October 20, 2004

You are on the invidual archive page of John Zogby on the US Election. Click Simon World weblog for the main page.
John Zogby on the US Election

Last night John Zogby of the eponymous polling firm gave a talk in Hong Kong on the state of the current election. His speech covered a wide number of topics and thoughts on the election. Zogby himself is a Democrat but takes pains to eliminate bias from his surveys. He also had a few words about his polling rivals, especially Gallup.

Topics covered:

  • The 4 million Christian Conservatives.
  • "The Armageddon Election"
  • Differences between red and blue states and the key predictor of voting intention (it's not what you think)
  • The missing centre of American politics
  • Mistakes in the Kerry and Bush campaigns
  • The Nader impact
  • The impact of blogs and the internet on elections and politics.

    Plus plenty more. All below the fold...

    Linked to Show trial, OTB

    Update: Welcome to the many new readers to this site. Please have a look around at the rest of the blog, which concerntrates mostly on Asian and especially China related news and views. I also have a twice weekly Asian blogging roundup, the most recent edition of which can be found here and previous editions here.

    NOTE: these are the views of John Zogby, with my occasional $0.02 thrown in. For the most part they are in the order he spoke, with some cutting and pasting where similar topics were discussed.

    * The undecided vote is down to about 6% of voters. If the undecideds vote, they'll vote for Kerry. But the question is if they vote. This number has been unchanged since March 2004. In past elections in March the number of undecideds is around 20-25%.
    * He is actively tracking the undecideds in focus groups in key states such as Florida. He takes care to maintain the same proportion of political affiliations in these groups to keep consistency.
    * Both candidates get 47% each just for showing up. The election is bigger than the two personalities involved. The 5 or 6% of undecideds are a very fluid group.
    * Those that move from (say) the Kerry camp to undecided do NOT move to Bush. Zogby was very clear that once they move out of a camp, a voter then tosses up between not voting or voting for "their" candidate. Very few are prepared to jump across the gap to the other candidate.
    * Bush cannot do anything to persuade these undecideds. All he can do is keep challenging Kerry and raising enough questions about him that it keeps the undecideds at home. He's done a good job of this. He's made it hard for people to support Kerry because the US cannot pull out of Iraq so there's little Kerry can do; it's unlikely multilateral support will stream in for Iraq regardless; and there's little Kerry can do to fund his education and health plans given the big deficits, even with his tax hike on the wealthy.
    * A key question on the minds of undecideds is "Can Kerry deliver his promises?"

    * He cannot understand why the Democrats have pulled out of Arizona, Colorado and Missouri, among others. His polling is showing those states as close enough to at least force the Republicans onto the back foot. He also thinks the Democrats lost momentum in the South after appointing John Edwards, especially in potentially winnable Virginia and North Carolina.
    * The Presidential debates shored up Kerry's base, dragging back some Democrat voters whom may not otherwise have voted at all. That was the only impact of the debates.

    The Christian Conservative Myth
    * The 4 million Christian Conservatives (CCs) that Karl Rove obsesses about are a myth. He has done extensive polling and found no evidence that there were large numbers of CCs who chose to stay at home in 2000. As Zogby put it, why would these people choose not to vote knowing that could land Al Gore in the White House? His polling shows these are highly motivated voters.

    Red vs. Blue
    * This election is a repeat of 2000 in many ways, and Florida and Ohio are the key states this time.
    * The "Armageddon Election": the US has 2 equal sized warring factions divided ideologically, demographically and culturally. Cicero at Winds of Change has an interesting post on the same lines.
    * Poll done back in December 2003:
    - Percentage whom worship at least once a week: Red 54%, Blue 32%
    - Percentage orientated to God: Red 75%, Blue 51%
    - Red define God in moral absolutes; Blue in moral relativity
    - Percentage owning guns: Red 58%, Blue 38%
    * The key difference: married vs. singles whom have never married. On every poll this is the key predictor of voting intention, even when broken down by sex and age.

