The Most and Least Libertarian Towns in New Hampshire (updated)

Updated to include two scatter plots

Having examined which states have the most and least libertarians, I’ve decided to do something similar for the 239 populated towns of New Hampshire. Towns are the most important level of local government here, and therefore the degree of libertarian-ness should make some difference to policy at the town level.

The indicators I use for number of libertarians are as follows: percentage of the vote for Gary Johnson and Ron Paul (write-ins) in the 2012 presidential general election (Ron Paul won a nontrivial number of write-ins in New Hampshire); percentage of the vote for libertarianish gubernatorial candidate Andrew Hemingway in the 2014 Republican primary (he got over 37% of the vote); percentage of the vote for Ron Paul in the 2012 Republican primary; percentage of the vote for Ron Paul in the 2008 Republican primary; and the percentage of voters registered “undeclared” (independent). These are all measured at the town level.

As in my research on the states, I use principal component analysis to reduce the correlations among these variables to a single “best” variable expressing their underlying commonality. I also “weight” the observations by population, since New Hampshire has many small towns, where sampling error should be higher (lots of zeroes and high percentages in election results). In fact, weighting the observations this way yields better results, as revealed by the eigenvalue of the first extracted component.

These variables do in fact correlate with each other and all contribute positively, as expected, to the extracted component. The highest scoring coefficient goes to 2012 Paul primary vote (0.55) and the lowest to undeclared registration percentage (0.25).

UPDATE: Here are two charts of Andrew Hemingway 2014 percentage against Ron Paul 2012 percentage, by town. The first limits to towns and cities with at least 700 population, the second to towns and cities with at least 10,000 population. As you can see, the correlation is strong.



And now for the lists of most and least libertarian towns…

Top 10:

Town Score
Richmond 11.2
Grafton 9.4
Wentworth 7.4
Alexandria 6.1
Lyman 6.0
Dorchester 5.7
Marlow 5.6
Clarksville 5.3
Croydon 5.2
Benton 5.1

Most of these are in Grafton County, where I also live. They are all small and rural. The most libertarian large town (over 5000 population) is Plymouth (score of 4.5), a left-leaning college town (also in Grafton Co.). The most libertarian-leaning municipality with a city form of government is Franklin in Merrimack County (score of 2.0). Almost all of the towns where libertarian candidates are most popular are in the west, especially northwest, of the state. Three exceptions are Francestown (5.0), Mason (4.3), Hill (4.0), and New Ipswich (3.9), but even these are west of I-93, which bisects most of the state. The top town east of I-93 is Pittsfield (3.2).

Here are the bottom 10:

Dixville -5.9
Hale's Location -4.7
New Castle -3.9
Rye -3.5
Jackson -3.2
Bedford -3.1
Waterville Valley -3.1
Atkinson -3.0
Stratham -3.0
New London -2.7

Four out of these 10 are in Rockingham County on the seacoast. Dixville and Hale’s Location are truly tiny. Bedford is a staunchly Republican suburb with a population over 20,000. In fact, many of the least libertarian places are well-to-do suburbs that are strongly establishment-Republican (Bedford, New London, Hooksett, Hampstead, Windham).

Examining the towns that are right in the middle of the spectrum will give us a sense of which places are most “representative” in their libertarian-ness. Here are those, filtering down to places with more than 1000 population:

Derry 0.2
Littleton 0.2
Goffstown 0.1
Keene 0.1
Manchester 0.1
Lee 0.0
Chester 0.0
Claremont -0.0
Sandown -0.2
New Boston -0.2

Some of these are not representative of the state in a left-right sense, however. New Boston, Goffstown, Littleton, and Chester are all firmly Republican, while Keene, Lee, and Claremont are if anything even more firmly Democratic. Derry (R-leaning), Manchester (D-leaning), and Sandown (R-leaning) could be considered somewhat representative of the state.

