Polling that Goes Beyond the Horse Race

by John Sides on January 14, 2008 · 1 comment

in Campaigns and elections

Polling during the campaign can do more than simply track the candidates’ standing. Two relevant examples:

1) In this post at the Washington Post’s polling blog, Behind the Numbers, Jennifer Agiesta describes how the intersection of race and gender affects attitudes toward Clinton and Obama, and how this has changed over time.

2) In this report from a December poll, the Kaiser Family Foundation describes public opinion toward health care and its role in the campaign. One notable finding: while Republicans and Independents are more concerned about reducing health care costs than expanding health insurance, Democrats are more interested in expanding health insurance than in reducing costs. In addition, by a considerable margin, Democrats perceive Hillary Clinton as the candidate most emphasizing health care.

{ 1 comment }

low-tech cyclist January 17, 2008 at 4:09 pm

by a considerable margin, Democrats perceive Hillary Clinton as the candidate most emphasizing health care.

There’s a limit to how much the media can do to turn low-information voters into somewhat higher-information voters. But still, this is one more place where a MSM interested in factual reporting on candidates’ issues and positions could have at least educated some voters.

After all, until Edwards came forward with his universal health care plan, Clinton was talking in terms of UHC by the end of her second term. Only when pushed by Edwards did Clinton realize that she’d better come up with her own plan in the here and now.

But it would have been hard to be aware of any of this, even from reading a ‘good’ newspaper like the Washington Post. People relying on the Bristol [Va./Tenn.] Herald-Courier, or television, for their news, would have been even more poorly informed.

I don’t know what one does about this, but it’s real. We already know, from the primaries’ exit polls, that even the New Hampshire residents who supposedly take their responsibilities so seriously, are voting based on general impressions of each candidate, strongly informed by the underlying media narrative on each candidate.

For instance, as a result of 16 years of nonstop propaganda, Hillary’s perceived as being a leftist. McCain, as a GOP maverick, is perceived as being more centrist than the other GOP candidates. So candidates in either party who are skeptical of the Iraq war are voting for Clinton and McCain, rather than for the candidates who are less intensely pro-war.

It’s crazy out there, and there really is only so much the media can do to change this sort of low-information voting.

But they’re not even trying, and that’s disturbing.

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