    The Missing Centre
    * In the past the candidates tend to move to the centre in the last few weeks of the campaign and sound similar as they fight over the middle ground. This time each candidate is talking to their bases as if the centre doesn't exist - because it doesn't.
    * Why is the centre missing? Bush won in 2000 with 48% of the popular vote but rather than reaching for the centre, he started out from the right (Zogby though this was a squandered opportunity). The 4 million Christian Conservative "myth" of Karl Rove meant Bush wanted to pander to them to shore his support up and push his numbers up over 50% and hold them there for 4 years, rather than reach across to conservative Al Gore voters. This explains why Bush quickly rescinded Clinton's environmental orders and decision on Government money for family planning groups that support abortion - he was chasing the CCs. On September 1, 2001 Bush was at 49%.
    * The "rubber ball" analogy: Bush had three poll bounces since 2001, but each one has been shallower and shorter than the next.
    * Post 9/11 he went to 85% and Bush started by responding. Zogby notes the Sept 20th speech to Congress and the incident when Bush was talking to a group of iron workers, police and firefighters at Ground Zero (when some called out "We can't hear you", Bush responded "I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear from of all us soon," as two key attempts to connect with the entire population.
    * However with 10 days of 9/11 Zogby did a poll, asking do you support the War on Terror (WoT)? 91% said yes. When asked would the support the WoT if it lasted one year, it went down to 77%; for 2 years, down to 67% and more than 2 years 55%. Zogby took this to mean the US still suffered from a post-Vietnam syndrome of wanting wars won quickly and troops out of harms way as quickly as possible.
    * Fast forward to March 2003, just prior to the bombing of Baghdad. Bush's approval is at 53%. Post bombing bounces to 67% but the bounce didn't last long: by mid-May he was back to 50% and it didn't budge. Over the (northern) Summer of 2003 the opposition to the war on Iraq turned angry, and that is the first time that talk of the "stolen" 2000 election emerged.
    * The final bounce. In December 2003, when Sadaam was captured, Bush went to 56% but within 2 weeks was back to 50% again.

    The Democrats
    * Before the primaries started 66 - 73% of registered Democrats in key states thought they couldn't beat Bush. When asked, they stated in 2:1 ratio they wanted someone they believed in rather than someone who could beat Bush. This explains the rise of Howard Dean. By December Dean was up 7% in Iowa, 36% in New Hampshire and a couple of points in South Carolina. Dean's problem was the primaries happened too late. Zogby cannot explain why but he didn't poll between Christmas and New Year. When polling restarted in January 2004 suddenly things shifted. The new polls had 85% of Democrats thought a Democrat could beat Bush and now in 3:1 ratio they wanted someone who could win.
    * John Kerry was the last man standing in Iowa, despite until then running a woeful (my notes say shit, but I don't think Zogby used that word) campaign. There had been too much "nuance" and explanations that would fit trains, not bumper stickers. Zogby said "Presidential candidates need bumper stickers, not trains." Suddenly in January 2004 his message was simplified to three points: I can win, I'm a veteran and I'm experienced. He gained a point a day while Gephardt and Dean lost a point a day each and so once Kerry won Iowa the momentum was unstoppable. On Jan 10th Kerry was at 10% in Iowa; once his numbers crossed Dean's then Kerry's numbers took off and didn't look back.
    * A key quote from a Kerry staffer: "John always knows when his homework is due." The Presidential debate was another example of this, getting the message right at the right time (although hopefully not too late).

    Key States
    * Penn., Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin and Florida. Each one is very close. His latest numbers are showing 46 Kerry 45 Bush but no clues on the undecideds still.
    * The potential surprise states are Bush in Iowa and Wisconsin and Kerry in Virginia, New Hampshire and Colorado.

    * It is unusual but at this stage of the race Kerry has more money than Bush to spend.
    * Kerry's fundraising efforts were greatly assisted by a motivated base and by good use of the internet, learning from Howard Dean.

