December 28, 2007

A Pretty Thin Sample

The Los Angeles Times offers a poll for Iowa that shows some dramatic numbers in the Republican race. Mike Huckabee has a commanding lead over Mitt Romney, according to the Times/Bloomberg numbers, running fourteen points ahead. However, the sample leaves these results with debatable predictive value:

2,312 adults completed the survey in Iowa, including 2,145 registered voters ( margin of sampling error +/-2), 580 Democratic caucus voters (+/-5) 389 likely Democratic caucus voters (+/-5), 310 Republican caucus voters (+/-6) and 174 likely Republican caucus goers (+/-7).

Only 174 likely Republican caucus goers got surveyed by the Times/Bloomberg poll. That hardly gives much credence to the results of this survey. They found more than twice as many likely Democratic caucus goers as they did Republicans, and that's still a pretty thin sample, even for a state race. The poll may reflect the opinion of the sample itself, but as a predictor of future results, the sample doesn't suffice.

The results for the Democrats should be a little more reliable:

Barack Obama has wiped out Hillary Clinton's once-commanding lead in New Hampshire and the two remain virtually tied in Iowa, a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg News poll has found, as more and more voters get off the fence and decide whom to support.

Obama drew backing from 32% of New Hampshire Democratic primary voters to Clinton's 30% -- a dramatic shift from September, when a similar poll found him trailing 35% to 16% in the state, which will hold its presidential primary Jan. 8.

In Iowa, which opens the 2008 presidential voting with its Jan. 3 caucuses, the poll found that Obama and Clinton remain in a three-way dead heat with former Sen. John Edwards.

Clinton has a bit more of an edge among those who identify as likely caucus goers, but it remains a very tight race. The missteps of the last two months have seriously damaged her standing in the first two races, which gives Barack Obama an opening to seize early momentum and end the air of inevitability for Hillary's nomination. Obama, whose personality makes him more accessible and more likable, may start resonating in larger states such as California and Florida, states that Hillary needs to win the top spot on the ticket.

For Republicans, the Iowa portion of this poll is meaningless, given the sample. The New Hampshire study didn't get much better. The poll sample consisted of 1459 adults, only 318 of which were likely GOP primary voters. That improves on the Iowa sample but still seems less than reliable as a predictor. It shows Romney with a double-digit lead over John McCain, 34%-21%, with everyone else in the Granite State soup. That doesn't match up with other recent polling showing McCain much closer in New Hampshire, but it gets the order correct.

All in all, this is an anemic effort by the Times and Bloomberg.


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