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Polling Low Turnout Primaries

Topics: National Journal

My NationalJournal.com column for this week is now posted. It picks up where last weeks' left off, with more thoughts on what media pollsters can do to get better readings early on low turnout, off-year primaries.

 

Comments
J Ann Selzer:

I agree with using voter registration lists in states where a high percentage of eligible voters are registered. In states that allow same-day registration but have fewer than 70% (say) registered, it becomes a coverage issue. I do take issue with the utility of voter lists lying in their documentation of past behavior. Your National Journal piece includes the following:

Glen Bolger, partner in the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies, agrees. "The best predictor of whether someone will vote in a primary," he says, "is if they have done so in the past."

That is true unless there is change. The Clinton campaign in the Iowa caucuses took this addage too much to heart and were blind to the large segments of independents and first-time caucus-goers who showed up on caucus night. They had been concentrating on past attenders and registered Democrats.

In the end, in my mind, there is little substitute for basic science. Cast the net widely and let your data tell you who will turn out. Needless to say, it's not the inexpensive route.

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Mark Blumenthal:

@Ann:

Point taken, but to be fair to Bolger, note that my questions to him and the others were in the context of off-year (non-presidential) primaries. And in comments that did not make the column he agreed that "presidential primaries are a whole different situation." He also describes himself as a "defender of list samples in primaries -- but only in areas/states where the list is good."

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