In an op-ed in Sunday's New York Times, Democratic pollsters Mark Mellman and Michael Bloomfield presented survey data they collected in Iowa recently showing that "what people say to one another can be as potent as what TV advertisements try to make them think." They found, in particular, that voters who transform themselves "from mere 'talkers' into advocates" were particularly important to the Iowa candidacies of Mike Huckabee and John Edwards:
Whether by chance or design, such citizen advocates created the explosive growth in support for Mike Huckabee and sustained John Edwards, even as both were vastly outspent by their opponents.
Our polling found 23 percent of Republicans were advocates for Mike Huckabee as against 16 percent for Mr. Romney. At 30 percent, Mr. Edwards had the most word-of-mouth advocates among Democrats by a narrow margin, which explains how he was able to remain competitive in Iowa despite his financial disadvantage.
Tonight, a special bonus. Mellman sends along a PDF release with results from two new, just completed surveys of likely Democratic and Republican primary voters in New Hampshire. Some highlights:
Now, in New Hampshire, it is Obama being further buoyed by the greatest net positive talk—23 points more than Clinton and 11 points more than Edwards. Clinton continues to generate significant negative comment. Indeed, almost 70% more Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire are speaking ill of Clinton than of Obama or Edwards. [...]
The only Republican generating truly positive buzz in New Hampshire is John McCain, whose net positive talk score (+38) more than doubles Mitt Romney’s (+15). Rudy Giuliani is at just +6. Interestingly, while Mike Huckabee has generated substantial discussion in New Hampshire as a result of his Iowa victory, much of it is negative, so his score is just +2, with nearly as many GOPers speaking negatively about him as positively.
Mellman informs the survey has no sponsor other than his company.