U.S. Presidential Primaries and the Caucus-Convention System: A Sourcebook

By James W. Davis | Go to book overview

13 Polls and Primaries

Public opinion polls have become as much a part of presidential nominating races as the general election. Indeed, as presidential nominating stakes have risen steadily with the continued spread of primaries, measuring public attitudes has taken on vital importance.

Public opinion polls, still in their infancy when World War II began, have become sensitive barometers in presidential nominating races. Long before the national conventions, polls reveal the front-runner, show nip- and-tuck races between leading contenders, and expose poor vote getters.

There are two kinds of polls: public and private. Public opinion polls, such as Gallup, Harris, and the New York Times/CBS News, are published periodically to reveal the latest sounding of the public's view toward various candidates or other political phenomena. The distinguishing feature of the published polls is that they are conducted as a form of journalism to inform the public about the political world and not for political intelligence. Private polls are those commissioned for the personal use of candidates and staff in charting campaign strategy and tactics.

Because the Gallup and Harris polls are now considered reliable barometers of candidate popularity, all presidential contenders make it an early objective to gain top ranking in the preprimary opinion poll ratings. Those early favorable ratings can be used to build momentum, raise campaign funds, and generate additional media coverage. By pinpointing the probable winners in the primaries, public opinion polls affect the amount of attention the media will give each candidate. Especially during the preprimary season, this added media coverage for the front-runner helps attract more financial support and campaign volunteers. If a candidate is doing well in the polls, it is a foregone conclusion that he or she is doing well in the

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U.S. Presidential Primaries and the Caucus-Convention System: A Sourcebook
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Preface ix
  • Notes xii
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • 1 - Presidential Nominations-- American Style 1
  • Introduction 8
  • 2 - History of Presidential Nominations (1789-1968) 9
  • Notes 18
  • 3 - Party Reform 20
  • Notes 32
  • 4 - Presidential Primaries in the Postreform Era (1972-1996) 34
  • Notes 44
  • 5 - The Caucus-Convention System 45
  • Notes 57
  • 6 - National Convention Delegate Selection Before and After Mcgovern-Fraser Reforms 59
  • Notes 66
  • 7 - Who Are the Delegates? 67
  • Notes 81
  • 8 - Nominating Strategies 83
  • Summary 98
  • Notes 99
  • 9 - Nominating Finance 101
  • Notes 122
  • 10 - Supreme Court Decisions and Presidential Nominations 125
  • Notes 132
  • 11 - Primaries, Caucuses, and the Mass Media 134
  • Notes 144
  • 12 - Primary Debates 146
  • Notes 155
  • 13 - Polls and Primaries 157
  • Notes 170
  • 14 - Voter Participation in Primaries and Caucuses 172
  • Notes 192
  • 15 - Proposed National Primary 195
  • Notes 205
  • 16 - Regional Primaries 206
  • Notes 213
  • 17 - National Preprimary Convention Plan and Other Recent Reform Proposals 215
  • Notes 221
  • 18 - National Nominating Conventions 223
  • Notes 251
  • 19 - Presidential Nominations: The Perot Model 254
  • Notes 261
  • Appendixes 263
  • Glossary 269
  • Selected Bibliography 275
  • Index 283
  • About the Author 295
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