An increasing number of pollsters
are publicly asking for voters' second choices in the
multi-candidate race for the Democratic nomination and analyzing their impact.
We have long touted this polling method as providing
more insight into voters' intentions and the likely trajectory
of a race. It also helps people think about what instant runoff
voting might look like in such elections and provides data for
analyzing the potential use of instant runoff voting.
In the Democratic
presidential race, second-choices have
been sought in December 2003 and January 2004 polls
by Gallup, the Los Angeles Times/Chicago Tribune, MSNBC/Zogby and Pew Research
Center for the People and the Press. Second
choices were also recently solicited in a recent survey about who
Americans admire most and in last fall's gubernatorial recall
election in California.
The Los Angeles Times' January 11, 2004 news story on
its survey of Democrats in Iowa, written by leading political
reporter Ronald Brownstein, included this analysis:
The best news for those chasing Dean is that many
voters are open to reassessing the candidates.
Just 9% said they were undecided.
But 39% of Dean's supporters, 42% for Edwards and 49% for Kerry say
they still could change their minds. Gephardt's support seems more
solid; just 31% said they could switch. When asked to name
their second choice, voters split almost evenly among the top four
The Times provided the following chart.
Q: Iowans likely to attend a
Democratic caucus Jan. 19 were asked which of the following
candidates they would prefer for their party's presidential
nomination. Those who named a candidate were also asked
their second choice.
A more complete chart in pdf form -- one that
shows the breakdown of the second choices of supporters of each
candidate -- is available.
Reporting on the same poll, the Chicago Tribune wrote the
While Dean may have an edge overall, Gephardt's supporters are
more loyal, with more than two-thirds saying they are certain of
their support for him. Among Dean supporters, 61 percent say they
are absolutely committed to him, while 58 percent of Edwards
backers say their support is firm. Kerry's followers, though, are
almost equally divided over whether they will stick with him or
choose someone else in the final days of the campaign.
"It's a close race between the two top-tier candidates," said
Susan Pinkus, the director of the Los Angeles Times polling
department, who conducted the survey. "There is real momentum for
both of these candidates to pick up more voters."
Considering that 39 percent of
those surveyed said they were willing to switch loyalties, a
voter's second choice also could be telling.
Among Dean supporters, 27 percent name Edwards, followed
closely by Kerry. For Gephardt backers, 38 percent say Kerry.
Among Kerry supporters, 32 percent name Dean. And among Edwards
followers, 30 percent say Gephardt.
Research Center for the People and Press
In a December 8, 2003 release, the Pew Research Center for the
People and the Press, led by long-time pollster Andrew Kohut,
released a report on polling in several of the early primary
states. (See http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=198)
Information about second choices is provided and analyzed
repeatedly. For example, when discussing Iowa, authors write:
Howard Dean holds a slight 29% to 21% edge over Richard
Gephardt among probable Iowa caucus voters and John Kerry garners
the support of another 18%. John Edwards is currently running a
distant fourth, receiving the support of 5% of likely caucus
One effect of the caucus process is to
concentrate candidate support, as supporters of candidates
receiving relatively little support have the opportunity to shift
their support to their second choice candidate as the caucus
progresses. Based on the current survey, there is little
evidence that this reallocation will fundamentally change the
dynamics of the race. Dean, Gephardt and Kerry each receive about
equal support as a second choice among people who prefer one of
the other six candidates.
From the January 13, 2004 Gallup National
The analysis by David W. Moore
includes discussion of voters' top two choices. Moore writes:
The gap between the two front-runners [Howard Dean and
Wesley Clark] and the rest of the pack is made even more clear by
the rank order of the candidates as either the first or second choice of Democratic
," followed by a chart
comparing how many Democratic voters ranked the candidates in
their top two in on January 9-11, 2004 compared to November
10-12, 2003 and September 19-21, 2003. To achieve this
information, all Gallup callers needed to do was ask "Who would be
your second choice"?
From MSNBC/Zogby Poll
The MSNBC/Zogby poll is
available by subscription only, but following is a UPI article
about its most recent poll in the Iowa caucus. Note the discussion
of second choice is toward the end of the
Poll: Dean leads Gephardt
WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 (UPI)
-- Former Vt. Gov. Howard Dean and ex-House Minority Leader Dick
Gephardt are locked in a battle for first place in MSNBC/Zogby's
Monday Iowa tracking poll.
The survey has Dean atop the
ranking at 26 percent with Gephardt at 23 percent, a three-point
lead inside the 4.5 percent margin of error. In third place at 16
percent is Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry followed by North
Carolina Sen. John Edwards.
The rest of the field was in
Edwards, whom the tracking poll shows losing
two points between the Jan. 8-10 poll and the Jan. 9-11 poll,
received a boost over the weekend when he was endorsed by the
influential Des Moines Register newspaper.
