Repeating polls in the lead-up to an election — for all the shortcomings of polling — allows us to see how political opinion is changing or coalescing. Taking multiple snapshots of the same electorate builds a fuller picture of what people believe, adding confidence that the views expressed in one poll reflect the reality of held opinion.

This time, the Goucher College Poll provides a great check on itself and extends what we learned about abortion from the primary poll. Progressives were broadly more motivated to vote after the Supreme Court struck down the national right to abortion with the court’s June Dobbs v. Jackson decision.

More than three-quarters of progressive women in this poll said they were more motivated to vote in the fall general election by the Supreme Court’s ruling, with a number statistically indistinguishable from 0 saying the decision made them less motivated. This closely parallels results from the June Goucher College Poll — surveyed after a draft Dobbs decision was leaked but before the Supreme Court released the ruling — in which the poll found that 79% of progressive women believed that abortion should be legal in all circumstances.

Likewise, in that same June poll, a plurality of women stated that they wouldn’t vote for someone who didn’t share their opinion on abortion. We could have guessed that Dobbs would energize women voters, but having data from two separate polls allows us to test our expectations. Poll respondents on differing parts of the political spectrum said they were affected differently by the Dobbs decision — which shows the usefulness of comparing the green apples of June’s poll with the red apples of September’s poll.

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Conservatives’ reactions were very different: 68% of conservative women surveyed in September they were just as motivated or less motivated to vote while 78% of conservative men fell into the same categories. Moderates — the largest voting bloc in Maryland — were split, with about half of respondents saying they were just as motivated after the Dobbs decision and half saying they were more motivated. There were slight but meaningful differences by gender — 39% of moderate men were more motivated by the Dobbs decision, while 49% of moderate women were.

Do Black Marylanders think race relations are better than white Marylanders?

Going by the topline numbers, a slightly larger and statistically significant percentage of Black Marylanders — 65% — believed that race relations were good compared with white Marylanders, who polled at 58%. What should we think about this?

For one, whenever I think about a conclusion’s “significance,” I weigh statistical and real-world significance. While there does seem to be a difference between the two groups’ views on race relations, it’s not jarringly different — both of the totals are majorities, but neither overwhelmingly so. But, more interestingly, we can dig into that difference to see what else appears.

We see two sample groups driving the difference: opinions among Black conservatives and opinions among Black residents of Baltimore County. Opinions around race relations were pretty similar for moderates and progressives. However, 79% of conservative Black respondents thought race relations were good compared with 58% of white conservatives. On the flip side, only 15% of conservative Black survey takers thought that race relations were bad, compared to 38% of conservative whites.

A similar dynamic showed up in Baltimore County, where 68% of Black respondents said race relations were good compared with 45% of white respondents. These two groups, Black Baltimore County residents and Black conservatives, add up to about one-third of the Black respondents in the Goucher College Poll, and are enough to account for the small difference seen in the aggregate numbers.

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Working against this was a large proportion of Black Eastern Shore residents who feel poorly about the current state of race relations. While that percentage difference was large, however, there were so few Black respondents from the Eastern Shore that it’s both difficult to have confidence in the result, and the difference would have a small aggregate effect even if the results were reliable.

Party opinions

This is a bit of an abstract view of the poll, but, like the poll heat map from the first poll data story, all the information contained in the poll is in this chart.

Here, each square represents all survey responses from a single respondent. To turn a poll with 25 questions into something that can be easily visualized, we have to do a few math tricks that I talk about in the code link here.

At it’s most basic, though, what’s in this visualization are the relative similarities between all 748 likely voters contained in the poll. The closer two squares are to each other, the more similar their survey responses. By coloring each square by the party each respondent said they were registered with, we can see that Democrats, typically, have more similar opinions to other Democrats than they do to Republicans, and vice versa — not surprising.

However, there are a few more revealing elements of the poll to notice here. First, we can see more evidence that Republicans are more similar to other Republicans than Democrats are to Democrats. There are a great deal more blue squares scattered away from the crowded pile over to the left, while the red squares are more tightly grouped on the right side of the graphic. Because distance on this plot measures similarity of responses, a tighter grouping implies more similar views.

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We found something similar in the primary poll that Republicans were less likely to share concerns about the issues Democrats were concerned about. What we see clearly here, though, is that the differences in issues that Democrats and Republicans value are averages that contain multitudes within them, and ideological outliers — such as the blue squares way over on the right side of the graphic.

While it’s true that 22% of respondents picked the same three issues as their most important (schools, crime, economy) from a list of eight options, and 69% chose two of the three, even those commonalities contain Democrats whose opinions fall squarely in the Republican camp, and Republicans who might as well be the median Democratic voter. We also see why independents and unaffiliated call themselves that; their beliefs are spread all over the board.

This Goucher College Poll is a journalism collaboration between the Baltimore Banner and 88.1, WYPR-FM. Read and listen to more stories about what we learned all this week.

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Nick Thieme designs statistical experiments and analyzes data to discover and improve stories about inequality, human rights, health care, and climate change. He has worked as a data reporter and statistician for a variety of public and private organizations, with writing appearing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Slate Magazine, and elsewhere.

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