There is no doubt that Ramaswamy has come out of nowhere to become a surprisingly interesting candidate for the Republican electorate. But there are some methodological quirks that raise questions about where Ramaswamy fits within the ranks of Republican hopefuls below the reigning favorite.
Determining Ramaswamy’s true position is not just an academic exercise. The Republican National Committee says it will use the polls to determine the order of the podium in its first sanctioned debate later this month, so Ramaswamy will likely be at or near center stage if Trump decides not to participate.
Overall, the poll averages placed him in third place. In RealClearPolitics averageRamaswamy is at 6.1 percent, behind only Trump (54.2 percent) and DeSantis (15.1 percent), but ahead of Mike Pence (5.2 percent), Nikki Haley (3 .4 percent), Tim Scott (2.8%) and Chris Christie (2.6%). Average of FiveThirtyEight polls shows Ramaswamy even higher at 7.5 percent, 2 points ahead of Pence for third place.
Ramaswamy’s strength comes almost entirely from Internet polls, according to a POLITICO analysis. In Internet polls over the past month, the vast majority of which are conducted among panels of people who sign up early to complete surveys, often for financial incentives, Ramaswamy wins an average of 7.8 percent , a clear third behind Trump and DeSantis.
In polls conducted mostly or partially by telephone, in which people are contacted randomly, Ramaswamy not only lags behind in his average score, but is back in seventh place, with just 2.6 percent.
There is no single, obvious explanation for the disparity, but there are a few leading theories for it, namely the demographic characteristics and Internet literacy of Ramaswamy’s supporters, along with the complications of an over-crowded audience. white man trying to pronounce the name of a child of immigrants from India over the phone.
The two polls released Thursday are an example of the discrepancy. A Fairleigh Dickinson University Survey he had Ramaswamy at 3 percent, tied with Haley for fifth and behind Christie and Pence.
Meanwhile, a survey of the web panel of the Republican firm Cygnal he had him at 11 percent, 1 point ahead of DeSantis. (Cygnal is also working for Ramaswamy’s campaign, though this poll was commissioned independently of that effort, and it’s not the only one showing him getting into the low double digits.)
There is no doubt that Ramaswamy is rising. The only question is how much. While it now sits at 6.1 percent of the RealClearPolitics average, it was at 3.1 percent a month ago and 2.2 percent the month before that.
And unlike other candidates who have invested significant financial resources to gain traction, such as Scott and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Ramaswamy has done so almost entirely through earned media. According to AdImpact, Ramaswamy, who is primarily self-funding his campaign, has spent $1.8 million on digital and television advertising, far less than the other contenders, some of whom have already pulled in $20 million in ads when combined with super PAC support.
However, the attention Ramaswamy has garnered has come from television and digital media catering to the most intense voters paying the most attention to the race so far, even though the first ballot is still more than five months away. And high-interest, high-information voters—those who might be called more “online”—are also likely to be overrepresented in Internet polls.
That could change when he takes the debate stage later this month, but the information voters are getting about Ramaswamy is also almost uniformly positive so far. In accordance with Morning Consult weekly tracking race, 36 percent of Republican primary voters said they had heard something positive about him in the past week, a higher percentage than for any other candidate, although a narrow majority, 52 percent, he said they hadn’t heard anything about him. .
Polls also generally show Ramaswamy is more favored by younger Republicans and voters with college degrees, also groups that tend to be more present in online polls than in telephone polls.
Just because there are apparent methodological effects at play does not mean that one batch of surveys is more likely to be closer to reality than the other. And they’re certainly likely to converge as the race progresses, especially as larger numbers of voters become familiar with the candidates through televised debates and other follow-up events.
On the other hand, there is one reason why Ramaswamy’s support might be artificially lower on the phone than in point-and-click Internet polls: his name.
Pollsters work hard to make sure their interviewers pronounce candidates’ names correctly. They provide pronunciation guides, like this one in a recent one New York Times/Siena College Poll: “Viv-AKE Rahm-uh-SWAM-ee” and call centers monitor some of the interviews to make sure their employees say it right. (If you’ve ever heard that one of your phone calls was “being monitored for quality,” here’s how it works.)
And then, for a respondent to choose Ramaswamy in a telephone survey, they will have to repeat the name to the interviewer. And the national Republican electorate is definitely older and whiter than the country as a whole: in a recent New York Times/Siena College Pollmore than 80 percent of likely GOP primary voters were white and 38 percent were 65 or older.
“When your candidate’s name is Vivek Ramaswamy,” said one Republican pollster, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the polling dynamics candidate, “it’s like DEFCON 1 for confusion and mispronunciation.”