Thursday, June 12, 2008<

Polling Fallacies

It's annoying when news stories include this kind of comparison when talking about polling data:

White suburban women, who make up 10% of the electorate, prefer a Democrat to be president by 11 points, 47% to 36%, the poll shows. And if Sen. Clinton were the nominee and the election were held now, she would beat Sen. McCain among this group by 14 points, 51% to 37%. Yet Sen. Obama loses to Sen. McCain by six points, 44% to 38%, among the same group.

What bothers me is that these articles inevitably fail to discuss tradeoffs - so Obama takes a hit among suburban women vis-a-vis Clinton, but he must also be outperforming her among certain groups (probably men). This part of the story is never discussed (not just with regards to Obama, but for all candidates) because it's not news that the person who won does better in polling. It's only news when they under perform. That's fine, except without discussing where Obama outperforms Clinton, it's gives a misleading view of the true dynamics of the race and insinuates that maybe Clinton would have been a better candidate. It also creates a press narrative that this is something Obama should be particularly worried about.

A vote is a vote, so if Obama can outperform in another demographic, he doesn't necessarily have to worry about his performance among one particular group (though, I will say it's frustrating for him to leave Democratic-leaning voters on the table).

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