Will a Granite State voter who selects Democrat Barack Obama to return as president on Nov. 6 select Republican Ovide Lamontagne as governor?
Will someone who votes for Republican Mitt Romney as president vote for Democrat Maggie Hassan as governor?
Or are N.H. more likely to vote a straight Democrat or Republican ticket?
Whether voters go straight party ticket or ticket split will have a large bearing on the results next Tuesday for president, governor and Congress, and, to a lesser extent, more local races for state House and Senate seats.
Someone who’ll be watching out for the ticket splitting will be University of New Hampshire pollster Andrew Smith.
He’s spent the campaign season directing activities at the UNH Survey Center and putting together the WMUR Granite State polls along with other surveys that have taken the pulse of Granite State voters on candidates and the issues.
During a recent conversation, Smith said the idea of a large bloc of New Hampshire voters who are truly independent is “largely a myth.”
He said they are undeclared “as a matter of convenience” because they can avoid the solicitation calls that come from Democrat or Republican operatives looking for money and votes. He also said the undeclared voters have a unique opportunity to influence a primary race by taking either a Democrat or GOP ballot when they go to vote in a runoff election.
“There’s no disadvantage,” said Smith, to being an undeclared voter.
It’s how that voter will behave come Nov. 6 – as a straight ticket voter or a split ticket voter — that now intrigues the pollster.
From his perch as a longtime observer and analyst of the state’s political scene, Smith said he believes that someone who votes for Obama and Lamontagne is more likely than a voter who chooses Romney and also Hassan.
But, if history is any indication, the top of the ticket influences how people vote for the undercard.
Smith said it’s likely that voters selecting Obama on Nov. 6 will go right down the ballot and vote for the other Democratic voters on the ticket.
The same is true on the Republican side: Those voting for Romney are more than likely to vote for the other GOP candidates as well.
So an Obama victory in New Hampshire could very well spell an Hassan victory for governor. Or a Romney win could mean good things for Lamontagne.
“I think it’s huge,” Smith said of the potential impact in a separate interview with the Eagle-Tribune, “especially in the governor’s race.”
Look at some recent UNH survey center numbers to underscore this.
The most recent presidential poll on Oct. 22 showed only 7 percent undecided. The most recent gubernatorial poll on Oct. 23 showed 29 percent undecided.
That kind of indecision will be influenced by the coattail decisions voters make for president.
While the ticket splitting will be an interesting sidebar to the election next Tuesday, look for top-down voting to really drive the results.
Paul Briand is an editor for the Live Free or Die Alliance, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that encourages the discussion and analysis of New Hampshire politics and policies.