It’s early on in the 2016 presidential election cycle, but polls abound and most pit presumed Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton against a field of potential Republican candidates. Neither party has confirmed a nominee yet, but media are obsessing about where candidates stand just as they have in previous elections.
CNN/ORC International released a poll on Monday. A reporter at MarketWatch summed up the results:
Hillary Clinton crushes Republican rivals in new poll
How useful is this poll? Not very, for any candidate, regardless of party, if history repeats itself as it often does. A candidate may be perceived as “leading” on either side of the aisle. A Pew study found that doesn’t really mean anything in terms of outcome.
Some matters should be considered. For both parties, a combination of self-declared Republicans or Democrats and self-declared Independents who lean towards one or the other party were polled. Respondents interviewed by CNN/ORC totaled 1,018. Landline and cell phone users were included.
Among the entire sample, 27% described themselves as Democrats, 21% described themselves as Republicans, and 52% described themselves as Independents or members of another party.”
The poll covered a number of potential candidates from both parties, asking respondents to rate their favorability and other assets. Six Democrats were included; eight Republicans were included.
The poll also included a presumption on behalf of Mrs. Clinton:
“For the next few questions, let’s assume that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016. I’m going to read the names of a few Republicans who may run for their party’s nomination. After I read each one, please tell me if you would be more likely to vote for that Republican candidate or if you would be more likely to vote for Hillary Clinton. (RANDOM ORDER)”
I wonder if pitting each potential GOP candidate vs. a single highly recognizable candidate had an impact on the outcome. Clinton was the only potential Democrat nominee polled against each of the eight Republicans. Bear in mind this wasn’t a Clinton campaign poll; it was a poll conducted by a so-called “objective” media organization.
Polls can be very useful in mobilizing bias for a candidate, as legacy media did in blatant advocacy for President Barack Obama in his first presidential race in 2008.
If you check polls, however, dating to before the Democrats’ 2008 primary, you’ll find that even as late as January, 2008, Mrs. Clinton appeared to have a lock on her party’s nomination.
Real Clear Politics has data available from all the 2008 polls, and you can see the point where Obama began to run away with the nomination most media assumed would go to Clinton. http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2008/president/us/democratic_presidential_nomination-191.html
In January, 2008, CNN, assessing results of new polls, said Obama had begun to pull away the black vote from Clinton. She still maintained a solid overall lead, though:
“Clinton has the support of 42 percent of all registered Democrats in the new survey, down seven points from last week’s CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll. Obama has the backing of 33 percent of those questioned, down three percentage points in a week.”
Polls taken once each party’s nominee is confirmed can be fairly accurate, even in an age where a single damaging 24/7 news cycle can do a candidate in.
But this far ahead of the primaries for both parties, maybe we should ask ourselves if we can trust these early polls. A study by Pew Research found, “Early general election presidential trial heat polls have a poor track record.“ Pew also found, “A review of polls conducted in the first quarter of the year preceding the election found many of them forecasting the wrong winner — often by substantial margins.”
The “Hillary crushes” story does accurately report the results of the early CNN/ORC poll ahead of 2016.
I’d have to agree with Pew, however, on just how much faith we can place in the outcome of 2016 before Clinton has actually closed the deal with her own party. The best conclusion I can come to regarding the new CNN/ORC poll is that the Republican field remains in play while in the Democrat field one candidate appears to have been granted default nominee status by media on both sides of the aisle and by pollsters.
If ‘Hillary crushes’ it this early on, what does that say about the outcome in 2016 in light of past outcomes?
(Analysis by Kay B. Day/April 21, 2015)
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