EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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February 19, 2014

N.H. poll: Respondents stumble over identities of le

A recent University of New Hampshire poll showed less than half of respondents knew their two U.S. senators are Democrat Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Kelly Ayotte.

Fewer still knew their congressmen or state senators and representatives.

People who keep a close watch on the political process have mixed opinions about what’s driving the lack of knowledge about political leaders, but agree it’s bad news for democracy and society.

“I think it’s amazing. Those are people you elect and send to Washington,” Windham Republican Committee chairman Bruce Breton said. “I can’t believe people don’t know their U.S. senators. People should be aware of their senators and what they are doing.”

The poll showed only 42 percent of respondents could name Shaheen and Ayotte. Another 21 percent could name at least one.

Only 18 percent could identify Democratic Congresswomen Carol Shea-Porter and Ann McLane Kuster .

UNH said just 19 percent could provide a name for their state senator, though the poll didn’t check for accuracy. Only 17 percent said they knew the name of one of their state representatives.

Breton said political leaders could help by holding more town meetings with constituents.

“I’m not terribly surprised, based on the percentage of people who vote,” Derry Democratic Town Committee chairman Charlie Zoeller said. “Either people consider themselves too busy or they are too disillusioned.”

Adding to the disillusionment are so many negative stories about political leaders, he said.

“Everybody has a stake in what our officials are doing,” Zoeller said. “It’s beholden on all of us to try to follow the policies our elected officials are voting on.”

Zoeller said he can understand why people might not know their state senator or state representative.

“Knowing state senators and state representatives is a lot harder because there are so many of them and they are much less visible,” Zoeller said. “It’s hard to keep track of them all.”

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