In part because of a well-established history as a forum for political speakers and debates, in 1996, the idea of an Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm was first proposed. In 1999, with funding from New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg, the NHIOP was established as a nonpartisan forum for discussion and debate on all aspects of the American political process. Its mission was and is today, to educate, engage and empower citizens to participate in the civic and political life of their local, national and global communities.

On September 7, 2001, the New Hampshire Institute of Politics opened the doors of its twenty thousand square foot facility, which contains four classrooms, twelve offices, a large public auditorium, conference rooms, and an academic resource center with state of the art technology.

The NHIOP remains a most important part of life at the college, and Saint Anselm College continues to be a place where people from across the political spectrum come together to discuss the most important issues of the day. The Institute hosts many speakers, events and programs in addition to the Granite State debates and the New Hampshire presidential primary. In 2008, just three days before the first in the nation New Hampshire primary, a historic debate took place on the Dana Center stage, in which Republican and Democratic contenders for the White House met in two separate events, both seen live across the country on ABC.

In 2010, the New Hampshire Political Library, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to preserve New Hampshire’s political traditions and encourage civic engagement in the democratic process, was relocated to the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. Founded in 1997 by Governor Hugh Gregg and Secretary of State Bill Gardner, the Political Library developed and maintained a library collection and archives regarding the New Hampshire presidential primary. It also built a series of programs and events to bring presidential candidates to the voters and increase engagement in the primary process.