Barack Obama Poll Numbers and the Midterm Elections

Over at Pollster, President Barack Obama is starting the new year with a collective average job approval that is a net negative (48.1% disapprove to 48.0% approve). If you filter out Rassmussen and internet polls, Obama climbes to 50.4% approval (see Nate Silver on the Rassmussen dustup).

Some of the "clap louder" crowd have recently taken to arguing that Obama's 80% approval ratings among Democrats means that Obama doesn't have a base problem. But is looking at approval among all Democrats an adequate way to measure Obama's "base" support? The following numbers put some context around how many Democrats actually constitute the base:

The most basic definition for "base" is the people who help you win elections. But there are lots of ways to quantify that. If by "base" you mean "email list total" then 18% of the people who voted for Obama are part of the base. If you mean contributors, then less than 6% of those who voted for Obama are part of the base. If you mean volunteers, it drops down to just over 2%.

In short, the Obama "base" is a very small percentage of the national political landscape and there is little reason to believe that national polls of Democrats represent the base. For instance, even if every single person on Obama's email list was a Democrat, every single one could disapprove of Obama according to the poll numbers Administration supporters are citing as showing Obama is in good shape.

"Base" isn't a measure of political breadth, but of political depth.

So is Obama in good shape? And is what is good for Obama's poll numbers also good for Democrats heading into the midterms?

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Revamping Voter Registration to Reduce Disparities in the Electorate

Although the 2008 presidential election showcased a more diverse electorate with an increase in voter registration and turnout by historically underrepresented Americans - including youth and minorities - the movement toward a more balanced electorate that represents all citizens is still a work in progress.  Advocates have long maintained--and recently Congress has heard testimony to the fact--that disparities in turnout rates are less an issue of voter apathy, and more related to a severe lack of democratic access for many groups. The growing awareness of this problem has inspired an increased interest among citizens, advocates, legislators, and officials to improve the administration of elections, particularly regarding voter registration.

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A Storm is Gathering [Updated]

Senator Obama has reiterated his pledge to drive up African American turnout by 30%.  He also said that he'd drive up the youth vote by similar numbers.  

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080716/ap_o n_el_pr/obama_winning_the_south

If he can pull it off he will obliterate John McCain.  I cannot stress this enough.  If there's anything that the Obama campaign has been able to do it has been to drive turnout.  I think he's probably on the money here.

A storm is gathering...

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Flip Flops could reduce turnout

The ABC/Washington Post poll has mixed news for Barack Obama.
The good news is he leads 51-43 among registered voters.
The bad news this drops to 49-46 among likely voters.

And only 62% of Democrats are likely to vote.  And this includes
a third of Hillary supporters who will stay home or vote for McCain.  The Democrats' edge is 37-27 among registered voters, but only 33-32 among likely voters.  And interest among younger voters is down also.

Part of this is the summer doldrums, but I think his shifts on FISA and other issues have caused a decline in enthusiam.  Obama must have a succesfull trip abroad next week--it's that important to close the chasm between himself and McCain on foreign policy.

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Results in one race don't predict the other!

I had a conversation today with a friend who is a researcher, which put things in an interesting perspective.  The point he made was that just because Hillary out-performs Obama with certain constituencies when she is head to head with him, doesn't mean that she will outperform him vs. John McCain.  Indeed if there is a correlation, it is probably a relatively small one.

Look at it this way.  Let's say you take a population of people and offer them ice cream.  They have two choices - vanilla or chocolate.  Let's for the sake of argument say that more people pick vanilla.

Then, on another day, we offer the same population ice cream again, but this time the choice is vanilla or strawberry.  The fact that people chose vanilla over chocolate gives you almost zero information about whether people will pick vanilla over strawberry.

And... it will also give you no information for predicting whether the same people would pick chocolate over strawberry.

This entire effort on behalf of the Clinton campaign to show that  HRC's stronger performance in one contest is predictive of what her performance would be in another is completely illogical.  Its like saying people who choose vanilla ice cream over chocolate will also choose vanilla over strawberry.

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