February 4, 2007

That Michigan Poll...

Hatched by Dafydd

Real Clear Politics reports on a poll out of Michigan that shows Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton leading their respective party races:

There's much to chew on in this Free Press/Local 4 Michigan poll, not the least of which is that former Speaker Newt Gingrich is running well ahead of the state's favorite son, Mitt Romney:

Giuliani 32
McCain 28
Gingrich 16
Romney 8
Brownback 2
Hagel 1
Other 10

On the Democratic side, Hillary thumps the rest of the field with the big news being that she pulls in 59% of the African-American vote versus only 23% for Barack Obama:

Clinton 49
Obama 20
Edwards 8
Gore 7
Richardson 2
Biden 2
Kucinich 1
Dodd 1
Other 8

RCP goes on to quote the head-to-heads, which show all three major Democrats -- Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards each beating all three major Republican candidates (in Michigan): Giuliani, John McCain, and John Edwards.

Now, a few of points to make:

  • First, as they noted, Michigan went Democratic in 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004; so it's hardly surprising that Democrats are leading Republicans there in 2007.
  • Surprisingly enough, however, Hillary's lead is fairly narrow: she leads Giuliani by 4%, McCain by 3%, and Romney by 13%.
  • John Edwards does the best, beating McCain by 5%, Giuliani by 11%, and Romney by a whopping 24%.
  • Barack Obama beats McCain by 5%, Giuliani by 7%, and Romney by 19%.
  • Giuliani does the best among Republicans; none of the three main Democrats beats him by more than single digits.
  • And, as RCP excitedly tells us, if the 2004 election were rerun today, this poll predicts that instead of John Kerry winning by a scant 3% (51% to 48%), he would win in a 15-point "landslide," 53% to 38%. Note, however, that Kerry has actually picked up virtually no support; there are simply many fewer respondents saying they would vote for Bush now than the percent of voters who actually did so in 2004.

But there is something very curious about the respondents in this poll...

According to the graphic sidebars in the Detroit Free Press, 273 respondents identified themselves as Democrats -- but only 151 identified themselves as Republicans. The total polled was 675 registered voters who voted in the 2004 presidential race, so 251 must have identified themselves as neither Democrats nor Republicans; we'll call them independents.

Michigan voter registration does not include party affiliation, so these figures represent how people identified themselves to the pollsters. With that in mind, the respondents broke out as follows:

Michigan poll respondents by party self-identification
Party self-identification Percent of respondents
Democratic 40.4%
Independent 37.2%
Republican 22.4%

All right; many fewer Republicans than either Democrats or independents. But perhaps this just reflects how Michigan voters actually vote. Does it?

Since there is no state listing of party registrations, our best guide is probably the vote for governor in 2006, which occurred just three months ago, between the Democratic incumbent candidate, Jennifer Granholm, and the Republican challenger, Dick De Vos.

None of the various third-party candidates got a statistically significant percent of the vote; so 2006 was a pretty clean test of Democrats vs. Republicans. Dropping (for the moment) the "independent" respondents and only looking at self-proclaimed Democrats vs. Republicans, we see a huge disparity between the Democratic advantage in the poll and the Democratic advantage in the actual vote.

The next table compares votes by party in the 2006 gubernatorial election to the percent of repondents in this poll calling themselves either a Democrat or a Republican:

Comparision by party of the poll and the 2006 vote for governor
Party of respondent or vote Nov. 2006 governor's vote Jan. 2007 poll
Democratic 57.1% 64.4%
Republican 42.9% 35.6%
Democratic advantage 14.2% 28.8%

Note that while Granholm had only a 14-point lead over De Vos in the November election, self-identified Democrats have a 29-point advantage over self-identified Republicans in this poll.

And one more point: since Granholm was the incumbent, which generally carries a vote advantage when the incumbent is popular (as she is), that means the vote might was probably skewed in favor of the Democrats; more Republicans voted for Granholm than Democrats voted for De Vos. Thus it's likely that a generic ballot ("would you rather see a Democrat or a Republican in the statehouse?") would have found greater support for the Republicans than De Vos got... meaning the gap between the gaps -- the extra advantage to Democrats polled by the Freep in contrast to the way they voted three months ago -- is probably even larger than it appears.

On its face, it appears that this poll wildly oversamples Democrats at the expense of Republicans. But there is one other possibility we must investigate.

