The power of the independent vote was proven once again on Tuesday night. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders came away the dominant victors in the New Hampshire primaries, Trump by almost 20 points over second-place John Kasich and Sanders by 22 points over Hillary Clinton. With a large independent electorate (44%) in New Hampshire demanding more authenticity and less political double-speak from their representatives, these wins came as little surprise.
What did come as a surprise was just how massive their wins were, with Bernie Sanders winning by the largest margin in a New Hampshire Democratic primary since John Kennedy’s 1960 victory over Paul Fisher. Turnout for both the Republican and Democratic primaries reached record-breaking highs, thanks in large part to the high independent voter showing.
A preliminary WBUR poll showed that 44% of New Hampshire independents were prepared to vote for a Republican, and 35% wanted to vote for a Democrat. Many of these voters expressed distinct interest in electing a political outsider, with nearly half of Republican primary voters saying they wanted a candidate that isn’t “part of the establishment.”With nearly half of Republican primary voters saying they wanted a candidate that isn’t 'part of the establishment.'Greg Parker, IVN Independent Author
Donald Trump, with his straight-talking style and outsider appeal, fit that bill for a plurality of Republican primary voters. According to the New Hampshire exit polls, 67% of voters felt that Trump was honest and “tells it like it is,” though only 11% believed he shared their values.
On the Democratic side, 87% of primary voters said Clinton had the right experience, yet only 6% of voters thought she was trustworthy and honest, and only 18% found that she cared about the average voter.
A staggering 92% of Democratic voters believed that Sanders was trustworthy and 81% said they believed he cared about the average voter. Voters who participated in the Democratic primary clearly were not as concerned about who had the right experience as much as they were about the candidates’ authenticity.
With its huge independent and undeclared population, the New Hampshire exit polls provide a unique window into what independents may be desiring out of their nominees nationwide. An authentic message that puts people first and party second seems to not only have mass appeal, but is bringing people to the polls — something the nation may continue to see in future contests.