Notes on the Atrocities
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Monday, July 19, 2004  

The Polling Paradox

Kevin Drum points to a fascinating article on polling in the New Republic--but he misses the key info. Writing the Campaign Journal column, Ryan Lizza teases out the paradox(es) of current polling. "Why," he wonders, "is it that in many polls, Bush's job approval rating is higher than the percentage who say they will vote for him?" The answer lies in two categories of people within the undecided middle of the electorate. The first are those who actually self-identify as "undecided." Turns out that "undecideds" really aren't--as Dems have suspected, they're actualy covert Kerry supporters. Lizza quotes a memo from a Republican polling firm

They are more than twice as likely to see things headed down the wrong track as compared to voters overall.... They give President Bush a net NEGATIVE image rating.... John Kerry holds a slight net POSITIVE image rating.... Clearly, if these undecided voters were leaning any harder against the door of the Kerry camp, they would crash right through it.

That's the part Kevin catches, but he ignores the more interesting analysis--of what Lizza calls the "approval-gap voters."

Fabrizio [the GOP pollster] calls this difference the "approval gap." In his 19-state poll the percentage of people who approve of the job Bush is doing but say they will vote for Kerry is 8.6 percent.

Approval-gap voters, by contrast, are the true equivocators. They are both pro-Bush and pro-Kerry. They just happen to be a little more pro-Kerry. They have a net favorable opinion of Bush (48 percent favorable to 30 percent unfavorable), but an even higher net favorable opinion of Kerry (54 percent favorable to 15 percent unfavorable).

Based on the analysis of these two groups, Fabrizio's counter-intuitive advice to the Bush team is to forget about the undecided voters--who are really just future Kerry supporters--and to concetrate on the approval-gap voters, many of whom say they are voting for Kerry but are actually still open to Bush. "Focusing on 'approval gap' voters versus undecided voters," he argues, "will yield a better return on investment" because "'approval gap' voters aren't predisposed against the President personally"--as the undecided voters are--and they "are less pessimistic about the direction of the country."

Ah, it's all clear to me now.

posted by Jeff | 3:34 PM |
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