WASHINGTON, February 10, 2016 — Recently concluded voting in the New Hampshire party primary elections saw Donald Trump easily win the Republican vote while Bernie Sanders even more impressively won the Democrats’ tally. According to polling taken just before the election, both eventual winners already had large leads going in to Tuesday’s contest. The final results actually exceeded expectations, with both winners being accorded a notably better than expected margin.
So what do Tuesday’s results tell us?
On the Republican side, Donald Trump is appealing to the primary concerns of a clear majority of Republican voters. The state of the economy and national security are the issues of most concern to Republicans and Trump speaks out forcefully and confidently on both issues.
It’s now abundantly clear that for the past 10 years, U.S. economic growth has been subpar at best. A recession officially started in the fourth quarter of 2007 and ended in 2009. But after a severe recession like this one, the economy usually bounces back and does so strongly. This time that didn’t happen.
After the more severe (in terms of depth) recession of 1981 concluded, subsequent economic growth averaged 4.5% during the first four years of recovery. That rapid growth rate created millions of jobs, expanded opportunities for all Americans and brought the inflation rate down from 13% in 1980 to under 4% by 1982. The unemployment rate fell from 10% to 5% by the end of the recovery period.
These favorable economic conditions were made possible because the federal government reduced tax rates for all Americans, reduced burdensome regulations on businesses and individuals and created an environment that encouraged Americans to take chances, mostly by reducing the role of government .
Today, a considerable majority of Republican voters want to see that happen again. Trump says he will do all those things that worked before, proclaiming he will be the “greatest jobs President that God has ever created.” That’s exactly what Republican voters want to hear. Because of Trump’s forceful style, blunt talk and refusal to take large outside donations, voters believe he can and will do what he says.
Republicans are also concerned about national security, currently seeing the U.S. being viewed by the rest of the world as weak and indecisive. This, in turn, had led to increasing threats against our national security. Trump talks tough and says he will defeat our enemies, restore our military and follow the “peace through strength” policy that has worked so well for America in the past.
Other Republican candidates offer a similar message. But voters believe Trump will follow through with his promises even as they harbor some doubts about the others. What New Hampshire’s results are telling us is that Republicans voters want a president who will follow economic policies that lead to growth, make America more secure and is strong enough to get these jobs done.
On the Democrats’ side, voters seem most concerned about reducing income inequality, providing a greater safety net for all Americans and increasing the role of government to insure that all Americans get a fair chance in a system that many view as being rigged in favor of the wealthy. Democrats also want a president they can trust and one that will follow progressive principles. Sanders looks very appealing to them.
Sanders has said he will reduce income inequality by raising taxes significantly on the highest income earners; increasing social programs to provide things like free college tuition; and by breaking up the large banks that dominate financial markets. This, Sanders says, will create an economy where the average American has a chance to succeed.
Sanders’ opponent, Hillary Clinton, is viewed as being less than trustworthy, at least as far as New Hampshire Democrats are concerned. This, coupled with Hillary’s smugness concerning her dealings with Wall Street bankers who have contributed tens of millions of dollars to her campaign, makes her unappealing.
Clinton tried to appeal to specific demographics in Tuesday’s contest, but failed miserably. One of her influential supporters attempted to shame women into voting for her and another supporter said that young females only attend rallies for Sanders because “that’s where the boys are.” This rhetoric may have appealed to women over 65 years old who already like Clinton. But it turned off all the younger women who flocked to Sanders.
New Hampshire voters told us that Republicans want a strong leader who will stimulate the economy, increase the commitment to national security, reduce taxes and reduce the role of government. Democrats want a leader who will reduce income inequality, level the playing field for all Americans (which includes campaign finance reform), provide more social programs and increase the role of government.
Will Republican and Democratic voters in other states want the same thing?