Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Look Ahead to November

Pollster George Gallup (1901-1984)

Political Journalist Jeff Greenfield once said, when talking about polls conducted months before the election, that "65 percent of people surveyed said the would be 'surprised' if the 'election were held today.'"

Polls, polls, everywhere polls

Polling has become a daily obsession for many political junkies, Buzz and I included. It used to be that you would see a few polls a month, but now we have two major daily "tracking" polls and a plethora of other polls which cover everything from the Presidential race, Senate contest, House contests, Presidential approval ratings, favorability and unfavorability ratings, and even continuing polls on particular issues, such as the Affordable Care Act or "Obamacare."

Polling is done through survey sampling, wherein a polling organization randomly contacts people to get their opinions on a single subject or a series of subjects.  One such survey is Presidential election preference. It is, of course, impossible to survey every voter, so polling organizations will take a sample of the population and then interpret the raw data into a poll result.  The Gallup daily tracking poll is an example of this.

Gallup describes its daily tracking poll as follows. "These are the results when registered voters are asked: "Suppose the presidential election were held today. If Barack Obama were the Democratic Party's candidate and Mitt Romney were the Republican Party's candidate, who would you vote for Barack Obama, the Democrat or Mitt Romney, the Republican?" Those who are undecided are further asked if they lean more toward Obama or Romney and their leanings are incorporated into the results. Each seven-day rolling average is based on telephone interviews with approximately 3,050 registered voters; Margin of error is ±2 percentage points"

The latest Gallup Presidential Daily tracking poll shows a two point lead by President Barack Obama over Governor Mitt Romney 47 percent to 45 percent.  Since April, Obama's numbers have ranged from 43 to 50 percent.  Romney has ranged from 42 to 48.

There are a number of things we can learn from Gallup.

First and foremost, it is readily apparent that both Romney and Obama have a base support in the mid 40s.  These voters, in all likelihood, are entrenched and no matter how much either candidate spends or how much conditions change in the economy or any other issue, these voters will not change their preference.

These entrenched voters are solidly in either the Obama or Romney column. Certain voters will never vote for Obama and others will never vote for Romney.

With that said, there is only about 10, maybe 15 percent of the population who fall into the "persuadable" category -- that is voters who have either not made up their minds or will change their minds before election day in November.

How can Obama or Romney seal the deal on these voters?

The Obama camp believes that if the "persuadables" learn the "truth" about Romney, they will vote for Obama.  Conversely, the Romney camp believes that if the "persuadables" learn the "truth" about Obama, they will vote for Romney.  

Obama has attempted to move the persuadables by attacking Romney's strength -- his business record. Romney believes that his years as a businessman in the private sector makes him the perfect candidate to fix the economy. Obama has portrayed Romney as a "vulture" capitalist who was more interested in making large profits for his investors than creating jobs. He has already spent millions of dollars getting his point across, in an attempt to define Romney before he can define himself.

Romney has said repeatedly that Obama is a big spending liberal who is running up enormous deficits year after year and passing that debt onto future generations.  Obama is a big government guy who believes that the capitalist system doesn't work, and the government is the only one who can get us out of a poor economy. 

Just too early to tell

The most important thing to know about persuadables is that they are not obsessed with politics.  Probably the last thing on the persuadables are thinking about on these hot summer days is politics in general and the Presidential election in specific.

We do know one thing for certain -- the Obama camp, the Romney camp, and their respective surrogates will spend over a billion dollars to persuade the persuadables.

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