A behind-the-scenes look at how presidential polling works

Local News

The UNH Survey Center is located just off of the University of New Hampshire campus in Durham. It conducts New Hampshire presidential primary opinion polls for some of the most recognizable media outlets in the country. “Over the decades, we’ve worked with local TV stations, with the Boston Globe, and with Fox News and CNN,” center director Dr. Andrew Smith said.

Many pollsters use lists of people who voted in the last presidential primary as a starting point, but Smith said the center has a very good reason for not wanting to start out that way — rapidly shifting demographics. “Between 2016 and 2020, 20% of the potential voters in this state are different people,” he said. “They either weren’t old enough to vote or they weren’t living in the state.”

The method that the Survey Center uses instead is more costly than the norm, but Smith says it’s a large part of why the center is trusted nationally. “We do a dual-frame random-digit-dialing survey, so basically, that means that every household with a landline and every cell phone number in the state has an equal chance of being called,” he said. “We’re not making any assumptions about who we’re going to call, and who we’re not going to call, in advance.”

The center’s polling finds Bernie Sanders recently taking the lead in the Democratic field in New Hampshire, but his better known rivals, like Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, don’t have much reason to be concerned just yet. “We see routinely from exit polls that upwards of 45% of voters make up their mind in the last three days before the election, and upwards of 15% of voters make up their mind on Election Day,” Smith said.

President Trump will also have to face a Republican primary. However, because he has a vast advantage in both name recognition and fundraising over his rivals within his own party, he’s expected to win easily.

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