Electability Data Does Not Support Anti-Clinton Electability Narratives

by: Chris Bowers

Mon Aug 27, 2007 at 14:16

Comparing how Clinton, Edwards and Obama all perform against Republicans in the general election in a single public opinion survey is certainly the best, quantifiable means of determining “electability” around. However, one of the difficulties in determining which of the leading Democratic candidates is the most “electable” is that few national polling organizations ask general election trial heats for Clinton, Obama and Edwards during the same survey. So, in an attempt to filter out the noise and come closer to finding an answer to the “electability” question that will almost certainly haunt the nomination campaign during the fall, I have produced charts going back to the start of April that show the results from all of the polls that ask general election questions for how all three of Clinton, Edwards and Obama perform against Rudy Giuliani. All polls are taken from Real Clear Politics:

Democrats vs. Giuliani, Table One
Poll Date Clinton Obama Edwards
LA Times Jun 10 39-49 46-41 46-43
Zogby May 20 43-48 48-42 43-47
Hotline May 20 43-45 43-41 42-43
Newsweek May 03 49-46 50-43 50-44
Marist May 01 48-43 41-43 49-43
Hotline Apr 30 43-47 48-39 47-41
LA Times Apr 09 42-48 46-42 43-45
Mean NA 43.9--46.6 46.0--41.6 45.7--43.7

Rasmussen also conducted trial heats for the three Democratic frontrunners during this time period, but they were not all conducted at the same time. So, instead, here is the two-poll Rasmussen mean, according to polls taken from March 28-June 10:
Giuliani 46.5--46.0 Clinton
Giuliani 47.5--41.0 Obama
Edwards 48.0--43.0 Giuliani

Combined Mean:
Giuliani 46.6--44.3 Clinton
Obama 45.1--42.9 Giuliani
Edwards 46.3--43.6 Giuliani

Now, this is the data that was used through most of the campaign to show that Clinton was less electable than Obama and Edwards. However, more recent data contradicts these earlier findings:

Democrats vs. Giuliani, Table Two
Poll Date Clinton Obama Edwards
Q-poll Aug 13 46-43 42-42 43-43
Zogby Jul 14 46-41 46-42 46-43
Newsweek Jun 21 51-44 49-44 48-46
Gallup Jun 14 50-46 50-45 50-45
Mean NA 48.25--43.50 46.75--43.25 47.25--44.25

Rasmussen four poll mean, from polls taken June 11-August 26:
Giuliani 45.50--43.50 Clinton
Obama 44.25--42.75 Giuliani
Edwards 47.25--43.0 Giuliani

Combined mean:
Clinton 45.9--44.5 Giuliani
Obama 45.5--43.0 Giuliani
Edwards 47.3--43.7 Giuliani

Here are my thoughts on all of this data:
  • Clinton’s deficit in general election matchups against Rudy Giuliani, relative to Obama and Edwards, has entirely disappeared in non-Rasmussen polls. While she once clearly performed worse than Edwards and Obama in non-Rasmussen general election trial heats against Rudy Giuliani, that is no longer the case. In fact, now she performs slightly better than Edwards and Obama in non-Rasmussen polls.
  • Different polls are stronger for some candidates than they are for others. For example, the LA Times / Bloomberg poll is far worse for Clinton than it is for Obama and Edwards. The reasons for this are not entirely clear, but are probably connected to an oversampling of certain demographics that are either very favorable or very unfavorable to a given candidate. This could mean an oversampling of independents (which would hurt Clinton relative to Obama and Edwards), an oversampling of women (which would help Clinton relative to Obama and Edwards), or an oversampling of young voters (which would help Obama relative to Clinton and Edwards). There does not appear to be a broad pattern consistent across more than a handful of polls.
  • Rasmussen is all over the map. Even as most other polls are showing Clinton improving against Giuliani relative to Obama, Rasmussen shows the exact opposite. Since mid-June, Rasmussen also shows Edwards as the most electable, while the other four polls taken during the same time period show the opposite. Once again, this creates serious problems when attempting to discern broad trends across all polls.
In short, across the board I don’t think that there is any clear evidence pointing to Hillary Clinton as less electable than Barack Obama and John Edwards at this time. Since June 11th, she only performs worse in the overall mean when all of Rasmussen’s four polls taken during that time period are included. This will further complicate attempts to take away her perceived advantage within the rank and file on “electability,” and thus further strengthen her position in the nomination campaign. If another candidate is going to pass her in the campaign, this does not strike me as a promising route for any candidate to pursue.

