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Primary as predictor? Elway says no; Giroux and Swing State Project say yes

Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on Aug. 19, 2010 at 8:47 am with 1 Comment »
August 19, 2010 10:18 am

I weighed in this morning on the issue – that the primary results are a pretty good poll to suggest the condition of the electorate as a whole. And here is what Swing State Project says about our results.

But Seattle pollster Stuart Elway has a different view, expressed in this piece on Crosscut.

Finally, though, here is a spread sheet prepared by Greg Giroux at Bloomberg that compares the 2008 Washington Congressional primary to the general election. He tallies all votes for each party in the primary and compares it to the percentage spread in the general election. It is nearly dead on, except in the 8th Congressional where Darcey Burner fell off by 3 points.

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  1. I think the prediction value of the primary depends largely on which individual race one is looking at. For some of the quieter races where the incumbent doesn’t really have to work hard, the challenger has no money, and the press doesn’t really report anything, the primary numbers are probably going to look about the same as the general. Why? Because nothing really happens between the primary and the general in those races to change anyones mind.

    In some of the more high profile races this year though, such as the Senate race and the races in the 3rd and 8th Congressional districts, there’s going to be a lot of stuff happening in the next two and a half months. Millions of dollars will spent on TV, radio and mail ads and the local media will pay close attention. It’s naturally going to be more volatile as there’s more information being thrown at voters which gives them more of an opportunity to change their minds. We can see this with the Reichert/Burner race in 2008 – not only was it the highest profile of any Congressional race in the state that year but it was also the race with the most change between the primary and general election numbers.

    So in other words, the primary is a good predictor only of the races that aren’t that interesting. We’re going to have to wait until November to find out how the high profile ones go.

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