Judging a Horse Race – Redux

In an earlier post I discussed a new metric that Gallup was using to judge the crowded field of Republican prospects for the 2012 campaign.  Since then a few of the names have announced exploratory committees but most are still playing it coy with their real intentions, appearing as often as possible to say that they are still thinking about it.

Gallup apparently is taking their new Positive Intensity Score metric quite seriously, continuing to produce weekly updates of their poll in two-week overlapping samples.  So some trends are starting to emerge.

As with all polls that are intended to show changes over time an important caveat must be stated.  Always be aware that if the trend is less than the margin of error of the poll the apparent trend may well simply be the margin of error being manifested. More than a few commentators make that mistake and boldly say how a candidate is up one percent one week and down one percent the next using polls with a two percent margin of error!

The latest batch of data includes two new names that have recently announced exploratory committees: Restaurant executive and radio talk show host Herman Cain and former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer.  The two new entrants make an interesting comparison as they have very similar levels of name recognition but vastly different Positive Intensity Score.

Looking first at name recognition there is very little movement, indicating that at this point very few of the Republicans and Republican-Leaning independents are learning more of the names in the race.

What little movement occurs in the numbers is likely the result of variation within the margin of error, particularly in the case of Ron Paul losing name recognition.

When it comes to the Positive Intensity Score (the percentage of all people wh0 felt strongly favorable about the potential candidate minus the percentage that felt strongly unfavorable) there was slightly more movement but few dramatic shifts.

Romney, Gingrich, and Daniels see an uptick in their Positive Intensity Score while most of the other top names stayed pretty flat.  Of the two new entrants Roemer generates the lowest level of Positive Intensity Score while Cain is even with Pawlenty, a name that has been spoken of as a likely candidate for some time.

As I said in the prior article, the interesting thing about the positive intensity score metric is that there are multiple ways of having a high value.  To illustrate this I have taken the most recent data and put it in a stacked bar chart.  The total height of the bar is the percentage of name recognition.  The green portion are those who rated the person ‘Strongly Favorable’ and the blue portion ‘Strongly Unfavorable’.  The red portion are those who recognized the name but did not feel strongly favorable or unfavorable.  It is the green portion minus the blue portion that is the positive intensity score.

Sarah Palin is the only candidate whose score is held back by a substantial number of Strongly Unfavorable responses.  Her eight percent strongly negative is twice the next highest, Michelle Bachman at four percent.  The two new additions are particularly interesting Herman Cain’s recognition is almost entirely strongly positive while those who have heard  of Buddy Roemer tend to be lukewarm.  Roemer will need to do something to not simple become more well known but to generate enthusiasm.  Cain’s showing may be the result of being mostly recognized by listeners of the radio stations he is heard on and a few recent high profile conservative gatherings.  He may face trouble in maintaining the high Positive Intensity Score as he tries to make himself known beyond that but he is starting from a good position.

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