Well-regarded research strategy firm Bendixen and Amandi International released a poll of the CD 27 Democratic field Tuesday showing as-yet-unannounced candidate Donna Shalala holding a solid lead among likely primary voters.
First, let me say this: I have no qualms about the poll.
Sure, it was paid for by Team Shalala, but the pollster is credible, and the methodology seems pretty sound.
I ran the methodology by Steve Vancore, president of Clearview Research, who said, “Based on the memo, it looks well done, well balanced and well executed … I’d say it’s a good poll.”
What I do have a problem with, however, is the editorialized interpretation of the findings by POLITICO Florida, which dubbed her lead as “dominating.”
So, what was her lead in the poll?
It was a respectable, solid, hey-I’ll-take-it 24 percent for Shalala. State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez came second with 10 percent, and the rest of the mostly unknown field was in the low single digits. A full half said they “don’t know.”
Is 24 percent a “dominating” lead?
For starters, her name has graced headlines for several weeks now as she toys with a run. But let us also remind ourselves that she was HHS Secretary under Bill Clinton — who is very popular in this poll — for nearly every day of his two terms in the White House. She was also president — a high profile one at that — of University of Miami for about 14 years!
Donna Shalala should be holding a comfortable lead. In fact, she should be “dominating” the field, but alas, she is not.
At some level, I just gotta believe that Team Shalala took an honest look at these results, had mixed feelings and debated releasing them.
Yes, she is in the lead. Woot! Woot! And all that. But on the other hand, she is tied with the rest of the field and is losing to “Race? What race?” by a 2-to-1 margin.
Also, consider that when reading the sample ballot, her name coincidentally is last in the list alphabetically and therefore is the last name read to respondents.
Does that have an effect?
“To some degree, yes,” said Vancore. “It’s a phenomenon known as primacy-recency, and respondents will be more likely to choose the first or last name in a long list. This effect is muted during a campaign as candidates begin to communicate, so it tends to inflate someone’s ballot score, but it is hard to know how much it impacts the findings, maybe by a few points.”
I’m comfortable with the poll, and I am comfortable with saying Shalala begins this race with a solid lead, but I can’t bring myself to say she is “dominating” anything — and neither should anyone else.