The August 11 Boston Herald poll that had Hillary Clinton falling behind Bernie Sanders in the New Hampshire primary has been criticized by many journalists and professional pollsters during the week after it was released. According to the poll conducted for Franklin Pierce University in conjunction with the Herald, a conservative newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., Vermont’s self-declared socialist senator is ahead of the presumptive Democratic presidential front-runner 44% to 37%.
With a margin of error of plus or minus 4.7%, the poll of 442 people who identified themselves as “likely Democratic primary voters” actually is a statistical tie, according to New York Times columnist Allan Rappeport. The significance of the poll is that it is the first one to show Sanders actually ahead of Clinton. Rappeport pointed out that a previous poll by the Herald and Franklin Pierce, conducted in March, had Sanders at just eight percent.
Many critics questioned the validity of the poll, as the waxing wave of support for Sanders that has seen Clinton’s commanding leads in Iowa and New Hampshire steadily erode seemingly has crested. However, a WMUR-TV poll released in the first week of August also has Clinton and Sanders in a statistical dead heat. Conducted in the period of July 22 through 20, Hillary led Sanders 42% to 36%, but the poll had a margin of error of 5.9%.
Despite WMUR’s findings, the Herald-Franklin Pierce poll generated controversy.
A DailyKos columnist claimed that the Herald-Franklin Pierce poll was suspect as it was backed by Republicans Marlin Fitzwater and Andrew H. Card, Jr. Fitzwater, who served as press secretary to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, was the pollster who ran the poll for RKM Associates. Card, who was George W. Bush’s chief of staff, is the president of Franklin Pierce. The university dedicated the Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communication in 2002.
The DailyKos kind of criticism riffs off the popular meme that Republican Party operatives are working behind the scenes to boost Sanders to weaken Hillary.
Other sources criticized the poll for the refusal of the Herald and Franklin Pierce to reveal the sample. The results were derived through a “probability of selection” process, which is unusual for professional pollsters. Other areas the poll was criticized on was its unknown formula for weighting landline respondents against cellphone survey takers, and its use of probable Democratic primary voters in lieu of voters who had voted Democratic in past elections.
The poll was released by the Boston Herald one day after Hillary Clinton visited Manchester, New Hampshire, during a campaign swing through the Granite State. One seasoned political operative said at the end of her visit that despite any surge towards Bernie, carrying Manchester remains critical for any Democratic candidate, as it remains the largest city in New Hampshire.
Although the population growth of nearby Nashua has outstripped that of Manchester since 1960, when the number of Queen City citizens was nearly double that of the Gate City, Nashua with its 87,000 people to Manchester’s 110,000, is more Republican than the Queen City. In Manchester, 34.2% of registered voters are Democrats, making it one of the most Democratic boroughs in New Hampshire. The cities of Portsmouth and Keene traditionally are more liberal, but Manchester remains the Democratic powerhouse, he said, and Hillary has the support of many of Manchester’s political powerhouses.
The former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State was greeted by an emotionally upbeat crowd of approximately 500 people at Manchester’s McIntyre Ski Area on Monday, August 10. Guest speakers that preceded Hillary to the podium were Executive Councilor Chris Pappas and State Senators Lou D’Allesandro and Donna Soucy, all of whom represent Manchester in the State House. Manchester Aldermen Bill Barry and Garth Corriveau also were in attendance. Pappas, D’Allesandro, Soucy, Barry and Corriveau all are declared supporters of Hillary Clinton.
New Hampshire State Representative Tim Smith (D-Hillsborough 17), who represents Manchester’s Ward 17, also was on hand. Smith remains uncommitted, although he admitted he is leaning towards Bernie Sanders in the primary. When it was pointed out that the man generally seen as Hillary’s likely opponent in the November 2016 election, Jeb Bush, had pulled 200 people to a town hall event in the seacoast town of Barrington, New Hampshire the previous Friday, Smith said he believed that more people would have shown up for Hillary had there been more advance notice. Her Manchester stop had only been announced on Friday.
Smith had stopped by in hopes that she would be taking questions. He had planned to ask her about NASA and the space program.
Hillary Clinton was greeted enthusiastically by most of the people thronging the Ski Area, many of whom crowded the “rope line” dividing the candidate from her audience after her speech. Countless supporters stood patiently for the opportunity to shake her hand, take “selfies” with her (snapped by themselves, or with the help of candidate Clinton, or the Secret Service), or just to shout out their love for the woman they hope will be the first woman president.