Monday, July 16, 2007

Relevant Statistics: an Alternative to Public Opinion Polls

Ron Paul's campaign, and many observers, have noted that public opinion polls miss a certain portion of the population; namely, people like myself: those who are cell-phone only, who aren't called by Zogby, Pew and the rest. I think this trend is growing, and will continue to grow, as the old-style, copper-wire telcos continue to lose business to, or merge with, the cellular industry.

Given this growing trend, it seems that our pollsters, in order to remain relevant, must change the way that they do business. I have an alternative which is relevant, which is future-proof in that it doesn't rely on any particular technology, and which is a true measure of the political leanings of the most politically-active segments of the population. Here, in brief, is the Cagle Method.

The first thing we need to do is get information on the number of individuals who have donated to a presidential campaign. The amount of each donation is irrelevant. What we're looking for is the number of individual donors; i.e. people who are able and likely to vote in a primary. Then, we simply add up the number of total individuals.

This gives us a pie, not made up of campaign dollars, but of likely primary voters. If we're going to look for relevant figures, there is no more relevant study group than individuals who donate money to presidential campaigns. If someone is passionate enough about a candidate to donate money to them, then it is fairly safe to assume that if their state primary was held tomorrow, they would vote for the candidate to whom they had donated.

This method--like polling methods--does have some flaws. For example, not everyone who will vote in a primary is able to donate money to a presidential campaign. This is especially true of the young and the poor. No single poll should ever be viewed as definitive or as a total representation of the country at large, and neither should any single analysis of statistics. However, it seems to me that the relevance of individual donors cannot be discounted, and should be used alongside other forms of public opinion data.

The main problem I have is that this data doesn't seem to be available. The Federal Elections Commission only lists dollar amounts. So, I'm putting a call out to anyone who can get me reliable data (i.e. from a campaign treasurer or the FEC) on the number of individual donors to each campaign. I'm happy to crunch the numbers, do the math and make all the nice charts and graphs, I just need the numbers.

Again, I don't care if they gave $20 or the maximum of $2,300, just so long as the numbers reflect the total number of individuals who donated. I'm not interested in numbers for PACs or "Other" since a committee, corporate entity, union or other legal fiction cannot vote. Also, please ensure that each donation is not counted multiple times if they came from the same individual. If someone gave $20 a week for a month, the data should reflect one individual, not four donations.

Corey Cagle


Update: This information is on the FEC's website! It's slightly buried, and it's for Q1, not Q2, but it's there. I'm going to run through the numbers for Q1, while awaiting the updated numbers, then we can compare both.

1 comment:

tex mac said...

Interesting project. I'll be looking forward to reading your conclusions.