    The Running
    * The race is Kerry's to lose, barring unforeseen events. If he loses, it is only his fault.
    * Why? Because Bush's numbers have not gone above 48%. Three other key polling indicators are all terrible for Bush amongst undecideds:
    - Presidential job performance: 35% positive versus 60% negative
    - Is the country headed in the right direction? net negative
    - Does the President deserve re-election? 15% yes versus 40% no.
    These numbers have always been net negative for Bush amongst undecideds. The last 3 Presidents with those numbers were Carter, Ford and Bush snr. None won.
    * Another reason: undecideds tend to break for the challenger. Zogby sees them going like in Reagan in 1980, so that the margin is 2% but it is the same in each key state and it is in favour of Kerry, thus the Electoral Vote ends in a decisive victory.
    * A higher turnout favours Kerry. 2000 election had 105 million voters. Anything over 107 million this time and Kerry will win.
    * The youth vote: always heavily Democrat, this time the youth vote are unusually motivated and may turn out in bigger numbers than expected, tipping the race to Kerry.
    * If the focus of the final two weeks is the War on Terror ---> Bush wins
    If the focus of the final two weeks is Iraq and/or domestic issues ---> Kerry wins.
    * If the result is like in 2000 there will be masses and months of litigation. Neither side will back down and it will be complete chaos, far worse than 2000.

    * Nader is a spent force and irrelevant to the campaign. He does not take votes from Kerry.
    * Voters for Nader would otherwise have not voted at all, so no loss to either side.

    The mobile phone question
    * What is the impact of the increased use of mobile phones on the accuracy of polling?
    * 6% of all adults and 15% of under 30s have only mobiles, with no land line phone. Does this introduce a bias in polling?
    * Zogby has tested this and seen no reason to expect these mobile-only adults will be any different (i.e. there is no anti-liberal bias).
    * On a slightly different question, young voters are always under-represented in polling and Zogby weights to increase their representation. He is using higher weights this time compared to 2000 due to increased activism.

    Differences between polls
    * While being diplomatic, Zogby basically said Gallup's numbers are junk. They use different methodologies but Gallup's variations from poll to poll are too big to be creditable. In Zogby's polling Kerry and Bush both bounce between 44 an 48, and haven't deviated from that range.
    * Zogby maintains the same proportions of party affiliations in each poll as he doesn't think that number changes much, which cuts the variability down.
    * He was emphatic there is no bias in his or any other polling organisation he knows. To have bias would be the death of any polling firm.

    Asia in the election
    * There are three Asian issues in this election: North Korea, the Chinese currency, Taiwan. [Ed. - there's also a fourth, outsourcing, but that was overlooked despite it perhaps being the most prominent issue of the four.]
    * Of the three, only North Korea is figuring in people's minds. 37% say North Korea is the US's number 1 military threat.
    * There is an ironic difference on this issue: it is the only one where Kerry is a unilateralist whereas Bush prefers a multilateral approach.

    Internet, blogs and the election
    [Ed. - I'll note that I asked Zogby about the impact of the internet and blogs on the election, so this was a prompted answer rather than part of his speech.]
    * The impact of the internet has been huge. In 1996 about 4% of voters got most of their political information from the net. In 2000 it was 31%. For 2004 it will be in excess of 50%.
    * The second key impact has been in fundraising. Firstly Howard Dean, then John Kerry have used the internet to balance out and neutralise the fundraising power of Bush and the Republicans. Ironically Al Gore, the "father" of the net, didn't capture this avenue in 2000.
    * Blogs: Zogby saw these as important, with each having its own constituency. However they are unlikely to change minds; instead "they serve to stoke the fires of anger." In other words, blogs are preaching to the converted.
    * Zogby reads Real Clear Politics daily but I didn't get a chance to find out if he follows any others.

    Zogby: "Polling is 80% science and 20% art."

    And finally:

    Zogby: "The race is Kerry's to lose" (although others see it the other way around).

