Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 11, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

LATEST POLLS....The LA Times released a poll yesterday showing that in congressional races, voters preferred Democrats to Republicans 54%-35%. I was, needless to say, skeptical. The Dems are going to win 300 House seats this year?

What to make of this? Aside from the usual caveats that it's still early in the year and the poll might be an outlier and blah blah blah, what's the deal? Here are a couple of points:

  • Here are the results of four other polls taken during May:

    Harris: 53%-40%
    Greenberg: 46%-44%
    AP/Ipsos: 50%-41%
    NBC/WSJ: 44%-41%

    That averages to a Democratic lead of about 48%-41%, which means the LAT result is out of line, but not wildly out of line. Remember, there's a 3-point margin of error, so even if the poll is done properly the real LAT numbers might be more like 51%-38%, about the same as the Harris numbers.

  • Bush adviser Matthew Dowd criticized the results, saying, "They have Dems leading generic congressional ballot by 19. This means this poll is too Democratic by 10 to 12 points."

    As Mickey Kaus points out, that means even Dowd thinks the Democrats are ahead right now by 7-9 points.

So here's what we've got. The May polls show a Democratic lead of 7 points. Dowd, who is certainly trying to spin things as pro-Republican as he can, thinks the Dems have a 7-9 point lead. And the June LAT poll shows a 19 point Dem lead.

Bottom line: my guess is that the LAT poll is an outlier for some reason, but at the same time things really have turned against the Republicans in the past few weeks. Democrats aren't ahead by 19 points, but I wouldn't be surprised if the reality is that they're now 11-12 points ahead.

But here's one more oddity. A genuine Democratic lead of at least 10 points seems pretty likely based on the results of multiple polls, and yet I've heard nothing nothing suggesting that Democrats are likely to pick up even a dozen House seats this year, let alone the large number that a 10-point lead implies even when you take gerrymandered House districts into account. What's going on? Why isn't anyone even talking about this?

Kevin Drum 2:44 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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