Earlier today, Zogby International released what it calls a national
"blind bio" telephone poll of 527 "likely Democratic primary voters" that was
sponsored by AlGore.org, an independent group dedicated to convincing former
Vice President Gore to join the race for president.
Here's the gist of the results from the Zogby release:
When Democratic likely voters were
given brief biographical descriptions of the top three Democratic candidates -
New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, and former North
Carolina Sen. John Edwards - along with the biography of Gore, the former Vice
President won 35% support, while Clinton
won 24%, Obama won 22% and Edwards trailed with 10% support.
The key twist here is that the question provided "brief
biographical descriptions" of candidates, but not the names of the candidates (something less than obvious in the spiffy animated
graphic of the poll results produced by AlGore.org). That practice is not
unheard of, but is typically used by internal campaign polls to test campaign
messages. This sort of test can be a powerful tool, though the results are
very sensitive to the descriptions tested. Were these fair? Fortunately, Zogby
provided the full text:
- 35% - Candidate A (Gore) is an experienced candidate from the South who has been Vice President of the United States and a US Senator. This person has won several awards, including an Oscar, a Grammy, and an Emmy for his documentary about global climate change. This person has won the Nobel Peace prize and is recognized as an international authority on foreign policy, energy, the environment, and technology. This candidate has opposed the Iraq war from the beginning.
- 24% - Candidate B (Clinton) is a candidate with roots in the South and the Midwest, but is currently a US Senator from a Northeastern State. This candidate is well known for work on many domestic issues, including education, children's issues, and health care. As a US Senator, this candidate voted to authorize the Iraq war. This candidate is critical of how the war has been handled by the current administration.
- 22% - Candidate C (Obama)is a first-term US Senator from the Midwest who has emphasized efforts to reach out to include in the political process many people who are disaffected and unused to involvement in politics. This candidate brings a fresh face to Washington and draws huge crowds to campaign rallies. This candidate has opposed the Iraq war from the beginning.
- 10% - Candidate D (Edwards)is a former US Senator from a southern state. This candidate also has run as a Vice Presidential candidate in the past. This candidate champions health care and education for the poor, and has experience running a national political campaign. As a US Senator, this candidate voted to authorize the Iraq war but has since said it was wrong to vote for authorization.
- 10% Not sure
Again, keep in mind
that respondents were not told that Candidate A is Gore, Candidate B is Clinton and so on,
although some presumably made that connection on their own. However, one could argue that a few pertinent facts that are missing. The gender and race of the candidates for one. Another is that the "work on domestic issues"
for which Candidate B is "well known for" occurred when she was First Lady of
the United States.
The question also assumes that the only issue differences among the candidates
worth noting are their positions on the Iraq war authorization. Readers
will undoubtedly spot other issues.
What is really unusual
about this survey is that campaign pollsters typically use descriptive paragraphs
like this to test the potential of unknown
candidates with the resources to become much better known (such as Chris Dodd,
Joe Biden, Mike Huckabee or even Ron Paul in Iowa or New Hampshire). Even then,
I know of few campaign pollsters that go to the trouble of testing truly "blind"
bios. Most include the real names to make the test as realistic as possible.
Of course, Hillary
Clinton and Al Gore are two of the best known Democrats in the United States.
Even on a recent CBS
News survey that prompts respondents to say when they "have not heard
enough to have an opinion," 92% of Democratic primary voters can rate Gore and
99% can rate Clinton.
So the need for a "blind bio" serves little obvious purpose here, other than allowing
the pollster to try to conceal the identity of "Candidate B."
A better test might
involve a question like the following:
Suppose Al Gore decided to run for
President. If the race for the Democratic party's nomination in 2008 comes down
to a choice among Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Al Gore, and Barack Obama, who
would you like to see nominated -- Clinton, Edwards, Gore, Obama, or someone
The good news is,
that question actually appeared at the end of the same recent CBS News survey. And
the results? "Were he to enter the race," as the CBS release puts it,
"Al Gore could be a serious contender," running just five points behind Clinton (an advantage that
is not quite statistically significant assuming the usual 95% confidence
These results suggest
that a Gore candidacy would shake up the race and cut deeply into Clinton's current support. But "reveal" Gore "as
frontrunner," as the AlGore.org poll claims about their poll? No. To do that, Gore might have to
convince Senator Clinton to change her name to "Candidate B."
PS: The filing deadline for the New Hampshire primary is tomorrow. Opportunities to file for primaries in other states will remain open for some time, but as a practical matter, the window of opportunity for an actual Gore candidacy is closing fast.