Monday, September 24, 2007

Dole vs. Martin: A closer look

A peek inside the numbers tells us about Elizabeth Dole’s potential weaknesses, where Grier Martin could make gains and why this race may be closer than it appears.

According to our last survey, Dole topped Martin 45% to 30%. At first glance it may look like a strong 15 point lead. But let’s take a deeper look. Martin received support from only 45% of Democrats, while 32% were undecided. Among African-American voters Martin only garnered 37%, while 38% were undecided. Essentially, Martin’s percentage was much lower because he doesn’t have statewide name recognition. If all the Democrats- especially African-Americans- who usually vote Democratic do support Martin (which is likely) this automatically becomes closer to a 45%-40% race, not 45%-30%.

This is where the informed vote question is helpful. If Martin were to run an effective campaign that was able to communicate simply his biography to the voters it could have a big effect. Take a look these crosstabs of the Dole vs. Martin question with and without the biography.

Martin’s biography shores up support from Democrats (including the support of 67% of African-Americans). It also completely flips the unaffiliated support, while Republican attitudes remain largely unchanged. The biography also makes big gains by gender. Support for Martin goes up 15 points among men with the biography and up 20 points among women. With the biography Martin leads Dole by 11 percent among women.

Dole doesn’t need to worry about Republican support. Even the rosiest portrait of Grier Martin doesn’t persuade them. Additionally, 70% of Republicans still approve of the President’s handling of the War in Iraq. That’s a tough nut to crack for any Democrat. However, the unaffiliated support and support from women that should be an advantage for a female candidate with a moderate image, like Dole, is surprisingly soft and susceptible to a Democrat with a biography like Grier Martin. Dole would be smart to worry less about her Republican base and work hard to project a moderate image.

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