Your Questions About the New Hampshire Primary, Answered

7 minute read
Updated: | Originally published:

Few dates on the political calendar hold as much weight as the New Hampshire primary.

Known for its historical influence on the trajectory of the entire presidential race, the New Hampshire primary has consistently served as a barometer for gauging the early success of candidates.

On Tuesday, New Hampshire voters will weigh in on the Republican nominating contest after Donald Trump’s record-setting win in the Iowa caucuses a week earlier. The results are expected to go a long way toward determining whether Trump can stay on his path to the nomination or if his only remaining GOP challenger—former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley—can close the gap to first place.

Read More: How Trump Took Control of the GOP Primary

Here’s what you need to know about the New Hampshire primary.

Why is New Hampshire the first primary?

The origin of New Hampshire's status as the first primary state can be traced back to 1920, when it held the first-in-the-nation presidential primary in a race among local residents competing to become convention delegates. 

Hoping for greater turnout at the polls, the state made a decision in 1948 to allow citizens to vote directly for presidential candidates—a choice that cemented New Hampshire’s influence on national politics. President Harry Truman lost the state’s Democratic primary in 1952 and decided not to seek re-election, paving the way for Dwight Eisenhower to become president.

Since 1975, New Hampshire's secretary of state has been required by state law to schedule the state’s primary at least seven days before another primary. The political tradition has become a source of pride for locals, who value the state's influential role in shaping the presidential nomination process and appreciate the direct engagement it allows citizens in the election as candidates flock to the state to campaign.

But in recent years, there has been growing debate about the fairness and representativeness of New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation status. Critics argue that the state's demographics— predominantly white and not fully representative of the nation's diversity—mean it shouldn’t continue to hold such a prominent position in the primary calendar.

The debate has spurred discussions about potential changes to the order of the primaries. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) pushed for South Carolina to host the first-in-the-nation primary this election cycle, but New Hampshire refused to concede its spot. 

When is the 2024 New Hampshire primary?

The New Hampshire primary will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 23, just eight days after the Iowa caucuses in which Trump scored a major win.

Only registered voters in the Granite State can cast a ballot for their party's nominee, though first-time voters can register to vote up to the day of the primary. New Hampshire voters can also submit absentee ballots with valid reason by Jan. 23.

The winners of each party's nomination will subsequently receive state delegates, with the goal of securing the national nomination. In New Hampshire, the Republican side allocates 22 delegates, while the Democratic side has 33 delegates at stake.

What time do polls close?

All polling places in New Hampshire are required to be open from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. ET, though some locations may have extended hours. You can find hours for each polling location here.

Why is New Hampshire important?

Following Trump’s win in Iowa, the New Hampshire primary likely stands as the best—and perhaps last—chance for Haley to secure a victory in a state or finish a close second to Trump after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis dropped out of the presidential race on Sunday. Haley has gained significant momentum in the Granite State recently and could pose a credible challenge to Trump with a strong performance ahead of the South Carolina primary in her home state. Haley has spent the most time in New Hampshire, with more than 50 events in the state.

Read More: Nikki Haley’s Slow Burn Was No Accident

The New Hampshire primary also serves as an opportunity for Democratic challengers to President Joe Biden to demonstrate that voters want change within the party, particularly as his campaign has turned the attention to South Carolina, the site of his party's first officially sanctioned contest.

Who is on the ballot?

With DeSantis ending his bid, the only Republican contenders on the ballot are Trump and Haley, who previously served as his U.N. Ambassador and has presented herself as a more pragmatic alternative to the former President. Haley finished in third in the Iowa caucuses, with 19% of the vote compared to Trump’s 51%.

On the Democratic side, candidates include Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota and self-help author Marianne Williamson. Notably absent from the ballot is Democratic President Joe Biden, who is prohibited from competing due to a dispute over the primary date. Despite his absence, some of Biden's supporters have initiated a write-in campaign in his favor. However, no Democratic candidate will be granted delegates this year as the Democratic Party will not recognize the results in New Hampshire.

Read More: Dean Phillips Is the Other Guy Running for President. Does He Have a Chance?

According to a Jan. 22 538 poll, Trump commands the lead in the Republican field in New Hampshire, with 49.9% of likely primary voters intending to support the former President. Haley is currently polling in second with 36.6%.

Why isn't Joe Biden on the ballot?

In an attempt to enhance the diversity of the primary process, Biden advocated for the DNC to conduct the first official Democratic primary of 2024 in South Carolina instead of New Hampshire. Biden won South Carolina's primary in 2020, while he placed fifth in New Hampshire.

South Carolina scheduled its Democratic primary for Feb. 3, and the DNC directed New Hampshire to hold its primary on Feb. 6, coinciding with Nevada's primary. But New Hampshire state law mandates that its primary must take place one week before any similar contest, and the state's GOP-led legislature refused to change the date. Due to DNC rules, Biden is not permitted to participate in the New Hampshire primary, leading to his absence from the ballot.

How often has New Hampshire voted for the eventual nominee?

Getty Images (12)

What issues are most important to New Hampshire voters?

Recent issue polling among GOP voters in New Hampshire seems to show that immigration, the economy, and foreign policy are the issues most affecting voter decisions ahead of the primary. 

In a November Monmouth University/Washington Post poll, a quarter of Republicans listed illegal immigration as the single most important issue facing the country, followed by inflation and rising prices at 20% and the Justice Department being used for political purposes at 10%. A more recent Suffolk University/Boston Globe/USA Today poll released this month found that roughly 30% of Republicans named illegal immigration as the biggest threat to U.S. interests ahead of the war between Ukraine and Russia and China’s aggression.

When it comes to the candidates, Trump may have an advantage over Haley on voter trust to handle those issues. A Washington Post-Monmouth University poll released on Monday found that Trump enjoys a 62% to 26% margin on trust to handle immigration policy and a 58% to 29% advantage on economic policy. Their closest issue, according to the poll, is abortion, with 22% of voters saying they trust both candidates on abortion policy equally.

Why is there no debate?

Unlike previous years, GOP presidential candidates will not go head-to-head on a debate stage in New Hampshire after the two scheduled debates were canceled because Trump once again refused to participate in a debate with his challengers, citing his higher standing in the polls. Haley announced that she would only participate if Trump did.

More Must-Reads From TIME

Write to Nik Popli at