Recent Congressional Polls Are All Over the Place

The Newsweek poll on November 21, which showed Democrats with a 4 point lead in the generic Congressional ballot, has been dismissed by reasonable folks at the great Daily Kos site as an outlier. That might be reasonable except that we now have 2 more polls in the same territory in the past few days. All of these polls showing Democrats closing the gap have come in the past few days. The Quinnipac Poll showed Democrats up by 4 points. Another poll just released showed a dead heat in the generic race.
None of this makes much sense. One poll could be an outlier, but 3 polls is not an outlier. Forget it. No they are not. Something is wrong.
On the other hand, polls continue to come in showing Republicans ahead. Two polls have them up by 4-6 points and another has them up by 12.5 points. Clearly the polls are all over the place and don’t make a lot of sense.
The argument that the polls showing Democrats ahead are polling cell phone only users is not valid. Many of the standard polls are also polling cell phone users, but it’s hard to poll cell phone only users. Rasmussen does not call cell phones, so his polls always skew Republican. The Newsweek poll had a heavy weighting of cell phone users at 33%. Cell phone only users may be as high as 27%, but no one really knows. They are disproportionately poorer or lower income, Hispanic, young and renters.
The Gallup poll which has Republicans up by 12.5 seems wrong. It uses a strange weighting for non-White non-Black showing them voting 2-1 for Republicans. Gallup is run by Republicans. Non-White, non-Black means Hispanics and Asians. Hispanics will vote 78% Democrat, 22% Republican. Asians will vote 60% Democrat. This poll seems off.
Anyway, looking over recent polls, let us compute the median:
Democrat +4
Democrat +4
Tie
Republican +4
Republican +6
Republican +12.5
The median will be somewhere between tie and Republican +4. So based on this, it is reasonable to assume that polls show Republicans up by 2 points.
Averaging the results will look better for Republicans due to the inclusion of the Gallup outlier. The average should give us Republicans up by 7 points.
The median seems best due to the distortions of the Gallup poll. A reasonable assumption shows that polls in the last 11 days have Republicans up by 2 points.
Most of the massacre rhetoric came from a very wide enthusiasm gap of 15 points in favor of Republicans. However, that has collapsed in recent days and polls now show Republicans with a 2 point advantage in enthusiasm.
Cell phones are a real problem. Polling cell phones increases the cost of the poll by 3X, so it’s often not done. Plus no one seems to know many to call.
Overall, the best polling in recent days shows that Republicans may well pick up seats, but the claims of a wipeout are much overstated.

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