Kerry tops the
"second choice" list at 22 percent followed by Dean at 20 percent
and Gephardt at 17 percent. Overall, 14 percent of those surveyed
said they were still undecided.
The tracking poll,
conducted nightly, surveys 500 Iowa Democrats likely to vote in
the Jan. 19 presidential caucuses.
Earlier in the year, the
California Field Poll made effective use of second-choice polling
in the recall election. On September 10, 2003, Mark DeCamillo and
Mervin Field released this second choice data in Release #2090,
which they entitled "Impact of Ueberroth's withdrawal on voter
preferences in the replacement election."
In its survey,
the Field Poll had asked California voters to indicate their
second choice. This made particular sense given the election's
volatility. In the Field Poll's previous recall survey in August,
the top candidate had been Cruz Bustamente, with only 25%. Since
that period, the number of major candidates had changed, with 2002
Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Simon dropping out of the
race and former Los Angeles Olympic Games organizer Peter
Ueberroth just making a decision to drop out. The impact of
Ueberroth's decision was on many observers' minds, and the Field
Poll had the data to discuss it intelligently even though
Ueberroth had dropped out after the survey was
DeCamillo and Field's
lead in their release was: "Republican businessman Peter
Ueberroth's withdrawal as a candidate in the gubernatorial
replacement election does not alter the preference stands of the
candidates remaining in the race. The results of the latest Field
Poll conducted September 3-7 had showed Ueberroth to be the choice
of 5% of likely voters in the October 7 replacement election.
These 5% divide as follows in terms of their second choice
preferences in that poll: 2% Schwarzenegger, 2% Bustamente and 1%
Thus, the updated standings in the
replacement contest from the latest Field Poll continues to show
Bustamente with a five-point advantage over SchwarzenggerÂ
(32% to 27%) and 14% now favoring McClintock."
this information, all the Field Poll had done was to add a short
second question to its regular question about voter preference.
Here is the exact question:
"If the election to replace
Governor Davis were being held today, for who would you vote --
Peter Ueberroth, Republican, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Republican,
Peter Miguel Camejo, Green Party. Tom McClintock, Republican, Cruz
Bustamente, Democrat, Arianna Huffington, independent, or someone
else? (NAMES AND PARTIES OF CANDIDATES READ IN RANDOM ORDER) (IF
SOMEONE ELSE, ASK:) Who? (IF PREFERENCE GIVEN, ASK:) Who
would be your second choice?)
Ueberroth had dropped out
since the survey was finished, but that didn't stop the Field Poll
from having data about the new state of the race.. They note that
"in this report, the second choice preferences of voters
preferring Ueberroth were allocated to the other
Finally, a year-end survey about "most admired Americans" asked
people for their first and second choices -- even more sensible,
given the large number of people mentioned by respondents. Here is
a n excerpt of a USA Today article about one such
'Most-admire' list is fun, but little
By Richard Bennetto
WASHINGTON — Every year,
at year's end, the Gallup Poll asks America
The 2003 edition
of the poll, asked on behalf of USA TODAY and CNN, found that
President Bush is the most admired man and New York Sen. Hillary
Rodham Clinton is the most admired woman.
Talk about odd
Now before you run off and rip the newspaper you
are reading this in to shreds or click off if you are viewing it
online, consider this further explanation:
Neither Bush nor Clinton was the choice of a
majority of Americans.
listed the president as their first or second choice as most
admired man. And only 16% named Clinton their first or second
choice as most admired woman.
Hardly anything to start
marching in the streets about.
But it is a poll that is
taken every year and is the kind of thing the public likes to read
as the old year rings out. Lists of everything from the Top 10
movies to the 10 worst books abound to take the edge off the hard
news that is our standard fare throughout the rest of the year.
high on this year's edition of the most-admired-man list was Pope
John Paul II and Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Each was listed as the first or second choice by 4%
of the 1,004 adults polled in early December.
president Bill Clinton came next at 3%.
All coming in at
2% were former President Ronald Reagan, former South African
President Nelson Mandela, the Rev. Billy Graham and British Prime
Minister Tony Blair.
Making the list at 1%: former
President Jimmy Carter, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger,
computer tycoon Bill Gates, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi
Annan and the Dalai Lama.
What makes Sen. Clinton's
emergence as the most admired woman unusual is that the nation's
first lady often tops the list. But this year, first lady Laura
Bush placed third, not only behind Clinton but also TV talk show
host Oprah Winfrey, who came in second.
Bush was the
first or second choice of 6% of the poll's respondents.
first once in her three years as first lady, in 2001, shortly
after the Sept.11 attacks. She also ranked third in 2002, again
behind Clinton and Winfrey. ...