    My thoughts: Zogby has an obvious personal bias to Democrats but I take him at face value when he says his research is impartial. His speculation that the race is Kerry's to lose didn't convince me, but nor do I buy that it is Bush's to lose either. I think the struggle for both candidates now is to go and win the race. Otherwise his thoughts on the missing centre certainly make sense and gel with my impressions of American politics (admittedly from afar). The small amount of undecideds are the key battleground, but I'm not sure they will break for Kerry in the numbers Zogby expects, especially given the reluctance of many to change Presidents during times of war. What is clear is unless the margin is reasonable, which is unlikely, there's going to be one hell of a mess.

    posted by Simon on 10.20.04 at 03:07 PM in the

  • Trackbacks:

    TrackBack URL for this entry:

    Send a manual trackback ping to this post.

    Simon polls Zogby
    Excerpt: Our man in HK, Simon, attended a talk by pollster John Zogby - and his after action report is filled with some interesting material, and some good observations - even if he does spell 'center' in that odd, psuedo-Brit sort...
    Weblog: Silent Running
    Tracked: October 20, 2004 07:12 PM

    John Zogby on Polling
    Excerpt: Blogger Simon of Simon World attended a lecture given by pollster John Zogby recently in Hong Kong. Topics covered - - The 4 million Christian Conservatives. - “The Armageddon Election” - Differences between red and blue states and the key...
    Weblog: The Command Post - 2004 US Presidential Election
    Tracked: October 20, 2004 07:27 PM

    Now Set to Music
    Excerpt: No my leftie trolls, this is not a "big deal," but can't you just lighten up and laugh at something every once in a while? It's even funnier when you visualize Dick Cheney in his place. For readers that demand...
    Weblog: INDC Journal
    Tracked: October 20, 2004 08:23 PM

    Zogby on the election
    Excerpt: Simon has a good write-up on Zogby's comments on the elections. The interesting part was about the myth of the Christian conservative vote, I think Karl Rove and George Bush got it wrong here. Pan...
    Weblog: Rajan Rishyakaran
    Tracked: October 20, 2004 10:16 PM

    John Zogby on Polling
    Excerpt: In a further example of things in my life happening in "themes," I've found this post from Simon World summarizing a speech John Zogby gave on polling in the current election. John Zogby is someone I hadn't heard of until Dr. Tomlinson mentioned him in...
    Weblog: www.STCrowley.com
    Tracked: October 21, 2004 12:54 AM

    'Round The Web
    Excerpt: Around the web this morning - first, a new entry on my left margin, Donkey Rising, which is the blog to read if you want to figure out what the polls really say, underneath the horserace. Then, some fun: via...
    Weblog: Mere Sketches
    Tracked: October 21, 2004 01:05 AM

    What rough beast?
    Excerpt: "Poll: Bush Doubles Support Among Blacks" (AP) resident Bush has doubled his support among blacks in four years and S...
    Weblog: protein wisdom
    Tracked: October 21, 2004 01:08 AM

    Zogby speaks on the 'Armageddon' election in Hong Kong
    Excerpt: Simon was there and reports: Blogs: Zogby saw these as important, with each having its own constituency. However they are unlikely to change minds; instead "they serve to stoke the fires of anger." In other words, blogs are preaching to...
    Weblog: The Jawa Report
    Tracked: October 21, 2004 01:15 AM

    Is there any chance that AZ can go Blue this Presidential Elections?
    Excerpt: I know AZ is just about as Red a state as it can get. However, since my visit to Arizona during the third Presidential debate and upon insistence of one of my dearest of friends in AZ, I decided to dig a little deeper and see if there really was any c...
    Weblog: Segmentation Fault: Core dumped..;-)
    Tracked: October 21, 2004 02:28 AM

    The 10 Spot - Around The World Edition
    Excerpt: Ten things you might not have seen on the Internets... Simon of Simon World has a very interesting recap of pollster John Zogby's lecture to a Hong Kong audience. A view of the Red Sox - Yankees series from Iraq....
    Weblog: Wizbang
    Tracked: October 21, 2004 03:59 AM

    Propaganda Can Be Counterproductive.
    Excerpt: And so can be idiocy. I wonder how many Democrats feel this way: I'm one U.S. voter who's never voted Republican for president, but now I'm torn between voting actively against the disgusting "industrial strength" wackos like Ted or leaving...
    Weblog: Silent Running
    Tracked: October 21, 2004 04:30 AM

