Polling Chicanery

| June 20, 2006 | Reply

You’ll probably see quite a bit of this poll over the next couple or three days, but from my layman’s point of view, it doesn’t seem like it’s telling us anything useful.

(CNN) — With the presidential election more than two years away, a CNN poll released Monday suggests that nearly half of Americans would “definitely not vote for” Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Respondents were asked whether they would “definitely vote for,” “consider voting for,” or “definitely not vote for” three Democrats and three Republicans who might run for president in 2008.

Regarding potential Democratic candidates, 47 percent of respondents said they would “definitely not vote for” both Clinton, the junior senator from New York who is running for re-election this year, and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the party’s candidate in 2004.

Forty-eight percent said the same of former Vice President Al Gore, who has repeatedly denied he intends to run again for president.

As a predictor of voting, the poll has a few problems.

First, it mixes apples and oranges. The sample was taken from telephone interviews with “1,001 adult Americans” but doesn’t attempt to discern how many of those polled were registered to vote or actually would. The average turnout for the last few Presidential elections was in the 55-60 percent range (2004 was almost 61 percent), so that tells us that 40 percent of the people polled by CNN wouldn’t vote for any candidate, for any reason.

So, basically, Candidiate Anyone gets a 40 percent “No” right off the top. Does that mean that the Senator’s “No” is only about ten percent?

Perhaps and perhaps not. The real problem here is that you can’t infer anything intelligent from the poll. Basically, CNN called up a bunch of people and said “Yes or No. Would you vote for this person? How about that person?”. They didn’t say “If you said no, why not?”, which would have at least told us what the voters were so negative about.

Look at the Democratic Nega-Tories (hey, a political pun!): Clinton, Gore, and Kerry. What do those three people have in common beyond their party affiliation? I can think of a couple or three things:

1) They’ve been in the media spotlight a lot in the last three months or so.
2) They’ve all been heavily involved in Presidential politics in the past decade.
3) They’re all Washington “insiders”.

So perhaps this poll isn’t a statement about Senator Clinton, but about political insiders, or better yet, about people tired of seeing the same old names?

Or perhaps they just found a bunch of people who were having a bad day, or they got hold of the American Spectator subscriber list? Who can tell?

Let’s spin the numbers upside-down for a moment and see what sort of results we might get.

For Senator Clinton, 47 percent wouldn’t vote for her, but 50 percent would either definitely vote for her or would consider voting for her. Al Gore comes out 48-49 that way, and John Kerry 47-49. What does this tell us?

Again, not a darned thing. CNN conducted a poll to tell us, essentially, that half of America could vote for a leading Democrat. Or not.

Gee, thanks, CNN.

Category: Political Pontifications

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