Pollster.com

Articles and Analysis

 

Diageo-Hotline's Generic Presidential Vote

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

Last week I received a great question from astute reader JG:

I'm an avid but amateur follower of presidential polling, and I've been wondering why all the polls to date, at least the ones reported here and at pollingreport.com, are horse-race types, matching each of the presidential candidates against each other. Why haven't any firms asked a question about a generic Democrat-Republican matchup, that is, whether voters are likely to vote for the Democratic or a Republican presidential candidate, whoever that is? Wouldn't that be more informative about the state of voters than all the horse-race questions?

While I thought this was a good question to put to the media pollsters that conduct most of the national surveys, I emailed JG back that my guess was that most prefer to use candidate names whenever feasible. The main reason they ask a "generic" vote at all is that trying to identify and administer 435 different Congressional match-ups is simply to complex a task for an RDD telephone survey.

Well, the Diageo/Hotline poll is about to provide JG with a better answer. The Hotline is telling its paid subscribers that it will release a survey later today that will show "a generic Dem candidate leading a generic GOP candidate 47%-29% in a WH '08 matchup." Results should be posted at diageohotlinepoll.com sometime this afternoon.

Regular readers will recall that I have never been a big fan of the generic vote (see commentary here, here and here). This far out, I believe that a generic vote question tells us mostly about the way voters perceive the national political parties. While those images apparently give the Democrats a huge early advantage - a finding that is certainly informative about the voters' current attitudes - the ultimate nominees of each party and their campaign messages will likely reshape those images. So, for my money, the generic vote remains something of questionable value in tracking where the race will be in 18 months. But for now (or whenever the Hotline posts the numbers)...have at it.

PS: The comment by reader Tlaloc below reminds me that one pollster - the Democracy Corps project led by Democrat Stan Greenberg - did create a "generic" vote question that inserted candidate names into a sample of 50 competitive congressional districts (see Q27). Greenberg's question actually debuted on an NPR survey he conducted along with Republican Glenn Bolger (that I wrote about here). Most pollsters now conduct surveys using "computer assisted telephone interviewing "(CATi) software that makes it feasible, with a bit of programming, to insert of candidate names for different districts.

The bigger limitation has to do with the sample. Greenberg's 50 district sample used 50 small samples drawn from registered voter lists, so it was a relatively simple matter to match telephone numbers to districts. However, most national surveys use a random digit dial (RDD) method that picks telephone numbers at random from working telephone exchanges (the first three digits of the seven digit phone number). Since phone exchanges do not correspond neatly with congressional district boundaries, it is impossible to precisely match telephone numbers with districts in an RDD sample.

 

Comments
Tlaloc:

For automated surveys it seems like it wouldn't be too hard to have it ask you to dial your area code and based on that for it to present you with the specific house of representatives race you'd be voting on (assuming you didn't move between the survey and the election).

____________________

Ben Ross:

Notice that this poll asked an open-ended question about presidential preference for 2008. (Question 19.)

More Republicans wanted Hillary Clinton to be president than Mitt Romney.

Not sure what it means, but it's fun to think about.

____________________



Post a comment




Please be patient while your comment posts - sometimes it takes a minute or two. To check your comment, please wait 60 seconds and click your browser's refresh button. Note that comments with three or more hyperlinks will be held for approval.

MAP - US, AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY, PR