Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Polls Are Odd

When you look into the details of a poll you are sometimes struck by what seem complete disconnects in answer percentages. Some pieces of CNN's pdf poll analysis offer clear contradictions from Democrats.

Most likely to keep same position on important issues: Clinton 37%, Obama 27%
Is most believable: Clinton 31%, Obama 34%

Do you find yourself asking questions about what people are thinking? These two questions are intimately related, how can you believe someone you think is a flip flopper? Or more telling, why would you think someone you don't believe would keep the same position? The believability numbers are close, within the measure of error, but they are the numbers for answers from those polled. That is not in dispute. Questions were given in random order so there is no telling how close the questions were.

Some Democratic answers run afoul of polling results, perception does not match polling data.

Which candidate has the best chance of beating the Republican nominee C 53%, E 11%, O 25%

Note that Democratic confidence in Edwards is low, oddly nationally a poll shows Edwards polling the highest margins against all Republicans and Clinton actually losing to McCain and Obama in a tie with him. Now you have to ask yourself why there is such a disconnect between what Democrats seem to believe and what national polling shows. Is this a sales job by a candidate or simply an uncritical prejudice? Of the three candidates Clinton actually polls lowest against the Republicans. I believe there are reasons that can be teased out for Clinton's lower showing versus the other two and Obama's lower numbers than Edwards, and whether those are "valid" reasons to prefer another candidate they do not change the polling. Very shortly: candidate negatives, gender, race, populism, campaign emphasis on religion, would be the heaviest weighted factors in win percentages.

The difference between the base and Democrats in general may be more extreme than generally acknowleged:

Best reflects the values of Democrats like yourself: C 38%, E 14%, O 29%

Clinton's lack of appeal to the base is on display on a regular basis on the Internet and quietly within Party activists and yet she has a 9 point lead over her closest competitor, Obama. For those touting Clinton inevitability it is important to note that Edwards and Obama together total 5% higher and neither's supporters are reasonable cross-overs for Clinton. In fact, 62% given another choice do not pick Clinton as a match. This is an important number in a Primary and Clinton has shown a slide as voters get better acquainted with her and the others.

There are Democratic opinions in this poll that are flatly against the established grain of political opinion; on the question of who will best unite America: C 30%, E 16%, O 32%. Hillary Clinton is the out and out leader of all candidates, Republican and Democratic, in negatives. Her negative polling hovers below but near 50%. This is in no possible consideration a uniter candidate. For 30% to answer Clinton is beyond wishful thinking, this approaches fanaticism. I make no statement that the negatives are deserved, they are in fact primarily stupid, as little as I like Hillary.

Taking something away from a poll like this is difficult, there is still a getting to know you phase going on in the Primary. While money is a large factor in name recognition, the actual getting of votes has much more to do with the candidate. Name recognition is about getting candidates attention, having them listened to when they make statements. The media has given the Clinton campaign invaluable free advertising and even a political boost, this will wear off as the polling narrows and it actually becomes the race they discounted. Edwards tends to poll low with Democrats nationally, but shows real strength in early Primary states, another oddity.

Edward's inability to connect with Democrats with his progressive populist message raises real questions as do his trust ratings. There is no doubt that Obama saps quite a bit of the left and populist sentiment, regardless of policy stances but this does not account for the entire difference.

I'd like to encourage Democrats to vote on policy; the facts of race, gender, last name have nothing to do with whom we need as a President. I encourage you to do what you can to raise awareness of your candidate and their policy stances. The words of a known person carry weight that no amount of advertising can generate.

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