Skewed Sample Distorts Kos GOP Poll
by Charles Lemos, Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 02:12:06 PM EST
Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos has commissioned a poll that seeks to gauge the political views and socio-religious beliefs of the GOP base. Some of the results are quite simply stunning. Thirty-nine percent of Republicans want Barack Obama impeached, 36 percent do not believe that President Obama was born in the United States, 63 percent believe that he is a socialist, 21 percent believe that ACORN stole the 2008 Presidential election, 31 percent believe that Barack Obama is a racist who hates white people, 23 percent want their state to secede from the Union, 31 percent want all contraceptives banned, only 8 percent believe openly gay men and women should be allowed to teach in public schools, 77 percent believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible.
It is curious that of the nearly two score of blog stories on the Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll, not one looked at the sample, though to be fair to Ezra Klein, he at least did have the thought that "maybe just maybe the sample might off" cross his mind. A poll is only as good as its sample and this poll oversamples older (37.09 percent of the sample is over the age of 60), southern (42.24 percent of the sample hails from the old Confederacy plus Kentucky) men (56.16 percent of the sample are men). It is a great poll if we wanted to get insight into the views old southern men who vote Republican. While that's certainly the stereotype, the face of the GOP is broader than that.
Last May, the Gallup Organization did find that the Republican base was heavily white, conservative and religious based on a poll of 26,314 national adults, aged 18 and older, a sample size more than ten times larger than the Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll.
More than 6 in 10 Republicans today are white conservatives, while most of the rest are whites with other ideological leanings; only 11% of Republicans are Hispanics, or are blacks or members of other races. By contrast, only 12% of Democrats are white conservatives, while about half are white moderates or liberals and a third are nonwhite.
The results show clearly that the Republican Party today is first and foremost a political entity dominated by white Americans. Eighty-nine percent of rank-and-file Republicans are non-Hispanic whites, leaving just 5% who are Hispanic (of any race), 2% who are black, and 4% of other races.
Further, by well over a 2-to-1 ratio, whites who identify as Republicans claim a conservative, rather than a moderate or liberal, ideology (or have no opinion when asked about their ideology).
The ethnic mix the Daily Kos/Research 2000 did get right. Their sample is divided between 89.21 percent white and 10.78 percent non-white. This is certainly a problem for the GOP. While the rest of the country is increasingly multi-racial, the GOP remains overwhelmingly white. Just under four percent of Republicans are African-Americans. A little more five percent of the GOP is Hispanic but about half of those are Cuban-Americans. And only two percent are Asian.
But the poll oversamples men by about four percentage points. While the GOP does face an overall gender gap, the composition within its own party is fairly even split. It is independents that account for the gender gap when election time rolls around. As Gallup noted in May 2009:
Women's affinity for the Democratic Party looks even stronger when independents' partisan leanings are taken into account. By this measure of party identification, Democrats currently enjoy a 22-point advantage over Republicans, with 57% of women identifying as Democrats or saying they are independent but leaning Democratic, compared with 35% who identify with or lean to the Republican Party.
But where the poll is really off the mark is in its age breakdown and its regional distribution. The Institute of Southern Studies correctly I think points to the distortion that this bias creates:
The poll has one big flaw: 42% of those polled came from Southern states -- way out of proportion with their share of Republican voters nationally.
This over-sampling of Southern Republicans (846 total) skews the national results, but it also means the data is especially rich in giving us a picture of the views held by GOP voters in the South.
And the picture is unmistakable: On almost every issue, Southern Republicans are far to the right of their national GOP brethren. In fact, GOP Southerners appear to be the driving base for some of the most extreme views circulating in the Republican Party today.
To measure this, normally we'd compare the Southern results to the national average and see what the difference is. But since the poll disproportionately surveyed Southerners to start with, instead I looked at how the Southern answers compared to the next most conservative region.
For example, here are four questions the poll asked Republicans about President Obama, with the Southern poll numbers compared to the next-highest region (in each of these cases, the Midwest):
QUESTION: Should Barack Obama be impeached, or not?
South: 42% yes
Next-highest region: 38% yes
Southern difference: +4%
QUESTION: Do you believe Barack Obama was born in the United States, or not?
South: 43% no
Next-highest region: 33% no
Southern difference: +10%
QUESTION: Do you think Barack Obama is a socialist?
South: 67% yes
Next-highest region: 61% yes
Southern difference: +6%
QUESTION: Do you believe Barack Obama wants the terrorists to win?
South: 28% yes
Next-highest region: 22% yes
Southern difference: +6%
Here are the demographics used in the sample versus a more accurate picture of the composition of the GOP as compiled from various sources.
|Demographic||Sample Size||Sample Pct.||Actual|
|Source: Daily Kos/Research 2000,|
|Gallup, Pew Research Trust, CNN|
In short, the Daily Kos poll has a bias that oversamples Southerners who are more extreme in their views (the poll also drastically undersamples the generally more moderate Republicans in the Northeast by over eight percentage points) and thus paints the GOP as more extreme than they really are. The Daily Kos poll is an inaccurate reflection of the national GOP but likely an accurate picture of the views of its Southern base which nonetheless does account for over one third of its electoral strength nationally. And that Southern base plagues the national GOP to a degree that cannot be overstated.