Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Obama and Indiana: The Fox News effect

On Tuesday, May 6th, 2008, Indiana held its state primary between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton. Nine days earlier, on Sunday April 27th, Sen. Obama made an appearance on Fox News Sunday, ending the network's "Obama Watch" -- it had been well over a thousand days, Fox was counting, since the Senator's previous appearance on the show.

For those who watched the program, the show's right-leaning 'Sunday Panel' spoke well of Obama's performance answering host Chris Wallace's questions. But how important is a warm reception on Fox News? Can it bring you power?

With the state's primary just days away, we can assume for a moment greater than usual attention was paid by Indianans to political matters that Sunday morning. Perhaps we can imagine that more Indianans tuned into and caught a glimpse of Sen. Obama because they were motivated by the upcoming primary.

So assuming people watched, how has Sen. Obama done in Indiana since that appearance? And what does it say about Fox News' importance to the political campaign?

Following the Fox appearance, Obama went ahead and made a better-than-expected showing in the Indiana primary. He lost by a few points, but did well enough in North Carolina to make the Indiana result look like a de facto winner.

But the most important story might not be that Sen. Obama was able to move closer to Sen. Clinton, whom he was on track to defeat anyway. Instead, take a look at the poll numbers between Sen. Obama and his now-chief rival Sen. John McCain.

Atop this post is a picture of the general trend in Indiana. The data show a strong move by Obama in recent months.

The details are even more interesting. Look closely at A poll of 600 likely voters by Research 2000 covering April 23-24 found the voters on McCain's side, 51 -43. Then just a few days later -- following Sen. Obama's Fox News appearance -- a Downs Center poll of 1,274 likely voters covering April 28-30 found the percentages to break down much differently: 48-47, this time in Sen. Obama's favor. This thin gap has basically sustained itself ever since, suggesting that Indiana can be won by the Democratic candidate, which would be the first victory in Indiana for that party since 1964.

How important was the Fox News appearance? The data suggest it didn't hurt.

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