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January 20, 2007

Mark Penn: Now Faster And Looser

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

According to Mark Penn's latest memo,  polling data shows that his boss, Hillary Clinton, can win the presidency.  Given the dire state of the Republican party, that's certainly right, but we should still mock his strained attempts to spin Hillary's icky polling data into a positive case. 

The only head-to-head Hillary-versus-a-Republican polls that Penn includes come from this Newsweek story, which has Hillary beating McCain by 7 and Giuliani by 1.  It allows Penn to say, "Hillary Clinton is the only Democrat who beats John McCain and Rudy Giuliani in the latest Newsweek poll."  That's not as exciting as it seems, because that Newsweek poll included only one other Democrat -- Barack Obama.  And depending on what time of day Penn released his memo, it might not even be true.  Just today, Newsweek came out with another poll showing Hillary leading McCain 48-47 and trailing Giuliani by the same score.  But there is one Democrat who beats both McCain and Giuliani -- John Edwards, who leads McCain 48-43 and leads Giuliani 48-45.  This is consistent with past polling data -- when you do a collection of head-to-head polls, Edwards usually outperforms everyone else against Republicans. 

Penn trumpets Hillary's high favorability ratings while ignoring her equally high unfavorables from the same polls.  He cites a CBS News poll with Hillary's favorables at 43%, which he notes as higher than any other Democratic contender.  Of course, the same poll puts her unfavorables at 38%.  John Edwards, by comparison, has a favorability number of 34% and an unfavorability of 21%.  You get the same with the WaPo poll of Democrats Penn cites -- it shows Hillary with a higher unfavorability number (18) than Obama (5!) or Edwards (11) as well. 

It's one thing to cherry-pick your favorite polls, or to pass off name-recognition advantages as indicative of some broader strength.  But what really gets me about this Penn memo is that his citations of individual polls are themselves misleading.  I'm sure that Penn does a better job of poll analysis when he's talking to Hillary than when he's trying to bamboozle the rest of us. 

January 20, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Unfortunately, many of us in the polling community are well acquainted with the Penn & Schoen shop's crappy research practices. I'm a nonpartisan pollster working in the DC community/area and I've seen them release poll after poll in ways that obfuscate the truth and coincidentally make their client (political or corporate) look great. I'm sure that at one point in time, they were a quality shop, but I worry for Hillary's sake that they've drunk their own koolaid one too many times.

Posted by: Jeff | Jan 20, 2007 8:28:30 PM

Hillary Clinton is the candidate who's been around the longest, so her numbers will be higher in both the plus and minus categories simply because people have had more time to make up their minds. This simple truth is inconvienent for Mr. Penn.
No one should listen to word one from a pollster employed by a political candidate. They're Tony Snows who're good at arithmetic.

Posted by: JMG | Jan 20, 2007 9:33:20 PM

It's going to be a looong pre-primary season....

Sigh.

Posted by: Lindsay Beyerstein | Jan 20, 2007 9:49:36 PM

I wonder how much Democrats will join Republicans in trying to drive up Obama's negatives. That 5% is astonishingly low, even with his relatively low profile so far. Still largely an unknown. Edwards is still doing fairly well in his negatives. Clinton has nowhere to go but up (better, I mean) as far as hers go. Pretty much anyone inclined to dislike anything about her has had almost every temptation to do it already. I don't think the similar point is as true of positives, which might move some based on things people mostly don't know about her, like her policies and whether she can appear warm.

I'm sure that Penn does a better job of poll analysis when he's talking to Hillary than when he's trying to bamboozle the rest of us.

If not, all the better for Edwards, as you might say.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jan 20, 2007 10:18:50 PM

Here's what bugs me. Hillary is going to be a Big Thing candidacy. Edwards is not. And even though I will forever hold a grudge against Hillary for trying to censor my video games, it would be just too fucking lame and too fucking Democratic to forgo a Historic election and run... one of the two white guys we ran in 2004. Now, Obama would be pretty cool. But just imagine, if you will, the deflated codpieces when Hillary -- our Commander-in-Chief!!!11 -- is seen engaging in vagina-related activities. You know, like getting a pedicure with the Chancellor of Germany instead of molesting her. Or tearfully holding an African AIDS baby to her bosom. Yes, there will be many opportunities for the wingnuts to rant and rave about how the Oprahfication of America is emboldening our enemies.

And let's not forget the Mother Of All Wanks that's sure to result when somebody gets a "candid" shot of Bill playfully sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office with a bottle of Viagra in one hand and a towel in the other...

Posted by: scarshapedstar | Jan 20, 2007 10:48:55 PM

Neil vaguely touches on an important point: if the GOP continues its slide and moves toward nominating some clown like Newt, does the question of electability become less important? Do Dems, sensing that any one of their big guns would beat the GOP candidate, go with their hearts rather than their heads?

Actually, it probably wouldn't make a difference given that Edwards is both the most progressive and the most electable.

As for Clinton's money, which impresses Divguy, Howard Dean proved two things: non-corporate faves (like Edwards) can raise a huge amount of money over the internet. A huge amount of money (like Clinton's) guarantees nothing.

Posted by: david mizner | Jan 20, 2007 11:10:51 PM

Suffering alittle from Edwards fanzine swooning much, Ezra???

Posted by: vwcat | Jan 21, 2007 3:37:41 AM

"Unfortunately, many of us in the polling community are well acquainted with the Penn & Schoen shop's crappy research practices ... I've seen them release poll after poll in ways that obfuscate the truth and coincidentally make their client (political or corporate) look great."

Well, that is part of what they're being paid to do...

Posted by: Petey | Jan 21, 2007 11:44:20 AM

"when you do a collection of head-to-head polls, Edwards usually outperforms everyone else against Republicans."

Say it again!

Posted by: Petey | Jan 21, 2007 11:47:07 AM

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Posted by: JUDY | Sep 26, 2007 4:35:23 AM

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