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Two Polls Show Virtual Dead Heat in Florida between Romney and Gingrich

by | Jan 26, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

Newt Gingrich (left) and Mitt Romney, Pro-Life Republican Presidential Candidates

Two recent polls showing the same exact slim advantage not only give you some idea how close the battle among Republican presidential candidates is in Florida, but also how exactly opposite conclusions can be drawn from the same numbers.

One day before the second and final Republican debate in Florida, a CNN/Time/ORC International Poll concludes that there is a “dead heat” in the Sunshine state between former Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The poll of people likely to vote in next Tuesday’s Republican primary was conducted by ORC International from January 22-24.

Romney has a statistically insignificant two point lead—36% to 34%–over Gingrich. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is next at 11% and Texas Rep. Ron Paul of Texas is at 9%. Seven percent are unsure.

“In the wake of his double-digit victory in the South Carolina primary, Newt Gingrich has nearly doubled his support in Florida,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. “The current numbers are the result of some wild swings for and against the two frontrunners.”

One the one hand, when CNN’s last poll in Florida was taken (January 13-17) Gingrich was at 18% and trailed Romney by 25 points.  On the other hand, last Sunday HE was ahead of Gingrich by two points—38% to 36%. The question CNN raises is whether the Speaker’s momentum has plateaued. Another question would be whether the numbers are a temporary blip, whether the differences are explained by the margin of error that any poll is subject to, or whether everything is too close to call.

To show you how reporters read almost exactly similar data very differently, the Associated Press looked at a different poll from a reputable source (Quinnipiac University) and its lead read, “Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich heads into Florida’s presidential preference primary next Tuesday with momentum from his victory in South Carolina, a new poll shows”!

Romney is ahead by the same two points—in this case 38% to 36% among likely Florida Republican voters—and the story’s emphasis was on how “Gingrich has erased a 12-point deficit with Florida voters over the past two weeks and is now about even with Mitt Romney.”

One explanation might be found in the final sentence of the AP story. “In a bit of a quirk in the new poll, only 7 percent said they were still undecided but 38 percent said they might change their mind.” The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted January 19-23.

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Categories: Politics