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Generic Ballot Polling

As we inch closer to November, my interest in polls increases. While my associate Mr. Jay Tea might roll his eyes, I am a confessed poll junkie. Not because I believe them--most polls have some sort of horrible bias, many are completely fabricated to create a political talking point. I do believe there is almost always information to be gleaned from any particular poll.

Today, my interested is in the generic ballot poll--the poll that asks if you would vote Republican or Democrat with no name associated with either candidate. Jay Cost takes a look at the trend in this polling from RealClearPolitics.


As typical with a Cost analysis it is long and well worth the read. His main point is that the decline in popularity of the generic Democratic candidate started with health care reform.
Reconstructing the Democrats' meme, we can fairly say that the economy is a huge problem for the party. Of this, there can be no doubt. We can also say that the stalled recovery denied the Democrats a chance to win back the voters they lost over health care. But the process and passage of health care reform were crucial elements in the story. That's when the party started losing the voters it needs to retain control of the government.
More recent results in the generic ballot polling have attracted attention elsewhere. Details after the break.

Over at Powerlineblog, Paul notes that the most recent Gallup poll gives Republican candidates a 10 point advantage in its version of the generic poll.


Gallup's weekly tracking poll of 2010 congressional voting preferences for August 23-29 has Republicans leading Democrats by 51 percent to 41 percent among registered voters. The 10-percentage-point lead is the GOP's largest of the year and, in fact, is its largest lead in Gallup's history of tracking the midterm generic ballot.

The "enthusiasm gap" is even more pronounced. Gallup finds that Republicans are now twice as likely as Democrats to be "very" enthusiastic about voting come November, the largest such advantage of the year.

Now Jay Cost is typically conservative and John at Powerline is decidedly so. Lest you think I'm cherrypicking my analyses, I direct you to Nate Silver, the notably liberal (and mathematically astute) analyzer of polls who founded the FiveThirtyEight blog is now writes for the New York Times. (Hat tip Ann Althouse.)
Making matters worse still for Democrats, Gallup's survey -- and some other generic ballot polls -- are still polling registered rather than likely voters, whereas its polls of likely voters are generally more reliable in midterm elections. At FiveThirtyEight, we've found that the gap between registered and likely voter polls this year is about 4 points in the Republicans' favor -- so a 10-point lead in a registered voter poll is the equivalent of about 14 points on a likely-voter basis. Thus, even if this particular Gallup survey was an outlier, it's not unlikely that we'll begin to see some 8-, 9- and 10-point leads for Republicans in this poll somewhat routinely once Gallup switches over to a likely voter model at some point after Labor Day -- unless Democrats do something to get the momentum back.
Yes, things could still change between now and November. Yes, the most recent Gallup result may be an outlier. But for anyone hoping for a fiscal sanity these numbers have to be seen as encouraging.


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Comments (25)

It's the economy Jugg ears!... (Below threshold)
Nine Fourteen:

It's the economy Jugg ears!

I must be naive, because I ... (Below threshold)

I must be naive, because I never attached any ulterior or sinister motives to polls.

I once had a client and friend, who owned a polling company, and as far as I could tell, all of his marketing polls were always on the up and up, fair and square. They had to be, or companies wouldn't have retained his services.

No offense, but perhaps you're being too cynical, Dan? Or maybe you have more experience in such matters than I do.

Sorry SPQR but after Dan Bl... (Below threshold)
Nine Fourteen:

Sorry SPQR but after Dan Blathergate exsposed his unbiased network for partisan hacks, I haven't looked at "News/poll" takers the same way.

SPQR,A marketing ... (Below threshold)

A marketing poll has to be unbiased. POLITICAL polling, is by definition, political, and therefore somewhat biased.

It's a good question SPQR. ... (Below threshold)

It's a good question SPQR. A full answer would be very long--and actually gives me an idea for a series of posts, so thank you.

But my quick comments are as follows. As commentors mentioned above, political polling is a different animal than marketing polling. When a company does an internal poll to see how a product might fare, they have nothing to gain by skewing the numbers. Political polls are released to the public (well some of them are) and thus can influence public behavior.

