It seems the experts have the same kind of frustration as I did regarding the way Strickland’s lead in the latest Quinnipiac was framed in the media.
Their focus happens to be on the importance of the incumbent’s number. Seeing as Kasich’s name ID among registered voters was as low as it was, this makes quite a bit of sense.
From Robert Moran of Pollster.com:
While the Quinnipiac poll may show Strickland ahead of Kasich 44%-39%, that is in NO WAY the headline. The headline is actually that (a) Strickland is way below 50% and (b) incumbents under 50% in a two way race have a very poor track record in November. Why? Because voters already have had time to get to know the incumbent. The incumbent has had their term to close the sale with a majority of voters. If he/she can’t close the deal now with voters, then it is very unlikely that they will when the contrast ads get started.
Further, the November, 2009 data showing the two “deadlocked” is in no way a deadlock. An incumbent at 40% is a clear signal to his political team that they need to start requesting cash up front and immediate payment terms. Years ago we used to refer to these clients as “wire jobs”, because we knew they were going to lose and therefore were very keen for them to wire payment before their loss and the inevitable vendor scramble for payment.
In other words, and as I said earlier this week, the Quinnipiac Poll is good news for John Kasich.
Barring some massive exogenous event, the next Governor of Ohio will be John Kasich. Strickland is a Governor in a swing, center-right state polling WAY under 50% with an economy that will not come back before November.
Sounds familiar, eh?
Returning to the general problem for a moment, this misreporting is a constant source of frustration for those in political polling. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one that didn’t at least roll their eyes this morning upon reading it. Unfortunately, this is a symptom of a constant problem in reporting polling data relative to an incumbent. In a two way race, political professionals don’t even bother to look at the spread between the incumbent and the challenger, they only focus on the incumbent’s support relative to 50%. Incumbents tend to get trace elements of the undecideds at the end of a campaign. Sure, there is the occasional exception, but this rule is fairly ironclad in my experience.
Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com, a well-respected and left-leaning political statistics blog, did extensive research into the “under 50%” rule.
He looked at 63 elections for Senate and Governor since 2006 in which there were polls conducted between January and June and where the two major party candidates ultimately won at least 90% of the combined vote.
He discovered that when the incumbent’s percentage fell under 45%, the probability of winning re-election was highly unlikely with only 5 of 15 incumbents ultimately winning.
So, what is Strickland’s current average percentage? 40.5%. That’s well below the 45% threshold of Silver’s analysis highlighting incumbents winning only 1/3 of their races.
I say it again.
The Quinnipiac Poll was good news for John Kasich.