Another Interesting Poll

At the risk of proving that I was the only one who didn’t already know this, I just read today about a poll that is a bit different than any I’ve known of before. Some 2,000 people are being tracked on a continuing basis to determine their reaction to the primary candidates and their campaigning.

One thing that is determined is party preference, so changing party preference is tracked at intervals, along with changing candidate preference. This sort of thing is new to my experience, and may well be the result having such widely contested primaries in both major parties.

Dig beneath the surface of the raucous Republican presidential race and you will find even deeper turmoil: Four in 10 GOP voters have switched candidates in the past month alone, and nearly two-thirds say they may change their minds again. […]

Half of all voters — including four in 10 Republicans — know too little about Huckabee to even say whether they have a favorable impression of him, let alone whether he is conservative, liberal or moderate. That could be ominous, because it gives his rivals the opportunity to define him. Witness Mitt Romney’s criticism of the former Arkansas governor on immigration and Fred Thompson’s contention that he raised taxes “like a Democrat.”

The Democratic side is less chaotic, with Hillary Rodham Clinton maintaining a clear lead nationally over Barack Obama, though voters are still doing plenty of shifting. About one in five backs a different contender than in November, and nearly half say they still may settle on someone else, according to the poll conducted by Knowledge Networks.

This ground-level view of the 2008 race is made possible by an AP-Yahoo News survey that will periodically question the same 2,000 people until Election Day, repeatedly seeking their views about politics, the country and their own lives. That will produce a picture of how the campaign is playing out from the perspective of voters… […]

Highlighting how restless Republicans are, a fifth who said last month they wouldn’t change candidates did so anyway — along with half who said they might change. Only a third of Democrats who said they might change moved to a different contender.

People’s drifting sentiments even pushed them across party lines, with 14 percent changing their loyalty as Democrats, Republicans or independents in roughly equal proportions. […]

No one in the GOP had a rougher ride in the past month than Thompson, the former Tennessee senator who joined the race in September and has slowly fizzled ever since. This month’s poll showed he retained just over half of those who supported him in November, compared with six in 10 by Giuliani, Romney and John McCain and three in four by Huckabee.

While each candidate also picked up fresh supporters, Giuliani and Thompson saw their overall strength droop, with Giuliani losing the most. Huckabee’s support rose, while McCain and Romney stayed about the same. […]

The survey of 1,821 adults was conducted from Dec. 14-20, and had an overall margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points. Included were interviews with 847 Democrats, for whom the margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3.4 points, and 655 Republicans, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.8 points.

Presumably these poll numbers speak for themselves, making me wish that I could be smart enough to understand what they’re saying. It does leave me fascinated, though. I just hope that the respondents were selected well enough that the little bit I think I understand of this is actually valid.

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