    Simon World blogs Zogby's Hong Kong talk
    Excerpt: John Zogby thinks the race is still Kerry's to lose. Simon disagrees but finds many of Zogby's insights compelling. Here are a few that struck me: Red vs. Blue This election is a repeat of 2000 in many ways,...
    Weblog: Edgewise
    Tracked: October 21, 2004 05:17 AM

    West eats meat
    Excerpt: Simon had a long talk to U.S. pollster John Zogby last night and has an interesting record of conversation available....
    Weblog: The Road to Surfdom
    Tracked: October 21, 2004 12:02 PM

    JFK vs GWB: it's close as hell
    Excerpt: "If you know what time the Washington Post puts up its tracking poll each day", says Tim Grieve, "you need to admit that you have a problem." If you too are an addict who must know how to read the...
    Weblog: Back Pages
    Tracked: October 21, 2004 02:13 PM

    Simon's E. Asia Briefing: 2004-10-27
    Excerpt: The following is a digest of highlights from the past month's Asia by Blog series over at simonworld.mu.nu. The round-up has four key areas of focus: China, Taiwan & Hong Kong (Politics, Economy & lifestyle, History sport & culture, Information), Korea...
    Weblog: Winds of Change.NET
    Tracked: October 27, 2004 10:07 AM

    Infidel's Choice (Part 1)
    Excerpt: The election is not just a horse race, but a snapshot of American political culture. Stratfor's George Friedman, in "The U.S. Presidential Election: On Its Own Terms" (Subscription-Required), in an email supplement, sets the field: This year, the Democ...
    Weblog: Duophony
    Tracked: November 1, 2004 07:55 PM


    Interesting stuff!

    posted by: Chris on 10.20.04 at 09:10 PM [permalink]

    Very compelling notes! I've just added you to my favorites. :D

    posted by: Matt Warren on 10.21.04 at 12:46 AM [permalink]

    Well done. I live in Illinois (not a swing state, unfortunately), and I'm sure a lot of Americans will find this support very useful. Thanks.

    posted by: MDS on 10.21.04 at 12:48 AM [permalink]

    I can't argue with most of his points and his polling had been excellent before this year, when he changed his process. However, this is is downfall:
    "* Zogby maintains the same proportions of party affiliations in each poll as he doesn't think that number changes much, which cuts the variability down."

    Many poll watchers believe that Zogby is way off here, and have observed a significant shift to the right in party affiliation over the years. That means that Zogby is overweighting Democrats.

    posted by: Steve Lance on 10.21.04 at 04:55 AM [permalink]

    Did Zogby call Kerry unilateralist here, or did you?

    Anywho, I know why the Dean machine died, and it did happen right in the Christmas/New Year's week.

    I don't think Zogby understands the net. At least _I_ read all sides on the internet, including the fringes, which helps.

    It's a lot harder to lie to all the people, all the time, now.

    Nice effort.

    posted by: Josh Narins on 10.21.04 at 06:03 AM [permalink]

    I also question Zogby's methodology in the area of party affiliations. If he is to maintain his magical balance between Republican and Democrat percentages, how does he do it exactly? If you truly contact people randomly, you won't know the percentages until you are done. You would then have to exclude certain responses to maintain the ratio you want. How do you pick who to exclude?

    Just a random observation.

    posted by: Steve L. on 10.21.04 at 07:49 AM [permalink]

    I've been involved in alot of volunteer organizations and the one thing that makes people show up is ANGER. Voting is a voluntary activity and my gut feeling is that people are more angry at Bush than they are at Kerry.
    The key fault in polling is that its much easier to pick up the phone and answer a few questions then say you're going to vote than it is to actually go vote.
    In the end my gut feeling is that if this is a negative election, then Kerry will win because I've never seen an incumbent that so many people literally despise.

    posted by: Bill on 10.21.04 at 07:56 AM [permalink]

