Friday, January 6, 2012

Indies Vital in New Hampshire

Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman attract many more Independent voters in New Hampshire than Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. So getting the right mix of Independent voters is very important to accurate polling.

To date, only the last Selzer poll over a month ago and a couple of the Suffolk tracking polls have been near the 50% Indy split which should occur on election day. The daily Suffolk tracking polls have been particularly confusing as they have varied from 37% to 48.5% Indy split.

Why is virtually every poll missing the right mix of Independent voters?

In New Hampshire, undeclared voters (Independents) may vote in the GOP primary Tuesday. Currently they make up 42% of all registered voters in the state. Traditionally, the percent of independent voters in a NH primary when both Democratic and Republican primaries are contested is very similar to the percent of registered independent voters. However, when one party has an unchallenged incumbent (like 1996 with President Clinton or 2004 with President Bush), the percent of independents in the opposing parties primary goes way up. See stats below. % of Registered voters comes from state controlled lists (often reported via news services). The % of actual voters in a primary comes from exit polls.

New Hampshire Independent Voter Percentage
Year% of All Voters% of GOP Primary% of Dem Primary
199628%35%No Contest
200437.7%No Contest52%
201240.7%51-56%??No Contest

The range of independent turnout for 2012 GOP Primary is based on linear extrapolation from the 1996 and 2004 primaries with the low number assuming a similar ratio of % in the GOP primary vs. Registered Voters from 1996 while the high number assuming a similar ration of % in the Dem Primary vs. Registered Voters from 2004.

Now, what are pollsters using as their ratio of Independents for next Tuesday's contest? What would the difference be if they had a different overall Indy ratio (based on their own candidate specific results by party breakdown)? See below:

Pollster% of IndependentsPoll's Romney LeadRomney Lead w/56% Indies
UNH/Boston Globe43%22%19%
Zogby/Washington TimesUNKNOWN14%??

Although some pollsters provided Indy vs GOP breakdowns at the poll level, some did not also breakdown splits by candidate by Indy vs. GOP so they have a ?? in the left column.

Those with UNKNOWN may have even excluded ALL non-GOP registered voters as CNN has done for every Iowa poll. Take those polls with a HUGE grain of salt.

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