Thursday, July 24, 2003

Dean strong in Pima County, less so state-wide poll shows... BUT?

The latest Tucson Citizen polling figures show that Dean is strong in Pima County, but is trailing in the state overall. The poll has a very large margin of error of 7%, however. Given that the polling distance between any of the two candidates in the poll nearly equal to the 14 percentage point confidence spread, the poll has essentially no predictive value and is potentially very misleading; according to this poll Al Sharpton could be giving Lieberman flat-tires and wedgie, so close behind is he. The sample size used by the BRC is simply too small to be useful for as diverse a state as Arizona. In addition, the poll was carried out over 4 days, further degrading the confidence level of the poll. This early in the race, the respondents are likely to be strongly influenced by very nearly a whole week of news-cycles transpiring during the poll, any of which could change their minds about the candidates this early in the race. Likewise, polling figures in the mid-to-high teens in the head to head comparisons indicate that these figures are extremely soft - over 60% of those polled simply haven't any idea of their preference, even given a one-on-one choice, rather than a bewildering field of nine.

Polling can be a useful indicator of candidate support when the sample size is large enough and the polling is done close enough to the election that voters have enough information to have largely settled on the candidate they will actually vote for. But a better metric of the early strength of a candidate and the ultimate fate of his campaign are metrics which show solid support for a candidate: the number of volunteers working for a campaign, the number of supporters and interested voters a candidate's appearances are drawing, how many likely voters have committed to vote for a candidate by formal endorsement or, even stronger, by donating money or in-kind services or goods to his campaign, and the direction of a candidates polling results over time- is he moving ahead or dropping back relative to other candidates? By any of these measures, Dean is far ahead of the other candidates in Arizona and pulling away like a drag-racer.

In fairly small Cochise County alone there are over 300 active volunteers for Dean last time I heard - there are likely more by now. The Meetups for Dean in Arizona are exceeding the turnout of those for other candidates by factors of ten or more. Dean's list of supporters and volunteers in Pima County alone already far exceeds one thousand and is growing daily. A rally in Tucson earlier in July far exceeded planners' expectations of 500 attendees when around 2200 people came to see the candidate, packing the venue completely. Every poll in every early primary state has shown Dean accelerating through the pack. He now leads the polls in the country's most populous state, California. In the terms that really count this early in the race, activist participation, voter interest, campaign momentum, and actual numbers of known endorsements and volunteers Dean is not only blowing the doors off every other candidate within Pima County, he is set to take the whole state by storm come February.

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