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NH Poll: Horserace or Betting Line?

Posted: Updated:

Yesterday, I wrote about an
aspect of the way the media has been covering the campaign that "makes me want
to scream." Today, we have a story about a new poll in New Hampshire that may turn me into Howard Beale.

Via The
Page
we learn of a new telephone survey of just 401 "likely primary voters"
conducted November 1-4 by Boston/New Hampshire television station WBZ and Franklin Pierce University
(story, results,
tables).
Given the small sample size (which includes likely voters for each primary),
the initial intent may have been to focus on issues of interest to all primary
voters rather than the usual trial-heat results. Issues were the focus of the poll
story that WBZ broadcast
last night. But that is not the way it worked out in their online article.

The headline on the wbstv.com article
proclaims:

11-06%20wbz%20headline.png

The lead:

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt
Romney and New York Senator Hillary Clinton continue to hold on to their lead
in the latest WBZ/Franklin Pierce University New Hampshire Primary Poll.

The story also characterizes Hillary Clinton's "lead" as "very
strong."

The problem? The WBZ/Franklin Pierce poll did
not ask a question about vote preference
(at least not that was
referenced in the story or any of the materials posted online, and our calls to the number provided in the PDF were not answered). Here are the two
questions they asked that were referenced in the story:

Q07: Of all of the Republican
candidates running for President, which one do you think is most likely to win
the New Hampshire
Presidential primary?

Q08: Of all of the Democratic
candidates running for President, which one do you think is most likely to win
the New Hampshire
Presidential primary?

Memo to WBZ: The New Hampshire primary works differently
than the Power of 10. When
voters go the polls on primary day, the ballot will ask for their vote
preference, not the candidate they expect to win.

The difference between the candidate that voters support and
the candidate they believe will win can also be huge. For example, on the CNN survey
conducted earlier this month, 51% of Democrats preferred Hillary Clinton (in a
race without Al Gore), but 64% believed she was the candidate "most likely to
win the Democratic nomination. Among Republicans, 27% said they would be most
likely to support Rudy Giuliani, but 50% believed he was most likely to win
(numbers from CNN release).

So if you are going to cover the horse race, please, cover
the horse race. Not the betting lines.