Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Hillary Flies High on a Low-Flying Poll

In Election Analysis, Polling, Presidential campaign on January 15, 2013 at 11:01 am

A new Public Policy Polling national survey (Jan. 3-6; 1,100 registered voters; 400 Democratic and 536 regular Republican primary participants) projects Hillary Clinton to be in the strongest position of all potential 2016 presidential candidates from either party, but the poll has methodological flaws.

According to the data, Clinton would easily capture the Democratic nomination, scoring a 57-16 percent margin over Vice President Joe Biden. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren notched 4 percent, followed by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley at 3 percent, while Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner tallied 2 percent apiece.

The poll then paired only Clinton against a myriad of Republican potential candidates such as former vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Clinton beats them all in hypothetical individual ballot test match-ups, but early results such as these are inconsequential and particularly so in this poll. Of the aforementioned, Christie fares best coming within two points of Clinton, behind 42-44 percent. All of the others trail her in double-digits.

Many statistical points on the PPP survey do not hold water. First, even though the sample size reports more Republican primary voters than Democratic, the poll skews liberal. This alone should raise eyebrows. Secondly, the group reports voting for Barack Obama last November in a 40-32 percent split, four points wider than the national margin. Moreover, a full 30 percent of the respondents consider themselves to be very or somewhat liberal. This contrasts to only 29 percent who self-describe as moderates. The very or somewhat conservative response is 40 percent. Both of these latter numbers are low when compared to other national polls, and the liberal self-ID is much higher.

Third, we all remember early in the 2008 election cycle when Clinton was commonly described as the “inevitable” Democratic nominee. When voters actually began to cast ballots, however, she couldn’t even win the first state to hold an election event, Iowa. In fact, you will recall, she came in third place behind both then-Sen. Barack Obama and former senator and vice presidential nominee John Edwards.

The respondents of this new poll held a distinctively negative outlook toward the potential candidates, particularly the conservatives. Of the 18 individuals tested, only five (Clinton, Biden, Christie, Rubio, and Warren) had positive personal ratings, while two recorded positive ratings equal to their negatives (Sen. Warner and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez). All conservatives but Rubio had upside-down favorability index ratings.

Additionally, a person such as Elizabeth Warren, from the far left wing of the Democratic Party, scored in positive territory and with 52 percent of the national sample knowing enough about her to form an opinion. This latter point illuminates a clear red flag because it is highly unlikely that a newly elected regional senator would have name identification that exceeds a majority from any normal national sampling universe.

As we all know, the next presidential election is many years away and all polling this early is meaningless. This PPP poll, however, appears even less credible than most. Though the firm proved to be among the most accurate during the 2012 election cycle, it is a virtual certainty that this particular effort does not pass the reliability test.

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