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Poll analysis, pt. 1

Recently, I posted about an interesting NPR poll which seemed extremely promising for Democratic candidates in the closest House races that will determine which party will gain control of that deliberative body in 2007. Now Eric Zaetsch over at Dump Bachmann has pointed out the raw data used in that study.

One section of this data was especially interesting to me, and I had a few thoughts about the significance it may have in the Sixth District race. I've produced a very professional-looking chart in Microsoft Paint, which I shall endeavor to explain below.

pollchart8506.GIF

[open image in new window]

This question is very interesting because it gives data on those issues that are supposed to be the "hot-button issues" of the upcoming election. Basically, it shows how voters react to the Democratic vs. the Republican position on each issue, and how likely they are to vote for the Congressional candidate based on their views on that issue. Though this is a composite poll combining data from the 50 most competitive races, I believe the results will generally reflect the situation on the ground in CD6. It is a typical suburban/exurban battleground district in many respects, and, while of course there will be some dynamics that are atypical, the differences should be slight. If you disagree, please let me know, as I am by no means an expert.

Here are my thoughts, issue by issue.

Illegal Immigration: The poll results, as I have highlighted above, show an extremely even distribution of opinion on this issue. Unlike other issues examined in this poll, there appear to be more voters that have not entirely made up their minds on this issue-- 11% completely undecided, and 34% (17+17) leaning "somewhat" towards either party (but apparently still convinceable.) There is also a small segment - 6 percent - that feel that "neither" party is qualified to lead on immigration. This is a small number, but at least twice as large a percentage answered "neither" on the immigration question than on any other question in this survey. Perhaps this signifies a "third way" that could be exploited by a sensible candidate?

I expect Bachmann will be the aggressor on this issue, and perhaps she may gain the upper hand as the election goes on. Anti-immigrant sentiment has been strong throughout U.S. history, and this year is no exception. But overall, as the data shows, there will likely be a relatively even split of voters on this issue.

The war in Iraq: Undoubtedly, this will be one of the most important issues of the campaign. The candidates have already clearly defined themselves on the Iraq war, with Patty Wetterling calling for quick withdrawal and Michele Bachmann stubbornly insisting on "staying the course." I also believe that, with the strong beliefs this topic generates, it will be one of the issues most influencing voters' decisions this fall.

The generic Democrat in this poll seems to have a slight advantage (+5%) when looking at the "Dems-Reps" column. The advantage is much stronger when looking at the columns circled in red, those that are "strong" in their views-- Democrats enjoy a 10-point advantage in this group, showing pretty clearly that a majority of those who have come to a strong decision on the Iraq war will vote for Patty Wetterling, who has taken a much clearer stance on the war than many Democrats. There is a decided shortage of undecideds and "leaners" for this question, showing that Michele Bachmann will have a smaller base of possible undecideds to court as she tries to wrest control of this issue from Wetterling. But because Michele Bachmann will be forced to defend an unpopular war, and because Patty Wetterling has defined her stance extremely clearly, I believe that the advantage on Iraq lies in the Wetterling camp.

Economy/jobs: I expect this to play a role in the race, though not more or less than a typical race for Congress in Minnesota. Bachmann will stick to her guns of lowering taxes and being "pro-business," while Wetterling will argue for the traditional DFL policies of a fairer tax policy and support for working families. The minimum wage will be an issue here, especially with Bachmann's extreme statements against it. The poll data shows a slight advantage for Democrats on this issue, especially when comparing "strong" supporters, though there is a sizeable body of voters just waiting to be convinced. I think that this group will generally be more receptive to Wetterling's overtures rather than Bachmann's extremist rhetoric and record on this issue. She will not be helped by rising gas prices and an economy that, while growing, has not produced gains for the majority of working families or created as many quality jobs as hoped; fairly or not, these failures will be blamed on the Bush administration and the GOP-controlled Congress.

Guantanamo/Bush Administration spying & abuse of power:
This appears to be another issue where voters are split down the middle. Dems enjoy an advantage that could be more of a statistical blip than anything else. I don't forsee either of these topics becoming a huge issue, though they could play into the debate on Iraq and the broader "Global War on Terror." Wetterling could score points by tying Bachmann to the Bush administration's willingness to violate civil liberties, especially in light of her fundraisers with Rove and Cheney. But, since Bachmann has not served in Washington and thus will not be viewed as a Bush/GOP toady in quite the way that Norm Coleman or Mark Kennedy might be, she may escape relatively unscathed.

Stem cell research: As the poll shows, stem cells are a HUGE winner for the Democrats and for Wetterling. Look at the difference in the two numbers circled in red, those with strong feelings on the issue: Democrats enjoy a 17-point advantage on the issue. Being an issue with a complex blend of science, ethics, and faith, there are understandably a large amount of undecided/"leaners" on this issue. I would guess that they would break heavily for Wetterling, especially in light of Bachmann's extensive ties to the religious right.

"Moral issues": Michele Bachmann has based nearly her entire political career on a crusade for the "moral values" espoused by the extreme Christian right. This poll decisively shows that voters in swing districts have severe doubts about the direction that Bachmann and others of her ilk want to take this country. The 10-point differential between "strong Democrats" and "strong Republicans" on these issues contradicts the conventional wisdom that "moral values" are a winner for the GOP. This divide, as well as the others circled in red, are the more exceptional in light of data on party breakdown and ideological self-description found elsewhere in the survey:

Q.31 Generally speaking, do you think of yourself as a Democrat, a Republican or what?

Strong Democrat ................................................................. 27
Weak Democrat................................................................... 10
Independent-lean Democrat................................................ 12
Independent ......................................................................... 6
Independent-lean Republican .............................................. 9
Weak Republican ................................................................ 12
Strong Republican............................................................... 24
(Don't know/Refused)........................................................... 1


Q.34 Thinking in political terms, would you say that you are Conservative, Moderate, or Liberal?

Liberal.................................................................................. 20
Moderate ............................................................................. 40
Conservative ....................................................................... 36
(Don't know/refused) ............................................................ 3

The self-described "conservatives" in the survey outnumber "liberals" by nearly a 2-to-1 margin. Yet, the "liberal" Democrats enjoy a wide margin of support on these moral issues and especially on stem cells. The party ID chart shows a similar pattern-- those identified as some type of Democrat or Dem-"leaner" outnumber their GOP counterparts by 4 points. This says to me that moderate voters are abandoning the Republican Party over the so-called "values" issues that have been increasingly hijacking their party over the past couple of decades.

In light of Bachmann's strong views and extremist, divisive record on issues like gay marriage and abortion, voters will probably be even more likely in the Sixth than in a "typical" swing district to favor the common-sense, consensus-based policy views of Patty Wetterling.

Well, that's my summary. Please post any thoughts you have in the comments.

Comments

I think your analysis is sound. A few guesses:

Of the items you highlight the economy might dip, hurting the GOP.

Since they've been claiming all along everything's sound, they should not get any boost if things stay the course or improve - energy costs, the FED on inflation and borrwoing rates, what else? With employment as it is now increased employment is unlikely.

A drop in pump price might have an effect or be seen as a ruse if too near election day.

Where the situation can be manipulated most is Iraq.

My worry is a bad decision to go beyond threat and pressure on Iran; to some incursion - with the stay the course, don't change horses, stop the terrorist rhetoric attached.

Between now and November a Tet Offensive type of change by Iraqi civil war factions harmful to the GOP seems unlikely. It could build, but a change on that scale would surprise me.