Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Early US presidential election polls unpredictable now, but provide clues

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON: Hillary Rodham Clinton is the clear favorite in early polls for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. So, what does that mean? Not a lot, if history is any guide.

Republican hopeful Rudy Giuliani, however, is sitting pretty.

For at least three decades, Republicans have been far better than Democrats in early polls at getting behind the candidates who end up winning the party's presidential nomination.

Note that Edmund Muskie in 1972, George Wallace in 1976, Ted Kennedy in 1980, Gary Hart in 1988, Mario Cuomo in 1992 and Joe Lieberman in 2004 were early front-runners among Democrats. None won the nomination.

Republicans have picked the early front-runner in seven of the past 10 elections, according to Gallup polling. In the other three elections, Republican incumbents cruised to re-election.

Democrats nominated a former vice president, Walter Mondale, in 1984, and a sitting vice president, Al Gore, in 2000. For those elections, the early polls were more predictable at picking the front-runner.

Why has the Republican Party been better at predicting winners?

"There is this sense among Republicans — a belief that it's a certain person's time to run for president," said Thomas Mann, a political analyst at the Brookings Institution. But the Republican track record is probably due more to chance and the Republicans' success at winning the White House since 1968, he said.

In 2008, neither party has a former vice president or president competing for the nomination for the first time in almost 80 years.

Giuliani, a former New York City mayor, is a favorite in early polls. But many people feel his personal history and moderate positions on social issues may cost him support among some conservatives.

Arizona Sen. John McCain is running even or second to Giuliani, with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is running a distant third.

Among Democrats, New York Sen. Clinton looks strong at this point, with Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards giving her the stiffest competition.

Despite their occasional difficulties in picking eventual winners, early polls can provide important clues about the campaign.

Among the more interesting findings from recent national polls:

_Democrats are more likely than Republicans to be paying close attention to the presidential race, by 31 percent to 20 percent, according to a poll taken in February by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

_Romney may find his Mormon faith an obstacle with many voters. One-quarter of people questioned say they would not vote for a Mormon candidate, compared with 8 percent who say they would not vote for a woman and 3 percent for a black candidate, according to a Newsweek poll in December.

_Clinton is viewed unfavorably by at least 40 percent of people, many of them Republicans who will be difficult for her to win over, various polls have found.

_Four in 10 Democratic voters say they have not heard enough about Obama to have an opinion yet. Only 3 percent say that about Clinton, according to a CBS News poll in mid-January.

_Most Republicans and those who lean Republican are unaware of Giuliani's support for civil unions for same-sex couples and abortion rights, according to a Gallup poll in mid-January.

Public support for Clinton and McCain is probably based on a fairly firm base of knowledge about them, said public opinion analyst Charles Franklin. Knowledge of Giuliani is probably based mostly on his response as New York's mayor to the Sept. 11 attacks.

The old complaint about early polls as measures of name recognition is probably less true today because of the intensity of coverage by 24-hour cable news, Republican pollster David Winston said.

But most poll analysts agree that the polls six months from now will be far more meaningful.

"For the most part, the political polls don't mean much now," said Scott Keeter, of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. "But political junkies have an endless appetite for them. People are looking for some kind of evidence of how things are going to turn out."

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Blogger merjoem32 said...

Very informative. This blog offers good information about the upcoming 2008 presidential race. It's still too early but people will pay more attention to the candidates as we approach November 2008.

12:40 PM, February 27, 2007  

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