A key thing to look at with any political poll would be the internal breakdown of party affiliation. Say, in some hypothetical world, the real breakdown between parties was 33%R/33%I/33%D. A poll comes out and the internal breakdown is 20%R/25%I/45%D. This poll is oversampling Democrats and would present a skewed results.

A non-mathematical way of looking at it is as follows. Say you ask the question "Did President Bush's policies have a positive effect on the Iraq War?" If you ask this question in Berkeley, CA you are going to get a much different answer than if you as it in Colorado Springs, CO. If you are looking to represent national trends, your polling distribution must match national distributions as closely as possible. A hard thing to do with a limited polling sample, but polls with obviously biased samples are to be avoided.

Not to be argumentative, bu... (Below threshold)

Not to be argumentative, but in view of the human error factor, one has to expect a certain margin of error in polls.

But I think that most people try to be on the up and up as much as possible when they conduct their polls. Well, most people, except for Democrats, and therein lies the rub. ;)

Just kidding. I suspect that there are some conscientious Democrats, too.

Thank you, Dan. You're a ge... (Below threshold)

Thank you, Dan. You're a gentleman and a scholar. :)

The 1st Tuesday in November... (Below threshold)
Tsar Nicholas II:

The 1st Tuesday in November is the only 'poll' that counts. When conservatives finally grasp that reality then the country will be a lot better off.

"The 1st Tuesday in Novembe... (Below threshold)

"The 1st Tuesday in November is the only 'poll' that counts."

Unless you're a liberal, in which case you head for the courts if the results are not to your liking.

" unless Democrats do somet... (Below threshold)
gary gulrud:

" unless Democrats do something to get the momentum back."

That's a tough one given Il Douche, with feet of clay, is on their 'team'.

Events are not looking rosy, but who knows, an asteriod hits and elections are called off, 'eh.

Unless you're a liberal,... (Below threshold)

Unless you're a liberal, in which case you head for the courts if the results are not to your liking.

So Norm Coleman's a liberal? Interesting.

I'd be interested in seeing... (Below threshold)

I'd be interested in seeing the above poll with actual candidates. "Generic" candidates are always a bit dodgy; people can dislike parties in general but actually be alright with "their" guy.

For example, I expect Reid polls as losing to a generic GOP candidate, but he's ahead of the actual GOP candidate Angle.

jimbo x"Unless ... (Below threshold)
Nine Fourteen:

jimbo x

"Unless you're a liberal, in which case you head for the courts if the results are not to your liking.

So Norm Coleman's a liberal? Interesting."

Acxtually Franken took it to court when Coleman finished ahead in the first several recounts ala Algore.

Acxtually Franken took i... (Below threshold)

Acxtually Franken took it to court when Coleman finished ahead in the first several recounts ala Algore.

Right - and then Franken came out ahead. At which point it was Coleman's turn to take it to the courts.

Which means Coleman's stance is - it's wrong to go to the courts unless he's going to lose.

jimx, you're neither reason... (Below threshold)

jimx, you're neither reasonable, nor rational. Your arguments are specious, and your intransigence even after you're shown to be wrong only makes you look foolish. There's no shame in admitting that you're ignorant, misguided and uninformed.

You're to be complimented, though, for remaining to discuss issues, unlike some people, who just hit and run here;; citing screwy opinions which are indefensible and they know it. At least you made a lame attempt to defend your screwy opinion. :)

Isn't that the liberal way?... (Below threshold)

Isn't that the liberal way? If it's close, keep recounting while the votes *magically* appear...

I sure do love a good poll.... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

I sure do love a good poll. While some organizations have less then sparkling reputations (I recall a certain polling agency being sued by a major client this year for alleged fraud), there are some whose published reports are solid and dependable. The gold standard is, of course, Gallup.

For those who have followed Gallup over the years, the 'generic ballot' has been around a long time and is considered to be a very accurate barometer of the public mood. It establishes the apogee of a bell curve in elections, demonstrating a key trend, especially in the last month before the election. While it's possible that the democrats could change their fate, it would require a monumentally stupid move by republicans [possible] or an unprecedented event galvanizing public trust in the democrats [essentially impossible] to avoid a wave election changing control of Congress to the republicans.

