An End to the Polling Truce
By Jon Cohen
And it's in: the first pollsters to brave the uncertain waters of calling folks during the holidays. Late Thursday, the LA Times and Bloomberg released parallel Iowa and New Hampshire surveys, delivering seasonal cheer for several of the top presidential contenders and heaps of coal for others.
In Iowa, where caucusgoers (officially) ring in the nomination battles on the 10th night of Christmas, the poll found the three leading Democrats locked in a tight race, each with firmly committed support. And in New Hampshire, Obama and Clinton are running about evenly, with Edwards just back.
But on a day where attention turned to the tragedy in Pakistan, Clinton's advantages in the polls on fighting terrorism and experience stand out. So too, though, do Democratic voters' relative preference, at least as of Dec. 26 when the poll concluded, for "new ideas" over experience. A fresh approach and bringing "change" to Washington are Obama strong-suits in both Iowa and New Hampshire.
(Only 7 percent of Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa said national security is one of their top two priorities for candidates to address.)
On the GOP side, the Iowa poll is the latest to catalog Huckabee's steep ascent. He was at 8 percent when Times-Bloomberg last polled; now he's at 36 percent (or 37, see below). Romney runs second in Iowa, but first in New Hampshire, where McCain ranks second. (New Hampshire GOP voters are significantly less likely than those in Iowa to say they've settled on a candidate.)
In both states, McCain rivals Romney as being "well prepared" to be president: Seven in 10 GOP voters in Iowa said Romney is fit to serve, two-thirds said so of McCain and just over a half of Huckabee.
An important backdrop to all of this are the challenges of polling this week. CBS News polling director envisioned a Christmas truce, while pollster.com's Mark Blumenthal likened it to researching on the "Dark Side of the Moon." He also surveyed many of us public polling types on our views about the week; first results here.
*Note: There are eight sets of numbers coming out of this two-state poll. The Times released figures for both all caucus/primary voters, and ?likely? voters for each party in each state. The Times and Bloomberg stories focus on the bigger pool of respondents; others have reported the likely voter numbers.
On the Democratic side in Iowa, the difference matters, at least on the surface: among all Democratic voters, the horse-race is 29 Clinton, 26 Obama and 25 Edwards, while the tighter likely voter screen is Clinton 31, Edwards 25, Obama 22.
Web Politics Editor
December 28, 2007; 11:04 AM ET
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