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Mark Blumenthal

Mark Blumenthal

Posted: March 10, 2008 05:13 PM

On "Defectors" and Independents

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Downstairs at The Hotline, my colleague Matt Gottlieb caught a finding in the general election presidential trial heats in the latest Newsweek poll that confirms some analysis in the most recent survey from the Pew Research Center:

In the Newsweek general-election matchup between Clinton and McCain, Clinton leads overall by 2% but leads among Obama primary voters by 51%. In a matchup between Obama and McCain, however, Obama leads overall by 1% but leads Clinton primary voters by just 36%.

The Pew Research Center's analysis on their most recent national survey notes a similar pattern:

The vast majority of Democratic voters say they would support either Obama or Clinton over McCain. But in an Obama-McCain matchup, 14% of Democratic voters say they would support McCain, compared with 8% who would do so if Clinton is the nominee.

While the measurements differ, both show essentially the same thing. In match-ups against McCain, Clinton does slightly better among Democrats than Obama. But keep in mind that on the Pew poll, Clinton's advantage among Democrats appears to be offset by Obama's greater advantage among independents and Republican identifiers, as both Democrats are preferred by 50% of registered voters. The Pew report has full details on the demographics of the independents that Obama attracts and the Democrats that defect. On the Newsweek poll, Clinton's advantage is slightly greater, since she wins 48% of the registered voters compared to 46% for Obama.

Of course, the slight Clinton edge on both the Pew and Newsweek polls is at odds with most of the other recent surveys, although the more recent Newsweek survey is consistent with two automated surveys conducted by SurveyUSA and Rasmussen Reports in recent days.

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All of this is a good way to point out that we have just put up tables and charts on the national general election polls (Obama-McCain and Clinton-McCain) and will be rolling out charts for individuals states over the coming days and weeks.

PS: The complete results for the Newsweek poll are not (yet?) posted online, but Newsweek has posted unweighted subgroup sizes something new: A helpful demographic profile of registered voters and the Democrats and Democratic "leaners" that answered primary vote questions. Thank you, Newsweek.

Update: The Pew Research Center's Scott Keeter emails to the observation that "defectors" from Clinton and Obama essentially cancel each other out in their late February survey. In match-ups of Clinton vs. McCain and Obama vs. McCain among registered voters, 8% were for Clinton not Obama, 8% were for Obama not Clinton, 40% favored both Clinton and Obama and 35% were for neither Clinton nor Obama. It would be useful to those debating the issue of "electability" to see the same computation for other surveys.


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