The significance is not so much in the numbers in thsi most recent poll, as it is the clear continuing trend of rising voter emotion and direction. Voters clearly see the democrats as the problem and are not only choosing to support a republican alternative, but liberal efforts are also clearly failing; there is no indication that anything said by President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, or Majority Leader Reid has any audience in substance - it may reasonably be said that the leading democrats are pursuing a strategy with no hope of success, and yet they are stubbornly refusing to even admit they are about to face the most serious trip to the woodshed in memory.

"or an unprecedented eve... (Below threshold)
jim m:

"or an unprecedented event galvanizing public trust in the democrats [essentially impossible]"

That's the interesting part isn't it. In the past a national eonomic catastrophe, or an attack on American people or our armed services would cause the public to come together and support the administration in office. The dems made all sorts of accusations preceding the elections that Bush would orchestrate jsut such an event in order to skew the results.

But obama has lost that trust from the public. Fewer and fewer trust his handling of the economy. Few trust his ability to handle foreign conflict.

In fact the one way that people do believe he would try to skew the elections is by unfair enforcement of the laws, which is something he has demonstrated that he is committed to.

There will be no coalescing of public trust around the dems this election cycle, or for some time to come.

SPQR, your string of ad hom... (Below threshold)

SPQR, your string of ad hominem statements without provocation show some beautiful irony.

With that in mind, I fixed your comment for you below.

jimx, I am neither reasonable, nor rational. My arguments are specious, and my intransigence even after I've shown to be wrong only makes me look foolish. There's no shame in admitting that I'm ignorant, misguided and uninformed.
...yet they are stubborn... (Below threshold)

...yet they are stubbornly refusing to even admit they are about to face the most serious trip to the woodshed in memory.

Already trying to forget about 2006 and 2008, DJ? I can understand that. Still doesn't work.

Yes, if the GOP gains back the house, it will still be only the *second* most serious trip to the woodshed in recent memory. That is, for those interested in remembering accurately.

Lot's of older folks don't ... (Below threshold)
Don L:

Lot's of older folks don't know much about economics (they just worked hard and saved well) but as soon as Obama came up with his death panels and jailing people who wouldn't buy insurance, they knew instantly the difference between Obama and every other president in history. Cold -heared arrogant dictators can't do such evil things to innocent free people and remain loved. I suspect he'll start pretending he's a real person again -or there will be an impeachment.

There will be no coalesc... (Below threshold)

There will be no coalescing of public trust around the dems this election cycle, or for some time to come.

Jim M - I'm reminded of that line from Animal House - "You fucked up - you trusted us!"

Won't make that mistake again - it's time to trim back the political power of Washington so the last few years can't happen again.

jim x @ 6:49PMI'm ... (Below threshold)

jim x @ 6:49PM

I'm chuckling here.

Let me humor you. Ad hominem what, jim x?

You just made my point. You don't even know the definition or the proper use of the term, ad hominem.

BTW, you just made a fool of yourself [again]. Open mouth, insert foot, jim x?

Haven't you and I been down this road before?

Dayum, son, you're dumb. You never learn. (Still chuckling here.)

jim x @ 6:49PM<p... (Below threshold)
jim x @ 6:49PM

I'm chuckling here.

nice! Here, have a chuckle while you read a definition:


Ad hominem abuse (also called personal abuse) usually involves insulting or belittling one's opponent in order to invalidate his or her argument,...This tactic is logically fallacious because insults and even true negative facts about the opponent's personal character have nothing to do with the logical merits of the opponent's arguments or assertions.

So when you "responded" to my post with a string of insults that had nothing to do with the actual content of my comment - or any other comment of mine ever :) - you fulfilled the exact case of the above definition.

:) :)

And when you then further say, in response to my **correct** response to your comment,

You just made my point. You don't even know the definition or the proper use of the term, ad hominem.

- you are utterly, completely and provably wrong in a *deliciously* ironic way.

Thanks for making my day. :) :) :)

This is fun, I'll do it aga... (Below threshold)

This is fun, I'll do it again.

To sum up:
1.I correctly pointed out your misuse of logic - and correctly named it.

2. You then accused me of being wrong - while **continuing the same form of illogic with more ad hominem attacks**.

3. I posted the comment at # 24, and pwned you again.

:) :) :)

Next time, you really might try a little research before you call someone else stupid for actually using things correctly. This only gives them the opportunity to further spank you in a public forum. To wit: this comment.






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