Clearly, nearly all "independents" (those identifying as neither Republican nor Democrat) chose to vote either for Republican De Vos or Democrat Granholm. Could GOP-leaning independents account for the huge overbalance in the gap between Republicans and Democrats on the poll? That is, if instead of just dropping the independent respondents out of the equation, we were instead to allocate them between the parties by their responses to poll questions, would that account for the gap between the gaps?

If so, then the 37.2% of independents in the poll would have to have voted 20.5% for De Vos and 16.7% for Granholm, for a split of 55.1% Republican and 44.9% Democratic, in the November election.

But do independents really break in favor of Republicans by 10% in this poll?

Looking at the rerun of the 2004 race, we see that the independents in this poll in fact broke the opposite: 50% to 37% for Kerry. And of the nine head-to-head races in the poll, we only see independents lean GOP by 10 points in only 3 races: Giuliani vs. Clinton, McCain vs. Clinton, and McCain vs. Obama. In three races, the Democrat and the Republican are tied among independents; in one race (McCain vs. Edwards), there is a small advantage, 6%, to McCain; and in Romney vs. Edwards and Romney vs. Obama, there is a huge advantage to the Democrat among independent respondents.

I think it pretty clear that "pushing the independents" cannot account for the difference between the party identification in this poll and the actual gubernatorial vote just three months ago; independents in the poll are as likely to go for Democrats as Republicans.

Thus, I think it pretty clear that this poll did significantly oversample Democrats and "independents" and undersample Republicans... even for Michigan. Its results should be taken with a very big lump of rock salt.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 4, 2007, at the time of 4:57 PM

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The following hissed in response by: karrde

For a Californian, you appear to have a decent handle on Michigan politics.

And I agree with you--the poll looks wildly unrepresentative.

The above hissed in response by: karrde [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 4, 2007 9:37 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

Well yeah, there was a war in 2004 as well. People can say it is more unpopular today, but I don't think people change as much as the polsters like to tell us they have. I think that if you had polld these same particular people in 2004 you might well have gotten the same response. Did they ask them who if anyone they had voted for in 2004?

But then again, sometimes people just say things knowing it doesn't mean anything. For instance I saw some headline somewhere {can not remember the details} which stated that the majority of women would not marry their husbands if they had it to do again. What does that actually mean? That they want a divorce or that they are in a pissy state of mind?

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 5, 2007 2:21 AM

The following hissed in response by: nk

For my sins, I hang around a lot with medical researchers who publish and "peer-reviewed" peer-reviewed articles. They must all be Reaganites because they follow the commandment: "Thou shalt not say anything against a fellow doctor". Still, I have learned their codeword for a fake study: "Pre-selected sample".

The above hissed in response by: nk [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 5, 2007 6:17 AM

The following hissed in response by: nk

P.S. It's too bad that you deleted the "Test" post with Charlotte's "dyslexic test" in the comments, because "review" and "reviwed" both looked fine to me as I was re-reading my comment.

The above hissed in response by: nk [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 5, 2007 6:24 AM

The following hissed in response by: charlotte


Ins't it itrentesnig how, wehn uor fngires tpye bcakawdrs, uor mnids raed bcakadwrs to see teh rghit wrods?

Fro ecxmalpe, had Dafyfd wirtten, "Udnersmalpnig of Rpelbuiacnas", uor mnids wuold sitll hvae itrenrepetd it as "jsut teh uusal prses/ ploltesr bais".

The above hissed in response by: charlotte [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 5, 2007 9:26 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


P.S. It's too bad that you deleted the "Test" post with Charlotte's "dyslexic test" in the comments, because "reviewed" and "reviewed" both looked fine to me as I was re-reading my comment.

They look fine to me, too... what's the problem?


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 5, 2007 5:09 PM

The following hissed in response by: brutepcm

As a lifetime Michiganian, I can add some footnotes. 1.The Free Press is a Democrat Party propaganda organ. 2. If the state north of Grand Rapids were to secede, the new state would be "red". Like New York State, our rural areas are vast but under represented, and at the mercy of big city Libs. 3. Last November only Mississippi had worse unemployment than Michigan, and they had a hurricane to blame. We still re-elected the Canuck. Now she's talking tax increases. That ought to help (NOT!)

The above hissed in response by: brutepcm [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2007 3:43 AM

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