  Almost one-third of the respondents disapprove of the job performance of the legislature (32.2 percent); the remaining respondents are unsure. 

In the upcoming presidential election, Republican Senator John McCain leads Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton by 45.2 percent to 36.4 percent; McCain leads Democratic Senator Barack Obama by a smaller margin, 41.8 percent to 39.3 percent.  In the race for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire, Democratic challenger Jean Shaheen leads incumbent Republican Senator John Sununu by 46.0 percent to 35.9 percent.

Although the New Hampshire State of the State Poll provides findings consistent with other statewide polls and was conducted according to professional polling standards, it is unusual for having been conducted and designed in large part by undergraduate students who are part of the Policy Research Shop at the Rockefeller Center. The PRS employs Dartmouth undergraduates to conduct objective research and offer their findings to the New Hampshire and Vermont state legislatures and local governments, and, now, to augment their research with in-house polls, of which this is the first.

Student Lucy Pollard, a sophomore, was among the students who designed and conducted the poll, which involved phone interviews of 401 registered voters. Said Pollard, "Working for the PRS means providing nonpartisan objective research to both the New Hampshire state legislature and local town governments.  From the responses to our poll questions, it is clear that New Hampshire citizens rely heavily on the governing role played by these state and local institutions, so the poll made me feel that the research I do for the PRS is valued by New Hampshire citizens."

Senior Evan Meyerson said he learned a lot about the polling process from the experience, including how time- and labor-intensive the process is. "When polls are released," said Meyerson, "few people understand the time-consuming effort that goes into producing a reliable set of data.  It took weeks to assemble the survey instrument, and a team of nearly 20 callers working three hours per night for five nights to complete the poll. I believe the end result, and the precedent set for future Rockefeller Center polls, was certainly worth the time commitment."

The telephone survey of New Hampshire registered voters was conducted during the week of April 28-May 2, 2008. The error rate for the sample of 401 respondents is +-5.0 percent at a 95 percent confidence interval.  See the full report on the results of the poll (36kb PDF).

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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