Unlikely Voter

Poll Analysis and Election Projection

We need real, useful primary polling

So Fox News put out a new poll of the race for the Republican Presidential nomination. It’s a typical poll in many ways, but Fox’s bit of analysis got me to thinking: Polls like this favor frontrunners and likely skew the race.

Again, the poll (conducted by the pair Anderson Robbins Research with Shaw & Company Research) is pretty straightforward: 324 Republican Primary Voters, mix of landlines and mobile phones, MoE 5.5. Mitt Romney leads with 18% support. Here’s the problem though: his opposition is scattered between 19(!) other names. If there were 19 other candidates, that would be understandable, but note Fox’s analysis:

Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney remains the top pick for the GOP presidential nomination from voters, but three rivals are close behind — including two who haven’t announced their candidacy.

That’s right, this poll is diluted with unannounced candidates including Rick Perry, Rudy Giuliani, Sarah Palin, Chris Christie (volunteered), Donald Trump (vol.), Mike Huckabee (vol.), and Jeb Bush (vol). Together those seven received 35%, just short of double Mitt Romney’s support. Note that Trump has quit the race, Huckabee agonized before deciding not to run, and Christie has denied running in the strongest terms. They have no business being in the poll, either as listed choices or valid volunteered answers.

Even the other names, who remain possibilities, shouldn’t be in the poll. Sure, Rick Perry could run, but he still might not. The same goes for Sarah Palin. I personally think a Rudy Giuliani run is incredibly unlikely after his miserable failure in 2008, and Jeb Bush still needs more time for his name to be less of an issue. Letting these names be listed or volunteered scatters the vote in ways that cannot happen when the actual primaries and caucuses arrive.

What would happen if that 35% of the Republican primary voters had to choose between Mitt Romney (18%), Michele Bachmann (second place among declared candidates with 11%), Ron Paul (7%), Herman Cain (5%), Tim Pawlenty (3%), Newt Gingrich (3%), John Huntsman (3%), Rick Santorum (2%), Gary Johnson (1%), and other candidates whose support rounded down to zero? We don’t know.

Ridiculously enough, Fox did try an alternative lineup. Fox polled with and without Giuliani. Big whoop.

We need real polls of real candidates. Until we get them, we’re just playing games for headlines.

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