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Gallup Looks at Likely Primary Voters

Topics: 2008 , Likely Voters , The 2008 Race

Gallup Guru Frank Newport followed up on the discussion here and elsewhere about "possible differences between broad samples of voters and likely voters" when Gallup asks about the 2008 party nomination contests on national surveys. His conclusion:

[O]ur analysis suggests at this point there is little difference at the national level in candidate preferences even when we analyze smaller groups of more hard-core voters. For our latest national poll, we narrowed the sample down to those Democrats who said they were "extremely likely" to vote in the Democratic primary in their state next year. No difference. Hillary Clinton heads by 20 points over Obama. We also looked at "pure Democrats" -- excluding those independents who lean Democratic. Hillary does even better among her party faithful, beating Obama by 30 points.

[snip]

What about likely voters on the Republican side? Fred Thompson picks up a little among Republicans who are extremely likely to vote in the Republican primary, such that Giuliani's lead is trimmed to 8- points, 32% to 24%. Among hard-core Republicans -- excluding independents who lean Republican -- Giuliani is ahead of Thompson 30% to 20%.

Bottom line: The basic structure of the national presidential race for both parties appears to be similar regardless of whether one looks at all voters, or just those voters who are most likely to actually vote.

A further analysis of the same data posted this morning by Gallup's Lydia Saad provides more numbers for the Democrats, plus more information on the subgroups that Newport examined. First, for the Democrats:

  • All Democratic identifiers and "leaners" (initially independent adults that say they lean to the Democratic Party) - 48% of adults.
  • All Democratic identifiers and "leaners" that also say they are "extremely likely" to vote in the Democratic primaries or caucuses" - 27% of adults; 58% of all Democrats & leaners.
  • "Pure Democrats" (excludes independent "leaners") - 30% of adults.
  • Pure Democrats that are registered to vote plus registered Democratic "leaners" that say they are "extremely likely" to participate in the Democratic primaries or caucuses - 30% of adults; 63% of all Democrats & leaners.**

The table below shows the full results included in the Saad report for the first and last groups, plus the Clinton margins reported in Newport's Gallup Guru post. As Saad notes, looking at the last group (registered Democratic identifiers plus "extremely likely" registered leaners):

Clinton still dominates the field, although by a bit smaller margin than among all Democrats. Support for Clinton remains about the same, at 47%, but the percentage choosing Obama is slightly higher, at 31%.

08-09%20gallup%20likely%20dems.png

One take-away point from these data. How the pollster defines a "likely voter" matters as much as how tightly they screen. Notice that the third and fourth columns above capture slices of Democrats that are the same size (30% of adults) but with very different compositions. Clinton leads Obama by 30 points among "pure Democrats," but remove non-registrants and add back indpendents that are "extremely likely" to vote in a Democratic primary, and Clinton's lead drops to just 16 points.

Also, bear in mind that the actual turnout in all of the 2004 Democratic primaries and caucuses amounted to less than 10% of adults in the United States.

**The definition of the fourth subgroup in the Gallup report is a bit ambiguous. I emailed Gallup to request confirmation.

 

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