Inflated Clinton Poll Theory: No Guarantee I'm Right
by Chris Bowers, Mon Apr 23, 2007 at 04:26:54 PM EDT
In the Democratic race, New York Senator Hillary Clinton is showing strength in the south with 33 percent of likely primary voters supporting her. Senator Barack Obama has 26 percent, former Senator and South Carolina native John Edwards is third with 21 percent. Edwards won the South Carolina primary in 2004. No other Democratic candidate is above 1 percent statewide.Much more in the extended entry.
Perhaps the most interesting thing in the poll is the strength of Clinton. She leads Obama among young voters 49 to 10 percent. Clinton's only weak area seems to be among male voters where she trails both Obama and Edwards by a slim one percent margin. However, Clinton enjoys a huge 40 percent to 25 percent edge with women voters over Obama, with just 18 percent for Edwards. Perhaps most striking is that 47 percent of South Carolina Clinton supporters say they are "unlikely" to change their mind by January. Only 38 percent of Obama's supporters are that loyal.
Now, every Zogby poll claims to be among "likely voters," so that need to be taken with a grain of salt. Further, these numbers are virtually identical to numbers produced by ARG two months ago, which perhaps leaves the South Carolina insider poll showing Obama well ahead the odd poll out. Still, these results make it worth emphasizing that the "Inflated Clinton Poll Theory" is just that--a theory. I haven't proven anything yet. Further, as Mystery Pollster shows in a post today, not all circumstantial evidence supports the theory. In discussing two Cook / RT Strategies polls from late 2005, he notes that a year and a half ago, there was in fact a test of the sort I am currently seeking for the theory, and at the time there was no evidence to support my central thesis:
Respondents qualified as a "hard core" Democrats if they said they voted in primary elections or caucuses "most of the time" on the first question and said they generally participate in Democratic Party primaries or caucuses on the second. The November 2005 survey yielded 476 registered voters that identified or leaned Democratic, the December 2005 survey yielded 460 -- roughly 46-47% of all adults. Appropriately, hard core Democratic primary voter universe was much smaller, just 169 respondents in November and 181 in December -- or about 17-18% of all adults.Of course, these polls are sixteen and seventeen months old respectively, and they did not include Barack Obama, who I have always asserted will be the main beneficiary nationwide if the "Inflated Clinton Poll Theory" is correct. The point is that given the legitimacy of this inquiry, and the importance of presenting accurate information to the public on who currently leads the campaign, up-to-date, double-sample testing is needed from recognized, respected national polling outfits. At the end of his piece, Mystery Pollster adds:
Neither survey yielded much in the way of big differences between hard core Democratic primary voters and all other Democrats. The November survey asked a complex question about Hillary Clinton (that took different forms for different randomly selected respondents). When they rolled the difference versions together, the percentage agreeing that Clinton "would be a good candidate" was five points lower among hard core Democrats (60%) than among all Democrats and leaners (65%). While that difference is in the direction that the Bowers' theory would predict, it was not quite statistically significant given the small sample sizes.
Only the December survey asked about Democratic vote preference directly, and it showed virtually no difference. Clinton led among both groups, receiving 32% from hard core Democratic primary voters and 33% from all Democrats and Democratic leaners. Kerry and Edwards trailed with roughly 15-17% in both universes. Of course, the survey did not include Obama among the potential candidates, and a lot has happened in the nearly 16 months since.
But the main point here is that the only way to really test the Bowers thesis is to do a similar test involving a very large national sample of adults, or successive surveys rolled together to produce a large sample. Given the heavy attention being paid now to the 2008 nominating contests and the easily documented mismatch between past primary turnout and the universe of respondent asked primary vote questions (see also Bowers), it is the least the national pollsters can do.There is no guarantee that this theory is correct. I still believe it is. It needs to be tested, and the sooner the better.