The race for polling firms to outdo each other in 2008 is clearly on. Today, Gallup has released an interesting poll that measuring perceived candidate electability
. While, at this point, we do not know if "electability" will play the same dominant role in 2008 that it played in the Democratic primaries in 2004, it certainly goes without saying that electability is a factor that is on the minds of a large number of Democratic voters. Whether or not it is the main factor, or simply one of the main factors, voters will use to determine their candidate selection, and whether or not people believe it is a valid criteria for voters to use in their candidate selection or not, the fact is that among a Democratic base for whom winning is still far from a regular occurrence, electability will continue to play a key role.
The Gallup poll measured the perceived electability of a number of candidates according to partisan self-identification. The poll produces predictably low results for the low name recognition candidates--Biden, Dodd and Richardson--so they will not be discussed here. However, the results among self-identified Democrats for the four high name recognition candidates are certainly worth a look:Perceived Electability Of Certain Democrats
|Democrat||Name ID Among Dems||Excellent Chance of Being Elected||Good Chance||Slim / No Chance|
As you can surmise from this table, if someone does not know a candidate, then that person perceives that candidate as having no electability whatsoever. That explains why Biden, Dodd and Richardson were not included in this table. Also, keep in mind that these results are entirely among Democrats. If Independents are not separated by Democratic and Republican leaners, I just can't trust their results. The poll does have results for Republicans and Independents, and it shows they are both pretty well convinced that Clinton and Obama can win. You can view those results here
Now, these results are interesting for several reasons. First, Clinton leads the "electability" perception poll not only because of higher name recognition, but also because of a hardcore group of supporters who believe in her--the 37% who give her an "excellent" chance of winning. Second, it appears that everyone who knows Obama thinks that Obama has at least a "good" chance of winning. Third, Edwards has decent electability perceptions, but are clearly lower than Obama's, despite the two sharing nearly identical name recognition numbers. Fourth, Gore has surprisingly low electability perception among Democrats, as he lags well behind both Edwards and Obama in this category despite a noticeably higher name recognition.
Now, some commenters may gnash their teeth about these results all they wish, and argue that the Democratic public is wrong about the varying chances each candidate has to win the Presidency. However, if nothing else, I think this poll offers insight into how the public views electability, which might be very different from how people online view it. For Clinton, I would bet a lot of money that the main reason she is viewed as so electabile is because her husband, bill, actually won the Presidency twice. For Obama, I think his high electability perception comes from a general sense that he is just a winner. On that front, I am reminded of Patrick Murphy, who through his persona was able to convince pretty much every Democratic activist in the Philadelphia area that he would win (and then probably achieve higher office later on) even though I rarely remember him ever once making an electability argument. Having met both of them, I think Obama and Murphy offer similarly overwhelming sensations that they just can't be stopped. When it comes to Edwards, I bet his slightly lower perceived electability derives from being on the Kerry-Edwards ticket in 2004. When it comes to Gore, I don't think Democrats are very happy with how the 2000 election was run, even if they believe it was stolen in the end.
Certainly, these electability perceptions are having an impact on current polling, but exactly what degree of impact they are having is difficult to say. Obviously, even if my inferred rationale for these numbers are wrong, it is clear that the Democratic rank and file perceives electability differently than we do online. For us, it is connected to concepts like favorability numbers, base excitement, how well a candidate is able to deal with the Republican smear machine, and what key demographics / states a given candidate might be able to help swing. I do not think that these factors played significant roles in the numbers we see above. If the netroots wants their type of electability to become the dominant form, it will take a massive rank and file education project.
In the extended entry, I have made up an electability poll for MyDD readers to take. Simply click on all of the candidates you think have either a "good" chance or an "excellent" chance of winning. You can vote for as many candidates as you like.