ENFIELD — With less than two months until the presidential election, many New Hampshire residents are split on who they want to vote for and why.
“We don’t have a clear choice right now,” Canaan resident Steve Lake said, discussing the upcoming election as he visited an Enfield Farmers Market with his wife on Saturday. “I’m nervous no matter which direction it goes.”
There’s a reason for his uncertainty: Many New Hampshire residents expressed opinions that fall all along the political spectrum. Some said they strongly dislike President Donald Trump, some worried about a Joe Biden presidency and several residents said they’re dissatisfied with both options.
But for many voters, one thing was clear: They say they’re unlikely to change their opinions, even as news coverage about the two major candidates starts to ramp up ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
“My opinion was already made,” before recent political coverage, said Sunapee resident Ryan Bergeron. “I want someone respectable.”
With the first presidential debate on Sept. 29, an early poll show Biden leading Trump in several swing states, including by three points in New Hampshire, according to The New York Times. Additionally, national political coverage has focused on two major stories about the president in recent weeks: A Sept. 3 piece published in The Atlantic alleged that Trump has called military veterans “losers” and, last week, news broke that honorary Washington Post columnist Bob Woodward’s upcoming book Rage includes early 2020 interviews in which Trump said he intentionally downplayed the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For some like Charlestown resident Karen Thorstenson, the recent news about Trump just helps solidify her opinion of the president.
“I’ve pretty much made up my mind,” she said. “I don’t like his attitude.”
Her husband, Ken Thorstenson, who is related to veterans, took specific issue with the president’s remarks about the military, adding that he would “like to see Trump gone.”
Keely Ayres, a Canaan resident who’s married to Lake, said she’s nervous for the outcome of the election, adding that the recent coverage of the president has, like Thorstenson, just affirmed her long-standing feelings about Trump.
“I don’t understand how anyone can back him and his behavior,” she said, adding, “We’re in a different world where the unacceptable is acceptable. … Where did our morals go?”
But others who have long supported Trump — or feel themselves leaning toward him during this election — are not swayed by arguments about his behavior.
“I don’t know if he said that and in what context,” said Enfield resident Jim Hollenbeck, an Iraq War veteran. He said that Trump has shown himself to be supportive of pro-military policies, adding, “I trust actions over words.”
That’s an opinion shared by Bruce Templeton Jr., of Claremont, who’s also backing Trump this election. He said he doesn’t believe the news about Trump’s comments on the military, and that he’s not sure whether Woodward’s interview is true. Either way, he said he supports Trump for economic reasons and worries that a Democratic president will try to raise taxes.
Jeff Auten, a part-time Enfield resident who calls himself a “moderate Republican,” said he’s leaning toward Trump but echoed Biden supporter Ayres’ words, saying “those things that aren’t acceptable become acceptable.”
“I like Trump’s policies, but not him as a person,” Auten said, adding that he would have preferred a candidate who could speak to both sides.
The feeling of needing to bridge a gap between two polarized political sides was shared by almost all the residents who spoke Saturday, regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum.
“I wish all the static in the background would just stop,” Templeton said, adding that he would actually like to learn a little more about Biden but finds it difficult. “There’s such a division; it’s almost like it’s hard to hear the other side.”
Hayley Ricard, a Newport resident who said she’ll know on Election Day who she’s voting for, added that she has watched the country regress over the last decade and a half and would like to see candidates work on bringing the country together.
“I would like them to put effort toward unity,” she said.
Anna Merriman can be reached at [email protected] or 603-727-3216.