Mellman: Updating the GOP primary and holiday shopping

Today I’m going to do a quick update on my two previous columns.

The first, announced nearly a year ago, asserted that “Iowa and New Hampshire…will be critical in determining the winner.”

I argue that “questioning the influence of these early states…is becoming commonplace, with the winners of Iowa and New Hampshire each having only about a half chance of winning their party’s nomination.” ” he said.

But I wrote: “What this analysis misses is the incredible collective strength of the two earlier states. All but two candidates of both parties won either Iowa or New Hampshire.” (The exceptions were, well, exceptional.)

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley understood this dynamic. DeSantis bet all his chips on Iowa, and Haley bet big on New Hampshire. Both lost their bets.

Neither received the outpouring of support derived from what George H.W. Had she won New Hampshire, Haley might have won South Carolina and gotten the boost she needed to flip her race.

At this rate, there is a high possibility that she will lose there, and she will certainly lose further down the line.

The central point of this column: The 2024 Republican candidate was almost certain to win either Iowa or New Hampshire. In the end, Trump won both.

In December, I looked at the radically different predictions from two poll questions asking people to predict their holiday spending.

One from Gallup predicts a great season for retailers, with consumer spending at record highs. The other comes from Monmouth, who predicts a reduction in holiday spending.

Now that we have real data, we can easily assess who was right and consider why we care.

According to Mastercard’s SpendingPulse, which measures retail sales across all payment methods. Holiday spending in 2023 increased by 3.1% compared to 2022. A Gallup poll question predicted an increase of nearly 12.5 percent, four times his actual increase.

They weren’t alone. Deloitte’s survey assessed what they were thinking. Spending increased by 14%.

Although exact numbers cannot be calculated from Monmouth’s data, spending certainly did not decline as their question predicted. Monmouth had friends. Another study predicted a 26% decline in holiday spending, while a Conference Board survey predicted a 2% decline.

Now you’re probably saying, “This is a pretty boring story. Why would Melman, a politician, have to write about this twice?”

The answer is simple. It is important for both pollsters and poll consumers to recognize the limitations of our science and technology.

When we examined these shopping data in December, we once again found that seemingly small differences in question wording can lead to large differences in answers. That applies equally to political questions.

Interpreting poll results requires strict adherence to the parameters of the question wording.

It is often foolish to try to assess complex concepts with one or two questions.

Just as important, if not more important, is to recognize the limitations of your respondents. People are not very good at predicting their future behavior.

With their phones in hand in October, people can’t predict exactly how much they’ll spend between then and Christmas.

It’s not the poll’s fault. That’s a human limit.

Some people carefully create a budget and stick to it. Some people create a detailed budget but ignore it. Additionally, some people don’t remember their budget very well. Some people don’t budget at all.

And many people don’t know that a few weeks after pollsters survey, they’ll find the perfect gift, even if it’s more expensive than they expected.

Politics often provides a heavier anchor than household finances (see discussion on partisanship). But given these limitations, it’s strange that election polls are so accurate.

Melman is president of the Melman Group, which has helped elect 30 U.S. senators, 12 governors and dozens of members of the House of Representatives. Mr. Mellman served as a pollster for the Senate Democratic leadership for more than 20 years, is president of the American Association of Political Consultants, a member of the association’s Hall of Fame, and chairman of the Israel Democratic Majority Party.

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