Santorum Edges Obama in Most Recent Rasmussen Tracking Poll

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Oversampling of Republicans

National split between Democrats and Republicans can alter poll results.

This survey also included more Republican respondents than Democrats or Independents, the reason cited by Rasmussen is its own poll which indicates that most Americans identify as Republicans. This data is contradictory to the latest Gallup polling, however, which states that more Americans identify as Democrats. Higher identification for Democrats has been mostly consistent for the past several years, especially as the number of Conservative Independents has grown, due in part to the Tea Party movement. If the Rasmussen party identification poll is inaccurate, the results may affect the daily tracking poll from which party identification models were derived. These types of errors occurred in 2008 presidential polling, when several pollsters identified a McCain lead after over-sampling Republicans.  Due to the complexities of party identification, such as Independents who lean one way or another, or an electorate that may not always vote on party lines, most polling watchdogs discourage weighting for political affiliation.

Interpreting the Presidential Poll Results

Rasmussen’s analysis of Santorum leading Obama by one point in a hypothetical matchup is not consistent with polls conducted in January, all of which had Obama leading by margins ranging from eight to 15.

This Rasmussen tracking poll is the first to have been conducted in February, however, and it is possible that Rasmussen has identified an emerging trend. On the other hand the most accurate polls are those conducted in the voting booth, and Santorum has performed poorly in the two most recent GOP elections, finishing third in the January 31 Florida primary with only 13 percent of the vote, and finishing in last place in the February 4 Nevada caucuses with 10 percent of the vote.  It is possible that nationwide general voters have more enthusiasm for Santorum than Republican voters in select states, but it will take more polls with similar results to garner credibility for this theory.

Sources

Rasmussen Reports. Daily Presidential Tracking PollMethodology. Accessed February 5, 2012.

RealClearPolitics. President Obama vs. Republican Candidates. Accessed February 5, 2012.

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