    When was the last time this bozo was correct? When will he be right the first time? If he can keep a straight face while claiming twice his margin of error doesn't matter, he needs to be on comdy central. My old stats professor made a point of saying that stats is for random events, not people. People have motives and they will lie to pollsters. Very little is random when humans are involved. And there is no way to correct for that. The entire point of polling is to make money for pollsters. Mr Zogby is very sucessful at that, despite never being correct.
    I forget, which President was Dewey? Modale was gonna win by 4 points, IIRC.

    posted by: Ableiter on 10.21.04 at 10:45 AM [permalink]

    Let me clarify a few things:

    1. Zogby was the one who made the observation on Kerry/Bush positions on North Korea. I made the observation that this is the one time the two sides have switched approaches.

    2. Zogby's assumption on party affiliation makes some sense to me: why would the number of voters identifying themselves as (say) Democrats fluctuate widely from poll to poll? It's different to whom they intend to vote for and it's a valid assumption to make; I can't see that people would switch sides so quickly or constantly.

    3. Zogby's comments on blogs was in response to my question. I agree that it is a superficial view of bloggers; while some such as (say) Daily Kos may stoke the fires of hate (his words), others act as news sources, reasoned opinions or civilised discource. I know on some issues discussions have changed or influenced my views on matters. I think it was Keynes who said "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?"

    posted by: Simon on 10.21.04 at 12:21 PM [permalink]

    A good job by Simon, however Zogby's numbers have been much more pro Kerry this year than the other major US polsters, although admitedly Zogby was one of the best in past elections. Like Dick Morris I believe EVENTS will be the key - will there be an attack in the US or will there be another DUI type news smear in the days before the vote? Time will tell!

    posted by: david on 10.21.04 at 01:19 PM [permalink]

    i respect zogby a great deal. in 2000 all the polls had gore 4 - 8 points behind. not mr. zogby. his numbers were much closer and he got the popular vote for gore right. he can't be dismissed.

    posted by: tom conten on 10.21.04 at 05:25 PM [permalink]

    Ableiter writes: "When was the last time this bozo was correct? When will he be right the first time?"

    Well, actually, Zogby's numbers for both the 1996 and 2000 elections were more accurate than those from any other major pollster. So to dismiss him is to whistle past the graveyard. I also note that, in recent days, more and more of the national polls seem to be converging on Zogby's numbers, so he's hardly a voice in the wilderness here.

    Additionally, as I recall, Zogby is a Republican.

    Zogby's track record is very good, and as I look at state polls, as opposed to national numbers, I increasingly think Zogby is correct and that Kerry has an edge in this election. I say this, incidentally, as someone who will vote (albeit reluctantly) for Bush.

    posted by: Adam Hargandon on 10.21.04 at 05:30 PM [permalink]

    Zogby is a liberal.

    posted by: Scott on 10.21.04 at 07:33 PM [permalink]

    Perhaps it is not relevantbut Zogby's brother is the head of an Arab-American Activists group. Perhaps that is why his poll consistently is the most favorable for Kerry in its results.

    posted by: Bruce on 10.24.04 at 08:00 AM [permalink]

    Well, it's well past 10/20/04 when this article was written. Today, 10/29/04 and the various polls are all over the place and Zogby is out of the variance of most.
    I respect Zogby, and today there was an article in which he pronounced that Kerry would win the election. However, these are not the "same old times" as compared to past elections. And I agree with a former post, in regards, to the impact of new registered voters and their decisions. It can't be assumed that these new voters will follow the path he envisions. There are people out there that have decided to vote to make a statement on one of the issues....And no one knows how big the group is or what their issues are.
    I do not like everything Bush has done, but I also do not like the behavior of his opponents..the dirty tricks and diversions from the real issues. These are having an impact. If you don't believe me, look at the senatorial races! The Republicans are currently beating the pants off Democratic incumbents. Why? There is a backlash. And I don't think it's happening because of Bush's so-called coattail effect. There is something else going on. I don't think any pollster out their can be sure exactly what will happen.

    posted by: Claudia on 10.29.04 at 10:29 PM [permalink]

    Post a Comment:


    Email Address:



    Remember your info?