Thursday :: Dec 4, 2003

What Is Kerry's True Level of Support In Iowa?

by Steve

Do folks like me make too much out of polls?

Yup. Guilty as charged. We look at politics here, and I look for trends more than anything else. But in truth they are just another extension of the horse race mentality to our media coverage of election politics, which substitutes such things for policy coverage and analysis.

Those who like the poll results are likely to put a lot of stock in them. Those who donít like the poll results are likely to say that polls are meaningless, or that it is too early, or to complain about horse-race politics. Hence, Dean supporters love polls right now as one of several reinforcing examples of Deanís frontrunner status and hoped-for inevitability. Yet every now and then something curious emerges in a set of polls that bears further watching and warnings against acceptance of the conventional wisdom. Since I try and be fair and admit failings whenever warranted, I wanted to bring up a point that moraks mentioned earlier about the discrepancy in the Iowa polls on the true support for John Kerry.

As I said in an earlier post, the newly released Zogby poll for Iowa shows Kerry at 9% among 500 likely caucus participants, within a range he has occupied in all Zogby Iowa polls in 2003. The poll was done December 1-2 by telephone, with a MOE of +/- 4.5%.

Dean 26%
Gephardt 22%
Kerry 9%
Edwards 5%

The figures for the top four candidates in the Zogby Iowa poll are virtually unchanged since September 2003.

Yet the Survey USA poll done November 18-20 for WHO-TV of 408 likely caucus goers in a nine-way race had the following results for the top four:

Dean 32%
Gephardt 22%
Kerry 19%
Edwards 11%

Furthermore, after a first round of balloting thins out those with low vote totals, the poll showed that a four-way race would lead to a very close race for second:

Dean 31%
Gephardt 26%
Kerry 24%
Edwards 14%

In fact, the only consistency between the two polls is the results for Gephardt.

So what gives?

The point that moraks and other Kerry supporters can plausibly make is how can it be possible for two polls conducted similarly within two weeks of each other with a similar sample size show such different results for Kerry? After all, Kerry has been pumping money and high caliber people into Iowa of late. But is Zogby correct that Kerry has consistently been running a distant third all year long, or has the Survey USA poll come across a recent possibility that Iowa will be hotly contested among three different candidates?

The fate of the Kerry candidacy rests on the answer to that question.

Steve :: 1:07 PM :: Comments (8) :: Digg It!