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More on the ONE Campaign Iowa Poll

Topics: 2008 , Divergent Polls , Iowa , The 2008 Race

I am still playing catch up on a bunch of interesting new surveys that all seemed to be released during my vacation last week. Next up: The survey of likely Iowa Democratic caucus goers sponsored by the anti-poverty ONE Campaign and conducted by a partnership of two partisan campaign pollsters: Peter Hart & Associates (D) and McLaughlin & Associates (R). After we posted and linked to the results, one reader emailed with a few good questions:

Is a privately commissioned poll on a particular subject, in this case poverty, considered the same as an independent primary poll?

With the preceding questions all leading to one most likely conclusion, given Edwards' poverty platform and his just having concluded a poverty tour, is this poll pushing?

First, the reader got the wrong impression about the order of questions from the ONE Campaign release, which first presented results from questions about poverty, health and the ONE Campaign itself and then presented results from the presidential trial-heat. The actual questionnaire was different: I checked Geoff Garin of Peter Hart & Associates and he confirms that they asked the presidential trial-heat question first, before any of the items about poverty or America's role in the world. They also confirm that the introduction that respondents heard at the beginning of the call was general and did not make any specific reference to poverty or the ONE campaign. So there is no reason to assume that the nature of the questions "pushed" respondents to any particular candidate.

Second, to answer a question asked by another reader, neither Peter Hart nor any of his associates are currently working for any of the Democratic candidates for President in 2008.

So do we consider "privately commissioned" polls as equivalent to "independent" surveys sponsored by news media outlets? We do include both in our averages, but make sure to note sponsorship and the partisan affiliation of the pollster, if any, and urge readers to take sponsorship into account. One of our main goals for Pollster is to provide a complete aggregation of all publicly available trial heat results as well as the tools and commentary to try to make your own decisions about the worthiness of the various polls. We monitored the impact of partisan polls on House district averages during the 2006 general election, and hope to do more of the same going forward.

One question readers did not ask, however, involved the sampling methodology used by the ONE Campaign poll. Their release described the respondents as:

509 past Democratic caucus attendees or new registrants who say they are likely to attend a Democratic presidential caucus.

Does that blurb imply the use of a list of past caucus goers? Yes. Via email, Geoff Garin confirms that they drew their sample from the list of registered voters maintained by the Iowa Democratic Party that identifies past caucus participants. Virtually all of the survey's 509 respondents had actually participated in either the Iowa Democratic caucuses in either 2004 or 200. The exceptions were 3% of the respondents who had registered since 2004 and indicated on screen questions that they planned to participate in the 2008 caucuses.

The approach of the ONE campaign survey thus stands in marked contrast to the recent ABC News/Washington Post poll that used a random digit dial methodology to first contact a sample of all adults in Iowa and then screen down to self-described likely caucus goers. According to the Washington Post version of the questionnaire, 30% of the respondents indicated that they had not previously participated and that the 2008 caucuses would be their first.

I want to look more closely at the contrast (and the strengths and weaknesses of each) in a subsequent post, but for now, one conclusion seems obvious: These two surveys produced very different results that probably result from the way each pollster sampled "likely caucus goers." John Edwards receives 30% of the vote on the ONE survey and runs significantly ahead of both Hillary Clinton (22%) and Barack Obama (18%). On the ABC/Post survey, Obama (27%), Clinton (26%) and Edwards (26%) are tightly bunched, although the results get closer to consistent when they look at a "more restrictive likely voter definition" (showing Edwards 28%, Obama 27%, Clinton 23%).

So which approach is best? Getting to a definitive answer is probably impossible, but my hunch is that the reality of "likely caucus goers" falls somewhere in between. More on that soon...

 

Comments

Still worth noting that caucuses, with their "second round" switches (as first round candidates fall off the choice board), and with 'in front of neighbor' voting, often turn out to be tough to poll whatever the methodology.

Iowa R's from same outfit is due this week.

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IllinoisDem:

Forty-five percent of 2004 Iowa Democratic caucus goers were first-time caucus goers according to a CNN exit poll (http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004/primaries/pages/epolls/IA/). This suggests you would need a very high degree of correlation between the candidate preferences of first-time and repeat caucus goers to justify polling only former caucus goers as the ONE campaign survey does.

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