48 thoughts on “The Most and Least Libertarian Towns in New Hampshire (updated)

  1. Thank you for the analysis.
    I want to have an idea where to settle when I move there.
    The places I have considered:

    1. Keene and Hanover are extremely statist, high tax towns, even though the former has an average number of libertarians. In the Upper Valley, Canaan, Croydon, Grafton, Dorchester, Wentworth, and H averhill are all more friendly.

  2. Don’t come Gary, you aren’t wanted here. Hanover is too wealthy for you, Manchester is a hell hole anyway, Seabrook is a dead working class border town with a nuke plant and a few crumbling strip joints and Keene is soon to see the highest property taxes in the state — and is fed up with the morons of Free Keene.

    Where ever you are, stay there.

    Also, since Sorens ins’t a native he has no idea of the cultural influences of the so-called “libertarian” learning towns. They aren’t libertarian overall, they are rural, culturally isolated, reactionary and slightly xenophobic.

    Oh, you might fit in with the last three of those traits but they aren’t going to like your meddling with their politics.

    Canaan is impoverished already and doesn’t need libertarians coming around to further squeeze services for the mostly poor residents there.

    Why don’t you people colonize East St. Louis Missouri, more to your liking I would think … save for one glaring issue.

    1. If you hate your own state so much, Progressive Action, perhaps you should move somewhere more in accord with your ideas, like New York or New Jersey.

      1. The knee-jerk response from the far right since time immemorial: “LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT!”

      2. Whereas the far left is saying, “Leave it even if you love it, just because we hate you.” Xenophobia at its worst.

      3. Naw, we’ve been here longer than you so we’ll stay, you can leave and take your carpet-bagger ways with you.

        But don’t worry, as demonstrated in Grafton and throughout the state, when confronted with the pure fantasy of libertarianism or responsible governance, New Hampshire citizens overwhelmingly chose the latter.

        In addition, your “numbers” mean nothing in the face of growing dissatisfaction with the idiocy of libertarianism and New Hampshire is moving quite ahead of other states.

        We’ve been suggesting for quite sometime that areas with less development would make for a better Free State utopia, such as East St. Louis, but what is it about East St. Louis or the south in general that is so unappealing?


  3. It is definitely a much better idea that you just find your way back home, Sorens.
    We don’t need you invasive meddlers coming here to screw with our state.

    Go destroy your own home.

  4. Jason, my dear man, please re-read my commentary. I said nothing about not liking this state, I like it mighty fine and that’s why I’ve lived here for over half my life and in quite a few different towns. It has its idiosyncrasies, that’s for sure, but unbeknownst to you and newcomers and outsiders, William Loeb was a joke and a fraud, conservatism here was a trick on immigrant millworkers to keep them from organizing and the farmers up north never really gave a damn either way anyway.

    We like our state and non-profit managed forests, the new young ones coming up want good roads, good schools and good jobs. Real working folks aren’t interested in your old-man “ain’t gonna pay no taxes” crankiness, we’ve seen it, we’ve known it, we’ve lived it.

    Again, go somewhere else that really needs an economic boost, like, East St. Louis, where no one would really give a damn if you open carry, the cops are few and far between and so low paid they are easily paid off, strip joints are a-plenty (I know the young members of your little group sure do like their naked dancing ladies) and empty store-fronts are begging for brilliant entreprenuers like yourselves. Frankly, I think it would be quite a coup for your libertarian ideas; the perfect incubator to prove your Randian theories. I mean heck, last I knew down there they don’t even have the budget for street lights!

    What better place theater for the complete realization of your economic and social theories for the world to see. I can guarantee you no one will be bothered by your efforts and in fact, many might be quite thrilled.

    Leave our almost 400 years of self government and tradition alone and go somewhere where you can start your own.

    1. NH is the most libertarian state in the country. The governor signed up for the FSP and welcomed us. It’s the best place for us. Granite Staters have only gotten freer over the last 5 years, and will continue to get freer still. The moaning of the control freaks isn’t going to stop us.

