Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Parsing Polls: This is the time of year where we get bombarded with election polls. A couple just came out this week. It's always interesting to me when a campaign releases an internal poll, especially when we reporters normally never get them when we ask. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released one showing Iowa Third District Congressman Leonard Boswell is up 8 points over his Republican challenger, Brad Zaun. Eight points isn't huge. But the question is, is it significant?

This week, the DCCC has pulled money out of the Des Moines tv market. We don't know whether the money is gone for good. But it's difficult to see how this means the DCCC thinks Boswell is a lost cause. It would more likely show the DCCC thinks the money is needed in other races elsewhere. On the other side, where is the national Republican money for Zaun? I asked him that...whether the national Republicans will send money his way for the race or whether he is on his own? Zaun told me he is moving forward like he is on his own. His explanation was that the national Repubs are putting their money in other races with bigger gaps between the candidates. His race is close, he said, so he isn't getting the money. He said no one has told him he won't get any money. Here is what he said to me:

"My game plan is do this by myself. I've been told what they're doing is helping other races. I guess they're involved in races, looking at races that have a larger spread in regards to being, in regards to polling. I think that's kind of a calculated risk they're doing. I think that's kind of a calculated risk they're doing. I don't know why they're doing that."

It's a curious explanation from Zaun. Conventional wisdom, I think, is that the nationals would get involved in races where they feel their money would put a candidate over the top. In this case, Zaun is claiming he is getting bypassed because his race is really competitive.

In the Iowa governor's race, Democratic Governor Chet Culver's campaign released a poll it commissioned. Here's the release it send out:

Latest Polling Results Show Dramatic Shift in Governor's Race
Posted on Tuesday, October 12 at 2:19pm

DES MOINES -- Governor Chet Culver’s Campaign Manager, Donn Stanley, today announced that the battle for the Governor's Office is now an 8-point race. A poll of 600 general election Iowa voters conducted by Global Strategies Group found that 39 percent support Governor Chet Culver versus 47 percent for Terry Branstad. Four percent support another candidate, and 9 percent are undecided.

"Chet Culver clearly has the momentum," Stanley said. "Iowans are seeing more and more that Chet Culver has the vision to carry our state forward, while Terry Branstad wants to take us back to the same failed policies and broken promises. In the final three weeks of this campaign Governor Culver will continue to work tirelessly to close the remaining gap and win this race for the people of Iowa."

The poll was conducted from Oct. 7-10, 2010, by the Global Strategy Group. Six hundred Iowa voters were polled. The margin of error in the poll is +/- 4.0%.

This "dramatic shift" the campaign claims is based on comparing two different polls with two different methodologies. The campaign is attempting to show movement in this race by comparing the results of this poll, which the campaign paid for, and the Des Moines Register's Iowa Poll. The Iowa Poll showed Culver trailing badly to Branstad by 19 points. I wanted to see a clearer measure of the claims of a dramatic shift for Culver by comparing Culver's current campaign poll to a previous one using the same methodology. His campaign refused to release results of an earlier poll and responded with this statement:
We feel this poll is a good snapshot of Governor Culver's momentum at this point in the cycle. While we all agree the only poll that matters is on election day, we'll let this poll speak for itself. Considering Tim Albrecht's statement about our poll, the obvious question is why Terry Branstad isn't releasing the results of their own internal polling?
Albrecht is Branstad's campaign communications director. He sent this out in response to the Culver poll:
1. Consider the source. Polls released by campaigns are normally done so for political purposes by desperate candidates.

2. Hard to believe that any incumbent would take comfort in sitting below 40% three weeks from election.

3. Independent third party polls show TEB consistently above 50% and Governor Culver in the mid to low 30%s.

4. The only poll that counts is the one conducted on election day.

I don't recall seeing any internal polls Branstad's campaign has released.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If WHO wants a more precise polling figure, they should pay for an independent firm to poll Iowans. It would be newsworthy to find out how the congressional and governors race is actually doing without bias. How about it? Is WHO up to hiring a firm? Or would an independent poll cause more outside sources to come in and try to turn the election?