6/27: From the Survey to the Trail

By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff

Sure. Early public polls both national and state are open to the charge of not being predictive.  National polls carry the added burden of not necessarily reflecting the electoral college state-by-state vote.caricature of Lee Miringoff

Now, if you don’t want to be a public poll-tracker but are interested in the ups and downs of the campaign, there’s an easy way out.  Just follow where Obama, Romney, and their surrogates are campaigning (not raising money).  That’ll provide you with a short-hand map of the battleground states and who is fighting on whose turf.

However, if you want to gain insight beyond the horse race, you don’t have to drill down too far in the public poll numbers.   These electoral snapshots not only provide a sense of why Obama and Romney are doing what they do and where, but an insider’s appreciation of the dynamics shaping voters’ views about campaign ’12.

First, public polls let the public in on the secret of what the candidates and frequently the media know, often based on campaign polls about the latest trends.  If you’re interested, check out yesterday’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal national poll or tomorrow’s NBC News/Marist Poll of three battleground states: North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Michigan.  The results will be detailed on Chuck Todd’s The Daily Rundown beginning at 9:00 A.M. on MSNBC.

The poll numbers reveal the unique flavor of the 2012 electorate over who’s better suited to lead the economy, to what extent voters think Obama inherited the economic mess, an argument he often makes, and what voters think about the direction of the nation, a topic Romney is happy to discuss.

When checking out the numbers in individual battleground states, beyond the tossups, what is Obama’s approval rating? who is more likeable? How committed are each candidate’s supporters? What is the likelihood they will vote? How interested are they in the campaign? How enthusiastic are they?

Drill down a bit more to find out how wide the gender gap is in this election cycle.  Is the youth vote, critical to Obama’s 2008 victory, in line for him this time?

So, stay connected to the public polls whether your candidate is ahead or behind.  I think you will find them to be interesting and valuable.  If not, label the poll “an outlier” and wait for numbers you like better.