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Adventures in Polling Analysis

By Matthew Yglesias on November 19, 2010 at 9:29 am

"Adventures in Polling Analysis"

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Anne Kim and Stefan Hankin report the “key findings” of Third Way’s latest poll:

In a new post-election survey, Third Way and Lincoln Park Strategies polled 1,000 Obama voters who abandoned Democrats in 2010, either by staying home (the “droppers”) or by voting Republican (the “switchers”). This report paints a portrait of these droppers and switchers—the voters that Democrats will need to win again in 2012. Our key findings:

Droppers are more than the base. One in 3 droppers is conservative, 40% are Independents, and they are split about whether Obama should have done more or did too much.

For switchers, it’s not just the economy. The economy matters but switchers also overwhelmingly think Democrats are more liberal that they are. Two in three say “too much government spending” was a major reason for their vote.

Republicans won a chance, not a mandate. Only 20% of switchers say that a major reason for their vote was that “Republicans had better ideas,” and nearly half say Republicans are more conservative than they are.

Two points here. One, I don’t think it’s very enlightening to rely on survey data to get people to explain their own voting behavior. Systematic surveys make it very clear that voters, in the aggregate, swing against presidents who preside over poor economic performance (as well as those who preside over elevated incidence of shark attacks) but presumably few swing voters subjectively perceive themselves to be fickely remaking their ideology according to macroeconomic fluctuations.

Second, the treatment of the “independent” vote in this bullet point is naive in the extreme. The result that most self-described independents are in fact consistent partisan voters is well-establishment. If 40 percent of droppers are self-identified independents that mostly goes to show that some non-trivial faction of the Democratic Party’s base vote self-identifies as independent.

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