The New Hampshire Primary and the American Electoral Process

By Niall A. Palmer | Go to book overview
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New Hampshire in Profile

Somebody ought to say a good word about New Hampshire. It's very difficult to do . . . (laughter).

-- Martin F. Nolan in J. Foley, D. A. Britton and E. B. Everett Jr., eds., Nominating a President: The Process and the Press. New York: Praeger, 1980, p. 18

This is the real world up here.

-- Patrick Buchanan, Boston Globe, February 11, 1992, p. 12


SOCIAL AND POLITICAL CULTURE

New Hampshire lies in the northeastern United States, wedged "like an inconsequential piece of pie" between Massachusetts and the Canadian border, with Vermont to the west and Maine and the Atlantic to the east. 1 With a population of 1,125,000 it ranks forty-first of the fifty states. 2 The state is 8,993 square miles in size, with half of its population located in rural areas. Whites account for 98 percent of the state population; Hispanics, Asians and blacks make up one percent, 0.8 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively. 3 The emerging image of a WASP state par excellence is diluted by the fact that the state's population has been expanding rapidly since the 1960s, bringing new social and cultural trends in its wake. From 1960 to 1975 the population increased by 33 percent and between 1970 and 1990, by 50 percent. 4 This made New Hampshire the fastest growing state in terms of resident population east of the Mississippi with the exception of Florida.

The much-remarked absence of a substantial black community does not preclude ethnic diversity. The state has New England's highest concentration of non-Anglo- Saxon inhabitants, with many of Greek, Italian and Polish extraction whose ancestors arrived during the great immigration waves of the nineteenth century. Neal Peirce notes that by 1920 around 50 percent of the state population was either foreign-born or of first-generation descent from the original immigrants. In 1987, 50 percent of state residents, for a variety of reasons including migration from other states, had not been born in New Hampshire. 5

The largest ethnic community, the French-Canadians, or Franco-Americans, constitute one-quarter of the population, a fact that has had important repercussions for the economic and political character of New Hampshire since the nineteenth century. Duane Lockard's seminal study of state politics during the 1950s describes French-Canadians as "clannish" and "less given to assimilation into the community" than other ethnic groups. 6 The original French-speaking settlers left French- speaking Quebec harboring mistrust and resentment of the taxes levied on their comparatively poor incomes by the English-speaking majority. Consequently,

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