Tuesday, December 2, 2008

How malleable was the electorate?

A new AP study out last week suggested that 'few Obama, McCain backers were unwavering.'

It claimed, among other things, that:

- Just six in 10 of both Obama’s and McCain’s voters backed their contender in those surveys without exception since September.

That finding just doesn't square with PPP's research at all. In our September battleground polling we asked respondents whether there was any chance they might change their mind about who to support between the time they were polled and the election. The percentage of voters open to changing their minds ranged from a high of 11% in North Carolina to a low of 7% in Virginia. Folks in the other states fell somewhere in between. But the bottom line is that very few people were not firmly committed to their candidate of choice.

Why the disparity between our polling and the AP polling? They were interviewing the same panel over and over again, and my intuition is that folks might respond differently in a situation like that than they would if they just got called for a one shot poll. There may be a social desirability factor not to look intractable by just saying you support the same candidate over and over and over and that there's no chance you could change your mind.

Nonetheless I think our polling probably gives a more accurate picture. I think for the vast majority of the electorate their minds were made up early and their minds were made up firmly. Obama and McCain were fighting over a 10% persuadable swath of the electorate and vying to do the better job of getting their voters out to the polls. Contrary to the conclusion of this report, I think most voters were unwavering.

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