Thursday, September 20, 2012

The trouble with this week's polls

We've seen a deluge of polls from multiple pollsters this week giving the election a strong Democratic skew.

This seems questionable to me for a few reasons. There's been no major event like the fiscal meltdown. Minor body blows might decide an election but not result in a massive shift. Gallup's poll shows that Romney's "47%" comment didn't change much with a lot of people. Gallup did this with aided recall. So many people may not have been aware of the video or not heard it the way Gallup described it.

Obama's RCP average is lower than it was a little over a week ago. A lot of the gains come from polls taken entirely in the last few days. If something sudden like that happens, it may not last.

The polls aren't moving Democratic because Democrats are picking up more Republicans or independents. In fact, Romney is often winning independents. They are going up because the samples are much heavier Democratic than what's been used in the past. That means the pollsters are seeing something that tells them that both Democrats and Republicans will show up at around 2008 levels. I don't know what suggests that but usually independents shift strongly to candidates who are winning big. You don't see someone winning by 6 points and losing independents.

One thing that's been pointed out is that pollsters who call cell phones are the ones who are moving toward the Democrats, while those that don't are remaining stable. Democrats will argue that their voters get the short shrift with automated pollsters. Those polls have also had a heavier than expected Democratic skew. It's one that has been as heavy as cell phone pollsters.

Several people have mentioned they see no reason for a sudden shift and skepticism that this is 2008 all over again is well-founded. Democrats aren't as enthusiastic as 2008 and many Obama voters are disillusioned. That doesn't mean he won't win, just that he doesn't have the enthusiastic support of 2008. Republicans in 2008 were despondent and didn't show up at the polls. That isn't the case now. Of course 2008 had several events to support the atmosphere, namely the economy.

This year we haven't seen strong Democratic electoral gains we saw in 2008 and 2010 that showed a skewed environment. Scott Walker did better than expected in Wisconsin, exceeding his 2010 margin. California's top two had Republicans and Democrats competing in open primaries mirroring the general election. Republicans showed up. Democrats didn't. Washington's top two showed no skew to either party.

None of these elections should tell us that Republicans will have a good election, but none of them give any indication the Democrats will.

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