Sunday, July 3, 2011

Michele Bachmann Surges in the Polls

Over half a month has past since Michele Bachmann entered the race at the June 13th primary debate. That's enough time for a lot of polls to be taken that reflect Bachmann's entry. Most of the polls are national primary polls, but there have been some state primary polls taken, as well. Bachmann has surged in the polls since the debate. It's worth taking a closer look to determine how well she's doing, and whether the polls accurately reflect her position in the race. First we'll look at national primary polls:

National Primary Polls
06/14 Rasmussen -- Romney 33, Bachmann 19, Cain 10, Gingrich 9
06/21 Zogby -- Bachmann 24, Cain 15, Romney 15, Paul 13
06/23 Marist -- Romney 19, Giuliani 13, Perry 13, Palin 11
06/28 Fox News -- Romney 18, Perry 13, Bachmann 11, Giuliani 10

Next, the most recent polls of early primaries:

06/22 Des Moines Register -- Romney 23, Bachmann 22, Cain 10, Gingrich 7

New Hampshire
06/25 Suffolk/7News -- Romney 36, Bachmann 11, Paul 8, Giuliani 5
06/15 Magellan (R) -- Romney 42, Bachmann 10, Paul 10, Palin 7

Finally, random primary polls from later state contests. For some reason, Public Policy Polling (PPP) has been a busy bee:

06/19 PPP (D) -- Romney 27, Bachmann 17, Palin 17, Cain 10

New Mexico
06/26 PPP (D) -- Bachmann 22, Romney 22, Palin 14, Cain 10

06/21 PPP (D) -- Romney 28, Bachmann 18, Palin 16, Paul 9

So what do all of these polls tell us? First, that Mitt Romney is leading in the early polls. Second, that PPP and Zogby polls seem to love Bachmann. Looking at the state polls, you would think Bachmann is in second place. But the national primary polls have a lot of variance, with potential candidates like Rick Perry and Rudy Giuliani mixing things up.

Earlier this year, we saw how problematic early national primary polls are. The same could be said for state polls of later contests, such as the ones PPP is aggressively polling. People simply aren't paying much attention to the race yet, and by the time they do, their opinions will be shaped by the results of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. That's why it's best to concentrate on polling data in those early states.

Of course, the 2012 primary is only in Phase Two, when even the voters of early primary states have not begun paying attention. Polls are heavily influenced by name recognition and can be warped by the decision of the pollster on which candidates to include. Note, for instance, that some of the polls include Sarah Palin and some do not. Some include Perry or Giuliani, while others don't. And none include Chris Christie. As a demonstration of the strange results, consider the Zogby and Marist national primary polls: Zogby has Bachmann in first place, while Marist doesn't even have her in the top four.

What we can tell is that Bachmann is in a stronger starting position than other well-known candidates, like Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, and probably Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani. Romney is doing better, but depending upon the poll, isn't doing better by much.

Perhaps the most reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from all of these polls is that the race is wide open. Romney does not have a prohibitive lead, even against someone with Bachmann's weaknesses. And the polls including people like Perry, Palin, and Giuliani show that people aren't clear on who is running yet. All of this reinforces the idea that there is a vacuum in the field. One candidate has not arrived yet who can unite the Republican Party.