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The Dartmouth
February 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Hanover presidential primaries in 2020 and 2024 show decreased support for Trump, uncertainty about Biden

Voting patterns in Hanover are unique in the state due to the high percentage of college-educated voters.

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This article is featured in the 2024 Winter Carnival special issue. 

After four years, Americans face the possibility of a rematch between incumbent President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. While the two seem destined to be the frontrunners of the race, some voters are looking towards younger candidates, such as former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, to bring a new voice to American politics. 

Hanover residents voted overwhelmingly for Haley in the 2024 New Hampshire Republican presidential primary and Biden in the 2024 New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary. 

Haley earned 84.7% of the 1757 Republican primary votes cast in Hanover, while the primary winner, Trump, won 13% of the votes. In a pre-primary poll from The Dartmouth, 62% of Dartmouth students who intended to vote in the Republican primary stated they would vote for Haley, while 25% of students who intended to vote Republican stated they would vote for Trump.

In comparison, Trump won 54% of the 298 votes cast in Hanover during the 2020 New Hampshire Republican primary. That year, a pre-primary poll from The Dartmouth found that 86% of students who intended to vote in the Republican primary planned to vote for Trump. 

Trump’s criminal indictments and charged rhetoric may have influenced his diminished support among Hanover residents in the 2024 primary. Longtime Hanover resident and Office of Communications Digital Asset Manager Corinne Arndt Girouard said that she believed that Trump “shouldn’t be in office” and instead “should be in jail.”

“He’s a scam artist and a bigot and a racist and anything else you can think of,” Girouard said. 

A Hanover resident, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about his political beliefs, said that the last four years “solidified” his position that Trump is not “fit to be president.”

“You think of any other time in history, [someone like Trump] would not have even been someone you would consider for working any job, [but he] is now still somehow viable [to run for president],” the Hanover resident said. “It’s pretty shocking to me.”

The Hanover resident said that he voted for Haley last week after voting for Biden in 2020. 

“Going in that direction was a matter of two things. Number one was anything to show … no support for Trump,” the Hanover resident said. “The second part was to be sincere that if [Haley] were the Republican nominee, that I would give her a serious look.”

Hanover’s overwhelming support for Haley in the 2024 primary was evidence of the large appeal that Haley has to college-educated voters. Hanover holds one of the highest rates of post-secondary degrees in New Hampshire. 

According to Rockefeller Center for Public Policy director and government professor Jason Barabas ’93, Haley’s large lead in Hanover was an outlier, even among neighboring towns in Grafton County. Barabas said that Haley only had a two-point lead in the entire county, compared to her almost 72-point lead in Hanover.

“I think it is important that our students, faculty, staff [and residents] understand just how unique the voting patterns are in Hanover relative to the rest of the county,” Barabas said. 

According to Barabas, the delegates that Haley won in the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa caucuses continue to pose a legitimate challenge to Trump’s path to the Republican nomination. 

“I know it seems like it’s a foregone conclusion [that Trump will win the nomination],” Barabas said. “Haley is accumulating delegates in New Hampshire and Iowa. Not all of them, but it’s not as punishing as the electoral college in the general election.”

Barabas attributed the large increase in voters in the Republican primary between 2020 and 2024 to undeclared voters driven away from the Democratic primary by the tensions between the state and the Democratic National Committee. According to Barabas, the 2024 Democratic primary “technically did not matter” because the DNC did not assign any delegates to New Hampshire to penalize the state for scheduling its primary ahead of South Carolina’s. 

“I think this is a very unique and controversial election on the Democratic side — to sort of violate the first-in-the-nation status and push that to South Carolina,” Barabas said. “There’s a lot of questions about whether or not that will cost the Democrats in November. Some people might think that they were disrespectful to New Hampshire.”

Biden also did not register to be on the 2024 Democratic primary ballot due to the state’s refusal to comply with the DNC. However, Biden supporters and groups unaffiliated with Biden mobilized a mass campaign to write in Biden’s name on the ballot. He single-handedly won 79% of 1825 votes cast in Hanover for the Democratic primary and fended off challengers such as Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson statewide to win the primary.

“[Hanover] is an actual constituency area for Biden, so I think there’s still a lot of strong support, and you’re going to see how a write-in campaign would be that effective,” Barabas said. “I think he did better in Hanover relative to the rest of the state, but [he] still came in with a lot of votes in New Hampshire as a write-in.”

Girouard — who voted for Biden in both 2020 and 2024 — said that she felt that he was a “middle of the road” candidate and “better than any option.”

The anonymous Hanover resident added that he felt that Biden has done a “fine job [as president] these past four years,” but would like to “see him step aside.”

Both Girouard and the anonymous Hanover resident said that the tensions with the DNC over New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary status and Biden’s absence from the ballot did not affect their decisions to vote for Biden and Haley, respectively. 

However, in the 2020 Democratic primary, Biden received far less support from New Hampshire. According to previous reporting from The Dartmouth, Bernie Sanders won the state, and Pete Buttigieg received the top spot in Hanover; Biden only won 7% of the 5,404 Democratic primary votes cast in Hanover. A pre-primary poll from The Dartmouth found that 5.7% of Dartmouth students who intended to vote in the 2020 Democratic primary would vote for Biden, compared to a majority of 58% of students who intended to write in a candidate in 2024. 

Girouard said that she felt that the 2020 primary — which had significantly more Democratic candidates — had better quality candidates. 

“This year, I kind of feel like I’m voting for the lesser of two [evils],” Girouard said, referring to a potential matchup between Biden and Trump. “Well, not necessarily. One is evil, and one is not.”

The 2024 pre-primary poll from The Dartmouth showed that 24% of students who intended to vote in either primary chose their first-choice candidate because they felt the candidate was the “least bad option.”

Girouard said that she still hoped Biden would win the general election in New Hampshire. 

“It seems to be, sadly, 50/50,” Girouard said. “I’m just hoping Biden can fill it out because I don’t think this country can afford to have four years of Trump in office.”

The anonymous Hanover resident added that he “unfortunately” believes that New Hampshire will vote Republican in 2024. 

Barabas emphasized the competitiveness of New Hampshire’s votes across party lines. According to Barabas, New Hampshire voters voted Democratic candidates into Congress in recent years but also supported Republican Gov. Chris Sununu. 

“It’s not a big state, but these four electoral votes can be decisive as they were in the 2000 election. If Al Gore had won New Hampshire, he wouldn’t have needed Florida,” Barabas said. “New Hampshire voters are very independent-minded and willing to split their tickets over and over again at the statewide level. I think we’re going to see a lot of attention to New Hampshire for that reason.”

Barabas encouraged Hanover voters to “stay tuned” for future developments in the South Carolina presidential primary and other state primaries. 

“I think there’s a lot more out there because we’re noticing a presidential candidate under federal indictments and Supreme Court cases about whether or not he’ll be able to stay on ballots and a number of other challenges,” Barabas said. “By the same token, Joe Biden has also some internal party dynamics that he’s going to have to fine-tune.”