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Friday, April 8, 2011

Trump, Jabba, and Nonattitudes

As we explain in our chapter on public opinion, "nonattitudes" the answers people give when pollsters ask them about things they have not thought about and and on which they have no real opinions.

In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal Survey, Mitt Romney is the first choice of those who say that they would vote in a Republican presidential primary. Tied for second place are Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump. Yes, Donald Trump, the "You're Fired!" guy. Does this finding mean that Republicans have suddenly developed a passion for gaudy architecture and bad hair? Nope, the number doesn’t mean much at all. Only a couple of major would-be candidates have even formed “exploratory” committees, and some other potential contenders are still undecided. Several of them are unfamiliar to most voters. In this situation, many respondents will pick Trump simply because they recognize his name. And since it will be months before they have to make a real choice, they feel free to give whimsical answers. Jabba the Hutt would probably poll well, too, but that doesn’t mean that anybody would vote for him.