Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 20, 2010

GENERIC BALLOT, CAVEAT EMPTOR.... In late May, Gallup's generic congressional ballot, pulled together from daily tracking data, showed Republicans with one of their biggest leads over Democrats ever, 49% to 43%. Loyal Bushie Peter Wehner, among other Republicans in media, was overjoyed, and used the results as clear evidence that the "political noose continues to tighten around the necks of Democrats."

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Not quite two months later, Gallup's new generic congressional ballot shows the mirror opposite. As of now, it's Democrats who are leading, 49% to 43%. As the pollster noted, it's "the first statistically significant lead for that party's candidates since Gallup began weekly tracking of this measure in March."

I suspect a poll like this will be a morale booster at DNC headquarters, but I'd caution against taking any of these results too seriously.

Looking at that Gallup chart, the trends appear pretty erratic, and don't seem to reflect any meaningful rationale. Wehrer's misplaced excitement notwithstanding, there was no real reason for Republicans to have jumped out to a six-point edge in late May, just as there's no real reason to think there's been a 12-point shift in Democrats' direction in less than two months.

Sure, Republicans haven't had a great summer thus far -- Joe Barton's apology to BP got the ball rolling in Dems' favor lately -- but I'd be surprised if that explains the jump in the Gallup results. If so, every generic-ballot poll would start to show a similar shift.

For that matter, not everything in the Gallup data was good news for Democrats. The poll found the "enthusiasm gap" getting worse for Democrats, with 51% of Republicans saying they are "very enthusiastic" about voting this year, the highest number in months. In a midterm cycle like this one, enthusiasm may mean the difference between majority status and minority status.

My advice, for what it's worth: no one should get too excited something like this. Wehner shouldn't celebrate when the GOP is up six, and he shouldn't contemplate jumping out the window when Democrats are up six.

It's one poll, and an erratic one at that. The Gallup numbers could be the result of the unemployment fight, the Wall Street reform vote, and the recent Republican controversies, or they could just as easily be statistical noise.

Steve Benen 11:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (22)

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Comments

The NAACP-Teabagger racism contretempts may well have offended some independents.

It could be that some serious thinking is starting to be done in the electorate about the wisdom of returning to power those who dug the hole.

Posted by: bob h on July 20, 2010 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

as such, this poll looks like an outlier, but i think the underlying aspect of it is that there is a limit to the willingness of the american public to embrace totally the insanity of the right-wing.

meanwhile, the gop is pretty much all in on the insanity of the right wing.

so we'll see if the enthusiastic but insane or the unenthused but sane win out in november.

Posted by: howard on July 20, 2010 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

The incumbent advantage is consistently underestimated by polls and this may be worsened by "generic candidate" polls.

Posted by: skeptonomist on July 20, 2010 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

I agree that one poll doesn't mean much, particularly this far from the election. But I really think that Republicans will be sorely disappointed this year because as upset as the public is with Democrats, the last thing they want is to go back to Bush's economic policies. When you press Republicans for specifics, they will talk about more tax cuts and spending cuts,(possibly privatizing social security, if they are being honest) and those are the only things less popular than our huge deficits right now.

If Democrats run on a positive agenda, and Republicans run on more fear and hatred while sticking with their disastrous economic policies, then I could actually see Dems pick up seats this year rather than losing either house.

Posted by: atlliberal on July 20, 2010 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

"...The poll found the "enthusiasm gap" getting worse for Democrats, with 51% of Republicans saying they are "very enthusiastic" about voting this year, the highest number in months. In a midterm cycle like this one, enthusiasm may mean the difference between majority status and minority status..."

Well, enthusiasm has to come from the top, and if Obama maintains the passionate tone he's adopted with the extension of unemployment benefits that may help. Some of the enthusiasm, however, derives from issues associated with state-level races, such as New Mexico's governor's race.

Posted by: Varecia on July 20, 2010 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

The incumbent advantage is consistently underestimated by polls and this may be worsened by "generic candidate" polls.

Posted by: skeptonomist on July 20, 2010 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

Oops! I should have written:
Some of the LACK of enthusiasm, however, derives from issues associated with state-level races, such as New Mexico's governor's race.

Posted by: Varecia on July 20, 2010 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

...enthusiasm may mean the difference...no one should get too excited...

