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On Charts and "Tiers"

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

The Atlantic's Mark Ambinder and NBC's Chuck Todd today updated their ranking of the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates (see also Ambinder's blog commentary). Their division of both fields into explicit "tiers" reminds me of a point I meant to make about a week ago about our presidential campaign charts.

We have a chart that displays trend for "top contenders" in each party nationally and in each of the early primary states. We broke out the leading candidates from the rest of the pack largely to keep the charts readable. If we plotted all of the candidates, the lines for those consistently scoring in the low single digits would form an unreadable, spaghetti-like hodgepodge at the bottom of each chart. So for clarity's sake, we provide a "top contenders" chart showing those that have risen beyond single digits, but also provide a set of "small multiple" charts just below that plot the trend for each candidate in small separate graphs.

Two weeks ago, we made the decision to include Democrat Bill Richardson on the "top contenders" chart because, as Professor Franklin explained, Richardson had shown "substantial movement in Iowa, and New Hampshire." Though still in fourth or fifth place in both states, Franklin wrote, Richardson has "the only trajectory that is clearly moving up."

Understandably, perhaps, the Richardson campaign put out a press release that read a bit more into that observation:

Pollster.com became the latest media observer to confirm what the voters already know: Bill Richardson has broken into the top tier in the race for the Democratic nomination. Pollster.com notes that, among the Democratic candidates, "his is the only trajectory that is clearly moving up."

We stand by our characterization of the recent trend in Richardson's support in Iowa and New Hampshire, but put us down as agnostic on how many "tiers" exist among the presidential candidates and to which tier Bill Richardson and the others belong.

Our mission here is to help you follow and make sense of political polling data, with an emphasis on charts that help put individual poll results into a broader perspective. To that end, we will continue tinkering to make our charts as legible and useful as possible. We will also continue to comment on emerging trends as we see them. When it comes to the declaration of "tiers," however, we will leave that to handicappers like Ambinder, Todd...and you.

 

Comments

Richardson was using this piece as evidence that he was breaking into the top tier.

In no place did he indicate that pollster thought there were tiers, or that pollster was placing him among a top tier.

Perhaps the author should look up the word "confirm" and be less active in the criticism of campaigns unless that criticism relates to falling poll numbers.

-Isaiah

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Andrew:

While analyzing John Edwards, Todd and Ambinder said the haircuts stories have been both "silly" and "very revealing". How can both be true?
If an issue is revealing, then it is serious, not silly.

Isn't Todd the same Democrat-hating hack who once predicted that Bush's approval numbers would be 50% by July 4th, 2007, if Pelosi and Reid took over in congress in '06?

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Ian:

Todd's wife actually did lots of work for the Webb campaign in VA, so I doubt he's a Democrat-hating hack. Whether he's simply a hack is another question.

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DennisNoMenace:

How does the fact that Todd's wife worked for a Democratic campaign have anything to do with whether he's a Democrat-hating hack? Mary Matalin, a Republican hack, is married to James Carville, a Democratic hack. So what?

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