      1. The governor didn’t put the question of “welcoming” the Free Staters to a vote, did he? How very statist of him.

        This is the same corrupt Republican governor who left office in disgrace after serving only one term.

      2. The PAST and ONLY one term governor Craig Benson. I’d suggest you get your facts straight.

        “control freaks” as you put it are those who expect a responsive and responsible civic government, not a destroyed and deserted system to benefit a band of grifters sucked into an anarcho-capitalist fantasy.

  5. Jason,I’m surprised that you would allow communists like “Progressive Action NH” pigeonhole you. Randian “theories” coupled with “dancing girls?” How bizarre. Saul Alinsky would be proud. The way Mr.”progressive Action NH” describes things in New Hampshire (empty storefronts) his socialist ideas must have bankrupted the state by destroying the productive tax base. He must get his economic theories straight from the old East Germany or modern day Venezuela. No wonder there are no jobs left in New Hampshire. Gone with the wind.

    1. The socialists have never controlled NH and never will. NH has a very good economy, the best in New England, even as the US population continues to move south for the weather.

      1. Surely a Big Public Intellectual like yourself knows the difference between communism and socialism, Dr. Sorens. You wouldn’t be trying to muddy the waters by conflating the two?

      2. I don’t believe I used the word “communism.” Socialism in its democratic or communist forms has never worked.

  6. Jason.I’m just being sarcastic. You should never ever let an emotional Leftist control the debate. Socialism has always been inferior to the free market in all aspects except one. That one aspect is bullshit.

  7. You might want to check your data Mr. Sorens – New Hampshire does not have the best economy in New England.

    If the “socialists” were in control, we’d have better funding of higher education, better infrastructure, more affordable housing for employees, and a more diverse energy supply, including more renewable energy resources. Then we might have the best economy in New England – and maybe even the nation. It’s actually the Republican/libertarian way in New Hampshire that is bullshit.

    1. Over the past 15 years, NH has definitely done the best. A couple of off-trend years doesn’t refute the point. Across the country, libertarian policies correlate with more in-migration and better income growth. There’s a reason most people in NH are from somewhere else.

  8. It’s more than a few off-trend years New Hampshire has to worry about. The trend has changed, – NH no longer has the best economy in New England, and because of the State’s aging demographics, aging infrastructure, high energy costs, lack of affordable housing, etc….it is not going to be anywhere near the top economy for a very long time. So please stop fooling yourself, your Pileus blog readers and your Free State Project followers about this.

    Over the last 4 years, 35,000 people between 35-54 have left NH, and the State also lost 20,000 children. Meanwhile the number of people over 65 increased by 32,000 during that time. NH will soon be the oldest state in the nation. One in three people living in the State will be over 65 within the next few years.

    NH is one of the 10 wealthiest states, but we rank 50th in the money spent on higher education. Students graduating from NH colleges have the highest student debt load in the country. They also are having a harder and harder time finding affordable housing if they choose to stay in NH. A main reason for this is that our towns and cities, one by one, generally are deciding that they don’t want to build affordable housing for young people and families because they think it will increase property taxes as a result of having more kids in the schools. (Actually, with school enrollments decreasing in recent years, fixed school costs have remained so property taxes haven’t decreased much or at all.)

    Apartments are getting more and more expensive in NH because there is more demand than supply, and young people also find that qualifying for a home mortgage is especially hard because of their student loan debt and other debt because of the relatively high cost of living here (NH is the 14th most expensive state in the country). Young people in NH have relatively high energy costs, as well as significant transportation costs because there are relatively few alternative transportation options for them in most areas of the State.

    The Free State Project vision does not take these various realities into account. And it certainly does not have solutions for them. In fact, FSP politics is putting more and more pressure on local towns, as the State government shifts more costs to the local level; encourages the defunding of the NH University system; discourages alternative transportation options and alternative energy production; disparages the need for improving our infrastructure and encouraging/requiring towns to build affordable housing. The FSP and their liberty friends are making New Hampshire’s situation even worse than it otherwise would be.

