Thursday, September 08, 2011

Understanding Polls and Electability

Poll Insider posted an important series earlier this year on how to win the presidency. Part 1 explains how a candidate's "floor" is the key to understanding electability.
"A 'floor' is a candidate’s guaranteed minimum percentage based on current polling data, accounting for all factors."
Poll Insider applies this understanding of a "floor" to Barack Obama and Sarah Palin:
"Obama’s floor, or guaranteed vote, according to analysis of current polling is 43%. What this means is that 43% of people will vote for Barack Obama no matter who his opponent is. It could be much higher, but probably not any lower. This number is arrived at by reviewing 6 months of polling date from all polling firms. This is Obama’s floor because, depending on his opponent, his support grows or shrinks, but rarely below 43%.

"Sarah Palin’s current floor is determined to be 39% as she typically registers 39% or 40% in head-to-head match-ups against Obama (not counting 3-way race polling). So today, the floor stands at Obama 43% and Palin 39%, or Obama +4. Yes, I know what the skeptics/elites would say to this: 'But Obama always scores much higher than 43% against Palin, duh!' That is true, but the point of determining a floor is to understand a candidate’s solid support. Elites prefer to go light on analysis and heavy on drama. If a poll shows Obama scoring 53% against one candidate and 42% against another, his support is quite volatile, and can be changed as information is acquired."*
Poll Insider goes on to point out that the closeness of these floors of support are in contrast to the overwhelming positive media image of Obama and negative media image of Palin.
"What does this all mean? For one, it is good news for Sarah Palin. Figure that almost all media coverage of Palin for the previous 2 years has been incredibly negative, accusatory, insulting, misleading, and 'downright mean', to quote Michelle Obama. It’s amazing to read something Palin writes or says and see how it is maliciously twisted into a salacious sound bite. Unfortunately most people at this stage know the sound bite, but not what she actually says. Meanwhile, despite being generally inept, but receiving glorious and glowing coverage from the media, Obama’s floor is at a mere 43%. This means that all the positive coverage on the world for Obama and all the negative coverage in the world for Palin results only in a 4 point spread.

"When we toss in candidate favorable/unfavorable opinion we find a very interesting fact. Let’s not pretend that Palin’s current favorables are high. In reality, they shouldn’t be. We have to remember that 80% of the population’s opinion of Palin is currently formed by the media’s representation of her. Or, misrepresentation if you prefer, and I do. But Sarah Palin heavily outperforms her favorability rating, in many cases by 2-1 margins. Meanwhile Obama underperforms his favorable rating, usually by 10-15 percentage points. So far more people will vote for Sarah Palin even with a negative opinion of her while far fewer people with a positive opinion of Obama will vote for him. This only works in Palin’s favor as she is able to make the case for herself and opinions of her arise. If a large percentage of people will vote for her when they do not like her, what happens when the percentage of people who do like her increases dramatically, as will inevitably be the case."
As you can tell this is both an eye opening and thoughtful assessment. The whole series is worth reading. Kudos to Poll Insider.
*In support of this is the famous polling done when Reagan was 34 points behind Carter in the 1980 presidential race. (Carter 65 vs. Reagan 31)

H/T Le-gal In-sur-rec-tion commenter Sandy Daze and RED SOUTH at Free Republic


Ten Mile Island said...

Commenting on the fly, I plan to return. Nice post.

Don't forget, I'm holding on to my cash, waiting for her announcement. And, I think lots of us are doing the same thing.

T. D. said...

TMI, yep! I, too, am piling up extra cash for that announcement.