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Earlier this week, Gallup came out with two polls that seemingly contradicted one another. In the poll of "registered voters", Obama came out ahead, and in the poll of "likely voters", McCain came out ahead.
The difference between a registered voter and a likely voter is the poll respondent's answer to the question: "Are you planning on voting in November?" or some variation of that question. If someone says "YES! I wouldn't miss it. This is the most important thing I'm going to do this year", they're a likely voter. OK, that's over the top: the truth is, it's multiple choice: some variation of likely, unlikely, unsure. Sometimes the poll will then push for a lean to likely or unlikely.
Then, the pollster weights the responses in extrapolating the polls out. They give less weight to people in certain demographics who tend not to vote. Therefore, since young people vote at a lower percentage than other age groups, the pollsters often consider that they won't necessarily vote in November.
In one of the NY Times op-ed pieces yesterday, they talked about the potential affect of third party candidates on the November 2008 outcome.
The NY Times raised an interesting point yesterday. They talked in an op-ed piece about the potential effect of third party candidates on the November outcome. One of the factors that they looked at in terms of whether actual voters stick with their candidate relates to the enthusiasm of a candidate's supporters.
I believe that the single thing that will turn "registered voters" into "likely voters" is enthusiasm. I've never actually seen any research on this point, but intuitively, it makes logical sense.
The Times looked at the enthusiasm gap over the last three elections.
If you look at the table, you'll see that no matter what the poll number, the person with the higher enthusiasm "quotient" won the election over the last three cycles. So, two poll questions: