Poll: Coakley leads among people who will, won't vote

Granted, a new survey from Western New England College Polling Institute doesn't use this language. But that's the gist.

Consider: between October 18 and 22, 468 registered voters were asked to weigh in on the race to replace Ted Kennedy. 368 of these were registered Democrats and independents eligible to vote in the Democratic primary on December 8.

Among this group, Coakley emerged as the clear frontrunner, garnering 37 percent support to Steve Pagliuca's 14, Mike Capuano's 13, and Alan Khazei's 4. Ergo, WNECPI co-director Tim Vercellotti says,  "[T]he Democratic nomination is Martha Coakley’s to lose."

But how meaningful are those numbers, really? After all, just 52 percent of those eligible respondents said they were "very likely" to vote on primary day. 23 percent said they were "somewhat likely," while 11 percent that they were "not very likely," and 13 percent opted for "not at all likely." Two percent wouldn't even answer the question.

I confess that I'm your stereotypical math-challenged journalist. That said, here's my question: if 25 percent or more of a given survey's respondents have made it clear that they probably won't even get to the polls, why should we care what they think? And wouldn't screening out these likely non-voters--instead of identifying them as such, and then adding their musings to the mix--offer a sharper picture of where the race really stands?

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