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Monday, October 04, 2010

OH-01: Flawed Cincinnati Enquirer Poll Undercounts African Americans To Give Steve Chabot Lead Over Dem Driehaus

Oho 1st District Demographic Data (2008)

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Nearly a third of the residents in Ohio's 1st Congressional District are black.  Most are clustered in neighborhoods on Cincinnati's urban west side and older Hamilton County suburbs.  The Census Bureau estimates about 599,000 Ohioans live in OH-01, and says 180,000 are African American.  Because it covers Cincinnati's urban core, the 1st District has one of the highest concentration of black voters in the United States.  A demographic data fact sheet is easily accessible online from Ohio State University(pdf), which published the info for a previous election cycle.  The district's racial makeup is a widely known fact.

Yet the Cincinnati Enquirer massively headlined a poll Sunday that looks to have seriously under counted African American voters in the Gannett Co. Inc. newspaper's own backyard.  Its sample of 594 likely voters skewed 16% black.  That is a huge divergence from reality in OH-01 -- which is 30% African American.  The poll sample was 78% white, again a tilt away from reality on the ground.  The newspaper reported Republican Steve Chabot had a 12-point lead over U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus, the Dem elected in 2008.  It did not report that a prior poll showed Chabot with a 17-point lead.  The Enquirer is supporting Chabot.  And some are wondering:  Has the GOP bias that is openly practiced on its editorial page tiptoed into its news pages?  Driehaus beat Chabot in 2008 and is finishing his first term.  Their rematch is the most closely watched contest in SW Ohio.  Data in the SurveyUSA election poll tabs show that only 16% of those queried about the Driehaus-Chabot contest were black. SurveyUSA has made the full-text of its most recent Driehaus-Chabot poll available online. SurveyUSA contends black voters are not motivated to turn out this year, thus giving a huge edge to Chabot.  The poll was conducted last week.

But there is more to the story.  If an earlier SurveyUSA poll is analyzed -- which is something the Cincinnati Enquirer failed to do -- the numbers show Chabot is less popular today than he was before he started running to reclaim OH-01.  Ten months ago, a Driehaus-Chabot race went to Chabot with 56% of the vote -- Chabot had a 17-point margin.   In that SurveyUSA poll, which was conducted for the left-leaning political blog Firedog Lake, Chabot was a shoo-in. Those results are here. The poll noted the importance of the black vote, and 21% of those surveyed were African American. That is a much higher percentage than were contacted for the Cincinnati Enquirer poll, a poll that was so highly touted by the newspaper. Indeed, the earlier poll placed a prime emphasis on the black vote on OH-01:

"African Americans are estimated to be 21% of likely voters in this model. For every percentage point that black turnout is higher in 2010, the Democrat will outperform these results by approximately 1 percentage point. For every percentage point that black turnout is lower in 2010, the Democrat will under perform these results by approximately 1 percentage point."

That means OH-01's black voters are a critical component of the Driehaus electoral base. If they show up, he wins. It is a fact that the Cincinnati Enquirer seems to have ignored. There is a month to Election Day, and Driehaus is not toast. He's in a huge battle with Chabot, whose own popularity has faded by three points since January, according to SurveyUSA.

The polling firm does issue a caveat about its numbers.  It says that many people couldn't be contacted because they don't have home phones, and its numbers are accurate only to the degree they involve those with home phones.  In OH-01, many people use cellphones, it is a fact of life in urban America.   SurveyUSA noted:

"In theory, one cay say with 95% certainty that the results would not vary by more than the stated margin of sampling error [+/- 4.1%], in one director or the other, had the entire universe of respondents with home telephones been interviewed with complete accuracy.  There are other possible sources of error in all surveys that may be more serious than sampling error:  These include the difficulty of interviewing respondents who do not have a home telephone; the refusal by some with home telephones to be interviewed; the order in which questions are asked; the wording of questions; the way and extent to which data are weighted; and the manner in which specialized populations, such as likely voters, are determined.  It is difficult to quantify the errors that may result from these and other factors."

UPDATE: 3:27 pm --  CityBeat's Kevin Osborne has a link to the Daily Bellwether's take on the Enquirer poll conducted by SurveyUSA. Osborne's headline agrees that the there was a flaw that undercounted African American voters in Cincinnati's West Side congressional district. I will also add that there are several black candidates who are running for various offices in Hamilton County that could gin up Democratic turnout in OH-01. Judge William Mallory is seeking election to the Ohio Court of Appeals, where he is the first African American to sit in the court's history. Judge Nadine Allen is running countywide, too, for a seat on the Common Pleas Court. And State Sen. Eric Kearney is running for reelection to a legislative post whose district boundaries overlap in part with OH-01. The presence of Mallory, Allen and Kearney on the ballot should help Driehaus by drawing black Democrats to the polls.


  1. The other unusual tidbit about this poll is that people who had already voted, voted FOR Driehaus by about the same margins as the overall poll has Driehaus losing. If Democratic enthusiasm is that low, why would those who have already voted be more likely to support the Democrat?

  2. Boy, time sure proved this story wrong.