Questions about MoveOn’s Endorsement of Obama

Yesterday’s MoveOn member poll showed Barack Obama winning decisively over Hillary Clinton, 70% to 29%. Matt Stoller has the news at Open Left. MoveOn had set the threshold for endorsement at 66% and Obama comfortably got enough votes to meet that standard.

But there are a number of questions that I would be curious to see answered.

MoveOn cites the votes totals as Vote results:

Obama: 197,444 (70.4%)
Clinton: 83,084 (29.6%)

That’s a total of 280,528 votes cast in 24 hours, a very impressive number. But MoveOn has 3.2 million members. Only 8.7% of them participated in the poll. Only 6.17% of MoveOn members voted for Obama, yet he will receive their endorsement and support.

Now, comparing vote totals to total membership is not exactly a fair comparison to adjudicate the merits of the endorsement. But it’s the information I have at hand.

What would be more helpful to know in evaluating these numbers is this:

  1. How many people opened the email?
  2. How many people went to the voting landing page linked in the email and decided not to vote?
  3. How many people previously participated in MoveOn’s Virtual Town Halls on Iraq and the environment?

Knowing the answers to these questions would give us a better sense of how MoveOn members thought about the vote between Clinton and Obama. I don’t expect to find out #1 and #2, as most organizations keep that information secret. I asked for the answer to from #3 by Ilyse Hoque of MoveOn, here’s what she provided me with:

Iraq Town Hall: 42,896 votes cast

Climate Town Hall: 95,284 votes cast

She also provided me with the individual candidate breakdowns for both votes, but I don’t think those numbers are relevant to the question at hand. It’s the totals that concern me.

MoveOn saw a 294% increase in participation in the straw poll from the larger virtual town hall to the endorsement vote. That huge increase makes me think that concerns about participation in proportion to list size for the endorsement vote are not valid. They clearly had a major portion of the active members of their list participate and the result was clearly decisive.

I’ll be curious to see how MoveOn members work to help the endorsement have an impact beyond a press release. Will Obama be able to count on nearly 200,000 MoveOn members to man the phones for him in the coming days and weeks? Will MoveOn ask their members to donate to Obama’s campaign? Will Obama’s campaign try to do an acquisition email to MoveOn’s members who voted for him? I’ll be looking forward to seeing how this plays out.

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