How to mis-interpret a poll

So, the NYT has a new poll and the headline is all about how “The Obama coalition is fraying.”

Critical parts of the coalition that delivered President Obama to the White House in 2008 and gave Democrats control of Congress in 2006 are switching their allegiance to the Republicans in the final phase of the midterm Congressional elections, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Catholics, young people, women, are all less likely to vote for Democratsin 2010 as compared to 2008.  Hello– everybody is less likely to vote for Democrats this time around.  Furthermore, telling me that women are less supportive of Democrats in 2010 than in 2008 doesn’t really tell me anything.  If womens’ support for Democrats dropped off more than mens’ support did, that would actually tell me something.  Of course, the report does not contain that or similar comparisons.

Furthermore, while the “groups” may be “switching their allegiances” this is very mis-leading, as it suggests that all these women, young people, etc., are moving from Democratic to Republican.  Much more likely– as this is all based on “likely voters” is that those persons pre-disposed to Obama and the Democrats will be disproportionately staying home on election day.  It’s really not that complicated– I expect a little more out of the Times.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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