    1. I agree with you about cost of living, though that’s a problem for all the New England states. One of the main causes of the high cost of living is exclusionary zoning restrictions that push families with modest income out of the town and its schools. They are displaced into neighboring towns, which creates an arms race among towns in tightening zoning restrictions. For instance, Hanover has enacted a 10-acre minimum lot size to drive up housing prices and drive away the poor. This is the center of the micropolitan area; people are having to commute 30-40 minutes as a result. The environmental consequences are also obvious.

      Higher ed funding… Spending on college is regressive, both because state and local taxes are somewhat regressive and because likelihood of attending college rises with family income. Supply of college is highly price inelastic, so boosting demand by subsidies leads to most of the gains getting captured by professors and administrators. Furthermore, much of the role of college is pure signaling, wasteful from a social point of view. If fewer people went to college, fewer jobs would require it. So college should not be state subsidized.

  9. The United States has been in an economic depression for over 6 years. Things are tough all over the country,not just in New Hampshire. The figures on unemployment,inflation and GDP,as presented by the government,are under reported. The reality is that the warfare state,the welfare state (including government interference in the economy) plus all the give away programs such as “affordable” housing,”free” college education plus all the other parasite programs,among others,are causing much of the problems. There is no such thing as a free lunch. FSP has nothing to do with it. Again socialist/progressive/communist B.S. trying to justify government redistribution programs that destroy the free market economy and with that destruction our liberty.

  10. I’m disappointed in these replies to some hard data, which blame zoning, disparage higher education in a sweeping way, and blame the damn progressives for everything. The problems I noted here are very real and in some cases complicated. Solutions to them will need to involve more than simply waving a magical libertarian wand over them to make regulations and funding disappear.

    People who’ve lived in New Hampshire for a long time, and have seen the various trends, the booms and busts, can see past the libertarian rhetoric about what New Hampshire is, and what it needs in order to survive economically and otherwise.

    1. And I’m disappointed in your unwillingness to engage with substantive arguments and instead resort to lazy ideological stereotyping. The problem of exclusionary zoning is hardly ideological, nor is it “blaming progressives” to note its role. The central role of exclusionary zoning in high cost of living and impediments to economic opportunity is now consensus among mainstream economists on both left and right:

  11. The problem with Progressives is that they believe in violence to achieve their world view. What happens to those that don’t pay the taxes the progressives think they should pay? What happens to the people that don’t want to obey the Progressives regulations and laws? What happens to the vast underground economy that refuses to toe the line on handing over the hard earned fruits of their labor to the state? What happens to the huge minority that didn’t vote for the Progressive’s agenda? Progressive philosophy is now and has always been based on terror,threats,violence and the ever expanding of the state enforcement apparatus and its army of enforcers and gulags. It is obvious NH Vision stands side by side and in lock step with the Pol Pots,Stalins and Hitlers of history,living in a fairy tale dream world trying to force,at the point of a gun,his collectivist views on the rest of us.

  12. I’m not unwilling to engage in a substantive argument, but seeing the zoning reference and nothing more on the affordable housing issue was frustrating. The reasons most NH towns and cities don’t want to see affordable housing built are complicated, and as you probably know, are about much more than reluctance to tweak a zoning ordinance here and there. Exclusionary zoning in NH regarding affordable housing is based among other things on a misguided desire to keep property taxes down, and to keep “others” of possibly lower status and means from moving in. I wonder what the FSP would have to say about these motives to its liberty friends, – who most likely don’t give a damn about providing affordable housing – as part of a larger vision to create more economic opportunity for young people in the State.

    NH will pay the price if it doesn’t address these realities. The links you provided are interesting. But you really need to look at the more recent data I provided in my original post. And you need to talk to policymakers who’ve been studying NH over many decades. I’d like to see you face those people and their numbers head on.

