Interview: Ann Selzer stands by sampling method for primary polls

J. Ann Selzer has earned a reputation as “the best pollster in politics” through “old-school rigor” and not adjusting her data to fit guesses about the structure of the electorate. Des Moines-based Selzer & Co. is one of only five polling firms in the country currently rated A+ by FiveThirtyEight. Like many media pollsters, the firm uses a random digit dial method to find respondents for surveys about a primary or Iowa caucus. Most internal polls commissioned by campaigns draw the sample from a registered voter list, with an emphasis on past participants in either a Democratic or Republican nominating contest.

I sought comment from Selzer on her methodology because of Fred Hubbell’s and Cindy Axne’s unexpectedly large margins of victory in this year’s Iowa Democratic primary. In a telephone interview with Bleeding Heartland last week, Selzer explained why she will stick with her sampling method for future primary elections.

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2018 Iowa primary results: Early wins for Hubbell, Finkenauer, Axne

Good news for Iowa political junkies who value sleep: there’s no need for an all-nighter to follow this year’s primary results. In the most closely-watched races, it was clear less than an hour after polls closed that Fred Hubbell will be the Democratic nominee against Governor Kim Reynolds, Abby Finkenauer will face off against Representative Rod Blum in Iowa’s first Congressional district, and Cindy Axne will challenge Representative David Young in the third Congressional district.

I’ll update this post frequently throughout the evening as results are reported.

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EMILY's List more engaged in Iowa primaries than ever (updated)

In this record-setting year for Iowa women candidates, the country’s leading political action committee seeking to elect pro-choice, Democratic women has been more involved in Iowa primaries than ever before.

EMILY’s List has long backed female Democratic candidates for state and federal offices in Iowa. But for the first time this year, the group’s political arm has been the biggest outside spender in Iowa Congressional primaries.

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Five questions inspired by the Des Moines Register's IA-03 poll

Iowa’s third Congressional district Democratic primary has no clear front-runner, according to the first public poll of the race by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom. If the June 5 election were held today, 27 percent of respondents would support Eddie Mauro, 26 percent Cindy Axne, 11 percent Pete D’Alessandro, 10 percent “none of these/someone else/would not vote,” and 26 percent unsure/refused to answer.

Mauro has the highest name recognition in this field–not surprising, since he comes from a well-known Polk County political family and began advertising on Des Moines television stations in mid-April, about two weeks before Axne and D’Alessandro did. Selzer found 42 percent of respondents had a favorable view of Mauro, 13 percent unfavorable, and 46 percent didn’t know enough to have an opinion, William Petroski reported for the Des Moines Register today. The comparable numbers for Axne were 33 percent favorable, 8 percent unfavorable, 59 percent unsure, and for D’Alessandro, 22 percent favorable, 10 percent unfavorable, 68 percent unsure.

I have no idea who will win the nomination. Five questions came to mind after reading Petroski’s write-up.

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