For more discussion of this topic, see the Open Left electability archive.
Chris Bowers :: Electability Data Does Not Support Anti-Clinton Electability Narratives

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Doesn't mean much (0.00 / 0)
After all, we have an electoral system and my belief that Edwards would be the best GE candidate is based on the notion that he would do better than Hillary or Obama in the swing states in the industrial Midwest and the South. I've seen nothing yet to get me to reconsider.

Speaking of polls that might or might not mean much, has everyone seen Rasmussen's daily? It has Edwards tied (w-the-MoE) with Obama. Could be a blip, or this race could be getting be interesting,

"In the race for the Democratic Presidential Nomination, Hillary Clinton continues to lead with 40% of the vote from Likely Democratic Primary Voters. Barack Obama earns support from 21% while John Edwards attracts 17% (see recent daily numbers). New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson tops the Democrats' second tier at 5% while Dennis Kucinich is at 3%.


ugh (4.00 / 1)
I really appreciate all the work Chris had done analyzing this. That said, and after reading the thread over at Open Left electability archive
I don't know this all seems so irritatingly formulaic.
Its pragmatism distilled to absolute BS. Why not just envision a way to entice the idiot population to the polls with candies and glitter.
It must be charming and quaint to hear someone disgusted with the status quo and expecting/demanding any real change.
I've consistently found HRC fake, the pinnacle of Beltway Bullshit. Label me a misogynist if that makes the pill go down smoother. Regardless, she revealed herself to be all that I feared with that pathetic 'lobbyists are people too!' slip at Yearly Kos. Oh and wasn't it serendipitous she was endorsed by Fortune magazine.
I've consistently been drawn to Edwards because, probably foolishly, I actually believe he believes what he says. Isn't that quaint? Oh and that fact that business seems perfectly terrified of him is also incredibly magnetic.
But what do I know; I'm just one of the stupid sheep. Maybe someone credentialed can frame my narrative in a manner that fits a poll and my disgust can be marginalized into a clever sound byte.

Define "Electability" (4.00 / 1)
I had always assumed it had more to do with how well positioned each candidate is to effectively compete in the general election.  Such an analysis would have to include some factor relating to the "negatives" for each candidate because these offer the targets that their opponent will use to tear them down during the campaign.

By defining "electability" in terms of how people would vote at the current time - before the campaign has underscored the negatives and/or the candidates have had a chance to respond to them - your analysis does not take the percieved negatives into account.

In this regard, I think Clinton and Edwards offer significantly more "electability" issues than does Obama. Thus far, Obama's only "negative" is inexperience, and he has already begun to respond to those criticisms.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

Pundits are kissing her ass for the primary (0.00 / 0)
There's an interesting dynamic at play this primary cycle that may explain at least some of this data: The conservative punditocracy likes Clinton the most, because she's the most conservative, but they'll still pile on in the general, making these electability numbers potentially meaningless, because they exist only in a media landscape that will be inoperative come the general election.

Now, with that said, I do think Clinton would win the general, and I think that the GOP may just implode trying to smear her. In the general election, the public may become so tired of hearing the GOP slander HRC that they begin to see this slander as representative of the last 30 years of dishonest attacks against Democrats generally.

For me, this is the silver lining in an HRC nomination -- that  Democratic momentum will be enough that it won't matter that the attacks against HRC will work, because the 30% of the country who buys into them will only deepen the divide between the authoritarian right and the rest of the country.

Progressive Change Campaign Committee

Dems are deferential to Clinton; Repub nominee won't be (0.00 / 0)
Until we see the tack of the general election campaign against Hillary Clinton, you can't know how her negatives will be used against her.  She has so many that it could be a "death by a thousand cuts campaign."  I hope someone else is the nominee and we never get to see it but I could see a broad attack that makes her look foolish a la Dukakis in the tank for her outlandish "experience" claims.  Kerry essentially looked foolish for overplaying his Vietnam experience ("Reporting for duty.")  Romney and Giuliani both have more substantial experience than Hillary Clinton; they can talk about business experience, running NYC, the Olympics.  What can she say that she ever did that resulted in anything?  Moving Arkansas from 50 to 49 in education?  "Thank God for Mississippi!" as Ross Perot put it. 

Surely you jest. (0.00 / 0)
Romney and Giuliani both have more substantial experience than Hillary Clinton; they can talk about business experience, running NYC, the Olympics.  What can she say that she ever did that resulted in anything?

Yeah sure.  Rudy can talk about his corrupt business experience; running NYC like a tyrant and hurting so many people in the process; THE OLYMPICS?

Talk about absurd!!

NOBODY likely has a bigger file on Rudy than the Hillary team. 

As for what Hillary did that resulted in anything -- why not inform yourself before you post your silly, baseless comments?

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