    It was the other poster who provided the expected rant about progressives. It gets really tiring to read this foolishness.

    1. I find we can make much more progress on issues when we assume that we share the same goals. I don’t share Jerry’s views about progressives; as a professor, I see many well-intentioned students with different views from each other and from me. We learn from discussing those differences. At the same time, I would hope that you would give us Free Staters the courtesy of recognizing that we care about housing affordability and access to opportunity as much as you do. I’m sure greedy motives play some role in support for preventing affordable development, and that’s not a good thing.

      1. If you care about housing “affordability” and “access” to opportunity start a charity. Just stay out of people’s paychecks,businesses and property to pay for it. You and a mob called a voting majority have no lawful or moral right to steal people’s hard earned fruits of labor and redirect those fruits to others. Progressive (socialist) philosophy is a philosophy that belongs in the gutter and the ash heap of history. Socialism has destroyed more lives,bankrupted more nations and murdered more people than any other movement in history. If there is one Cultural Marxist tactic that has destroyed more minds it was the “long march through the institutions” that professors,tenured or not, have used to poison generations of students minds into accepting the false premises of Marxist socialism.

  13. What is so ranting and foolish about the over 100 million people that the progressives have murdered over the past 100 years? I guess these millions didn’t pay their fair share.

  14. Free Staters and I may agree on at least some of the “problems”, but I’d bet we disagree on almost all FSP goals/plans on how to solve these problems. I’ve given Free Staters plenty of courtesies on this, but am continually dismayed at their proposed solutions to just about everything.

    An example – a bill to ban lead sinkers was proposed in the NH Legislature in 2013, because among other things these sinkers are toxic to loons. Every single FSP legislator, along with the block of liberty legislators that has developed over the past several years, voted against this bill. I can only assume from this vote that the FSP solution to this problem was to do nothing – perhaps there was even snickering that if the bill passed, it would take a fisherman’s rights away ? I know that FSP friend John Burt thought this was a riot.

    I thought of that vote when I learned today that a loon was found dead on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee, with a lead sinker inside it.

    1. I would have voted for the lead sinker bill. Are you sure every FSP legislator voted against it? Even if so, that doesn’t mean they represent the views of all Free Staters.

  15. Yes every FSP legislator voted for the bill. And although I realize this doesn’t necessarily represent the views of all Free Staters, including yourself, it is very indicative of those Free Staters who choose to get involved in State/local politics. The environment has been extremely low on their list, over the past several years. All that regulatory foolishness, of course…… Very troubling, for a state with such a wonderful environment, and whose economy is to a great extent dependent on that environment..

    1. I admit most libertarians have a blind spot on the environment, but there’s nothing in libertarian principles that says we shouldn’t regulate activities that damage the environment – quite the opposite. I’m working on educating libertarians on this issue.

      Have you seen this post? I find that in fact, there are more than a handful of issues on which the left and libertarians tend to vote together in the NH House, and also that there are some civil-liberties issues where progressives could stand to vote their principles a little better.

  16. I of course meant to say that all Free State Project legislators voted against the lead sinker bill. The libertarian blind spot on the environment is extremely troubling to me, and I also think it’s likely to be more of a fundamental perspective than simply a blind spot. To me, it reflects a lack of empathy, and a lack of vision beyond one’s personal property and life span.

    Libertarian influenced politics have really set New Hampshire’s environment back over the past several years. I’m in the process of documenting this. I’d be interested to know about your environmental education efforts, and what they include.

    I agree there are a handful of issues where the left and Free Staters and friends tend to vote together. They’re mostly civil liberties issues, involving individual rights. It’s when that corny notion about the common good comes up that they instantly part company.

    1. You’re mistaken about the lack of empathy. Many libertarians are enthusiastic about the environment but are skeptical of environmental regulation. I think they need to be open to environmental regulation despite their usual qualms about big government. Libertarian principle requires dealing with unconsented-to, harmful externalities.

