My friend Thomas Riehle (the "R" of RT Strategies) makes an important point to NBC's First Read about the recent ABC/Washington Post New Hampshire poll. It shows Hillary Clinton leading Barack Obama by six points (35% to 29%) but also shows her with more solid support. More than half of Clinton's supporters (53%) say they will "definitely vote for" her compared to 41% for Obama and Edwards.
"Candidates who are gaining support or losing support both tend to have a lot of soft support along a hierarchical vote continuum," he emails First Read. "Supporters have either just arrived from undecided and arrive as soft supporters, or supporters are preparing to depart to undecided, and soft support is the way station. That's why a lot of Obama support would be soft support."
He is right that candidates how have recently grown their vote tend to have more "soft" support than their opponents. In my experience, at least, that is a common pattern.
It is also worth noting that the ABC/Post poll effectively pushed voters harder for a preference than the other recent New Hampshire polls, as the ABC analysis points out:
This survey finds 3 percent undecided, compared with an average of 12 percent in nine other publicly released polls in New Hampshire in the past month.
If we compare the average support for each candidate on the average of the ten other NH polls released this month (including Marist, which was released after the ABC/Post poll), we get see the following:
Clinton's support on the ABC/Post poll (35%) is exactly the same as her average on the other surveys, but support for Obama is seven points higher on ABC/Post (29%) than the others (22%). This difference may be another indirect indicator of an upward Obama trend. More voters appear to be in what Riehle would call a "way station"* between undecided and support for Obama than for other candidates.
*JoeCHI says it should be "weigh station." I assumed he was right. Riehle emailed with this dictionary definition:
1. a stopping place on a journey; "there is a stopover to change planes in Chicago" [syn: stopover]