Home > Tim Pawlenty > Misleading Pawlenty Poll

Misleading Pawlenty Poll

So apparently the Minnesota Star Tribune commissioned a poll asking Minnesotans if Pawlenty should run for President and, if he did, whether they’d be likely to vote for him.  They write:

A majority of Minnesotans don’t want to see Gov. Tim Pawlenty run for president in 2012, but nearly as many say they would give him a look if he were nominated, according to a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll.

The poll shows that only 30 percent of adults want to see the two-term governor make a try for the White House three years from now, while 55 percent do not.

But in a mixed message for Pawlenty, 25 percent of Minnesotans said there was a “good chance” they would vote for him if he became the GOP nominee, while another 25 percent said there was at least “some chance” they would vote for him. A solid 43 percent said there was no chance they would vote for a President Pawlenty.

Their headline gives the spin:  Most Don’t Back Pawlenty Run.  But, is this really bad news for T-Paw?  Hardly.  First of all, I can never figure out WHY they ask these particular questions over and over again when they prove to yield perfectly useless results.  Rasmussen asked the second question repeatedly throughout the 2008 race.  The results?  Well, here’s a snapshot from 2007, from the major Presidential contenders.  Rudy had 22% definitely for and 39% definitely against, for a score of -17.  Hillary had 28% definitely for and 46% definitely against (-18).  Romney 15% definitely for and 37% definitely against (-22).  Every single candidate was in negative territory and only Obama, a relatively cipherish Democrat in a Democratic year, and Thompson, a total cipher who’d yet to be attacked AT ALL nationally, were under -10.  This is just a question which yields STRONGLY negative results.  Pawlenty’s -18 suggests that he’s about as well positioned in Minnesota as Rudy and Clinton were nationally in 2007; i.e, fairly strongly positioned.

The other question isn’t much better.  There are all kinds of reasons why someone wouldn’t want a particular candidate to run and, really, only one reason why they would.  For instance, Romney supporters in Minnesota probably would not want Pawlenty to run.  Ditto Palin or Huck supporters.  Certain kinds of Obama supporters, who happen to think Pawlenty would be a strong challenger, would also answer no.  It’s no indication of how much they like/respect T-Paw in a vacuum.

  1. MWS
    September 29, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Excellent points.

    Did the Star Tribune put the results in any kind of context (as you did), or just through the numbers and headline out there, giving this kind of misleading impression?

  2. September 29, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    No context at all. They noted that the total results were “mixed” since 50% of Minnesotans said they’d either definitely vote for Pawlenty or might vote for him, which looks like a pretty good number for a Republican in Minn. But, they never explained that the two questions they asked always yield negative results.

    It’s a bit of a joke. If Pawlenty is the GOP nominee, guaranteed, Minnesota will be 4-6 points redder than the nation as a whole, and Wisconsin and Iowa will be 1-2 points redder. That’s where history points. Being a favorite son at the top of the ticket is usually good for around 8-10 extra points, and around 5-7 extra points in adjacent states. So, for instance in 2000 Bush won Texas by 22 points despite losing nationally by a point; i.e, Texas was 23 points redder than the nation as a whole. It was 20 points redder in 2004. McCain won Texas by 12 points despite losing nationally by 6; i.e, Texas was 18 points redder than the nation as a whole.

    But, this doesn’t quite tell the whole story because Obama was unusually weak for a Democrat in the South. In Louisiana, a state that borders Texas, McCain ran 25 points ahead of the national tide. In 2004 Bush ran just 11 points ahead of the national tide there. But, maybe that can be explained by Katrina? Well, how about Arkansas? Bush ran 7 points ahead of the national mood there. McCain ran 26 points ahead of the national mood. Even Oklahoma, not a conventionally southern state, tells the same tale. Bush ran 28 points ahead there nationally; McCain ran 37 points ahead. Outside of New Mexico (a state with none of the historical features of the other 4), McCain ran 14 points better than Bush in the states surrounding Texas. So Bush ran AT LEAST 10 points better in Texas than another Republican, facing similar candidates, would have.

    You can see the same sort of pattern with other candidates historically. Home state advantage matters a lot. And if the race is within a point or two nationally, there’s better than even odds that Pawlenty has carried Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

  3. September 30, 2009 at 12:59 am

    Nice blog. One suggestion though… That header reminds me of Rhett Hatcher’s Huckabee blog.

  4. September 30, 2009 at 2:15 am


    Heh. There are only so many basic “themes” in wordpress and I’ve yet to find one that suits me. There are downloadable themes but I can’t figure out how to load them, so I’m stuck for a little bit.

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