      My own efforts on behalf of the environment have had largely to do with financially supporting the Forest Society, New England Wildflower Society, and Western NY Land Conservancy (not to mention the moose plate program), volunteering for the Upper Valley Land Trust, helping run the Niagara Frontier Botanical Society, planting native species and eliminating invasives on my own property, and leading nature hikes at FSP events like PorcFest. Online, I promote sensible environmental regulation to secure people’s legitimate interests in their own property. Some of that work you can find on this very blog.

  17. I haven’t seen any Free State Project goals that specifically identify the importance of environmental protection, either through regulation or voluntary actions. And I’ve seen almost no pro-environment voting and a lot of anti-environment voting by Free Staters in the NH Legislature. I think there is an expectation by those coming to NH that over time, there will be less environmental regulation, and personal property rights will rule the day. That’s the essence of “live free or die” for many of them. Surely you must realize what you have helped unleash in New Hampshire.

    1. The Free State Project doesn’t have any specific goals other than the Statement of Intent. Actual policy positions and efforts are left up to individual participants. And no, I don’t see evidence that reducing environmental regulation is a key goal of FSP participants, except the obviously inefficient, special-interest-driven ones like renewable portfolio standards.

  18. There is nothing wrong with reasonable environmental rules and regulations to protect the environment. Pollution is trespass. However,the modern environmental movement is similar to a watermelon. That is green on the outside but,when cut open,red on the inside. Much,but not all,of the modern environmental movement has been taken over by the Left and is all about about control of or destruction of the industrial revolution and economic free markets in which we owe much of our advanced standard of living. Without property rights there can be no rights. Property rights doesn’t give one the right to pollute the environment. But property rights and the right to control your property and keep the fruits of your labor is what liberty is all about. If we listen to the megalomaniacs and sociopaths on the Left who use environmentalism as a tool to advance their agenda we would have to go back in history to the middle ages and live like serfs.

  19. Your careful reply concerning Free State Project goals is not surprising. But I’ve lived in NH for over 30 years, and I know how the FSP has been operating. It’s a political animal, with a strong anti-State/local government philosophy and strategies.

    Cutting government spending to the bone, and cutting regulations are key goals of activist FSP participants, – which means that the environment is often on the chopping block as far as they are concerned. Those of us who’ve been keeping track have the data to support that statement.

    1. Have you ever had conversations with individual FSP participants about their environmental views? I find many progressives simply assume the FSP is evil because their leaders told them so. Look, I get it; we all have to raise money, and the GOP and the Dems both do it by caricaturing the other side and raising hideous bogeymen to be destroyed. But I hate to see anyone really taken in by that nonsense.

  20. In answer to your first question – Yes. So the rest of your comment is an assumption in itself. I’ve thought about this issue very carefully. This is not about being a Democrat, caricaturing the “other side”, or about raising money. For me, It’s simply about protecting New Hampshire’s environment.

    1. Why don’t you come to the next community meeting about the Free State Project? Kilton Library, 80 Main St., West Lebanon, Friday July 17, 7 PM. There’ll be plenty of Free Staters and community members there, and you can see for yourself what Free Staters other than myself think about these issues.

  21. I’ve been paying attention to the details on the Free State Project, which I’m sure you can appreciate. I wouldn’t think of making the comments I’ve made here, if I hadn’t done this.

  22. Thanks where can I get the whole list? I am thinking of coming up there in the summer….
    Also, I want to help de facto nations, unrepresented peoples, and secession movements get self determination and recognition, but I don’t know where to begin? Can you help me with some organizations or people working in this area?

  23. Regarding the 1st graph:
    As a former Grafton resident … I noticed that you can drive through 3 of the top 5-10 towns to get from Concord (Cahncahd) to Grafton (Hill, Alexandria, Bristol)

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