While it may be hard to get too enthusiastic about the Democrats, one should get excited about the prospect of Republicans increasing the market share of their particular brand of insanity.

Posted by: qwerty on July 20, 2010 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

It's probably largely statistical noise. You might as well deal out a deck of cards and get excited when four hearts in a row show up.

But then again, at least there's hope for our country....

Posted by: Equal Opportunity Cynic on July 20, 2010 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum's post on this poll is essential reading:
http://motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2010/07/gop-choice-tea-parties-or-independents

Posted by: esque on July 20, 2010 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

The Democrats are toast in the "Alabama" part of PA. It is very depressing. All I see on TV are adds sponsored by Toomey attacking Sestak, unfortunately I believe they will work in central PA.

Posted by: edr on July 20, 2010 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Democratic poll numbers seem to collapse every time Rahm-Obama bash their own party (something we can see from the chart they do with regularity).

If the White House and it's minions can just keep themselves from betraying and insulting the base of the Democratic Party for longer than a week or two at a time, they'll probably see Dem enthusiasm rise and those numbers will start to stabilize with Dems holding the lead for a while.

It's all up to "you'd have to be fvcking retarded" Rahm, Obama, and their mouthpieces, I think. Like that episode of the Twilight Zone where the guy had to cut his tongue out, I bet they can't do it....

Posted by: NealB on July 20, 2010 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Only the election should be taken seriously and I plan to do so. The thugs can't be trusted with power until their meds have kicked in and their condition is so severe that catatonia would be an improvement. I want to ridicule, castigate, abase the Democrats in their position of supposed power for at least the next 6 years. By then the mother ship should be here.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on July 20, 2010 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

The only poll that matters is the one taken on election day...and everyone knows that voters don't start seriously thinking about an election until after Labor Day.

Right now the GOP is dominating the airwaves because the Dems are busy actually trying to govern, but things will change in the fall once the Dems start firing up their rhetorical guns and start labelling GOP candidates as obstructionist who are against Wall Street reform and helping the unemployed.

Posted by: mfw13 on July 20, 2010 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

i find it interesting that while there are senate seats held by the dems that lots of folks have already announced are an absolute certainty to be flipped by the gop [nd, ar], i haven't seen anyone point to a single house seat that is a sure pickup for the republicans..it strikes me if there is an actual tsumani headed for the dems it would start in the band of states from nj to mo...

any thoughts?

Posted by: dj spellchecka on July 20, 2010 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

More statistical work is necessary but Kevin Drum's observation is probably valid. The Republicans face a choice between the rabid TP base and independents. As TP enthusiasm gins up, independents move to the Democrats. Of course,it could be the Democrats and independents are taking a closer look at the tea party candidates as the primary season wears down and they don't like what they see.

This race could turn out to be Dennis Moore writ large. For those of you unfamilar with Dennis Moore he is a Democratic congressman from Overland Park, Kansas. There is no reason on earth that he should have ever been elected but he has had a long career (ending this year) because the Republicans who make up 60% of his district are divided into two camps -- traditional conservatives and batshit insane. Primary after primary for over a decade the traditional conservative lost to the batshit insane Republican. The general would feature Dennis Moore against the batshit insane (palo-tea party) Republican. General after general tradtional Republicans would move to Dennis Moore as the lesser of two evils. Moore beat palo Tea Partier election after election. The Dennis Moore model might be what happens this election in district after district. Go Tea Party. Go Sarah Palin.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 20, 2010 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Only in America could a party, Republican, who in 8 years destroyed your country in every way including the economy which almost brought down the world economy, a party that is for and by the rich, a party that lies at every turn, believes in wholesale fantasy and illusions considered 'reality', and a party that will purposefully not tell anyone what they want or stand for in your next election, have ANY support at all. It's a real testimony to the general stupidity of your citizens that is aggravated by the corporate controlled media that want to keep you that way.

Posted by: blue on July 20, 2010 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

"...tighten the noose..." What's with all the morbid framing of political discourse? Is anyone keeping track?

Posted by: Tom on July 20, 2010 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Damn those "fvcking retards" Obama and Rahm! Who do they think they are, actually putting together the VOTES and WINNING on FINREG and UNEMPINS!?! If they keep this damn WINNING up, those damn polls are likely to get BETTER and BETTER for Dems!!!

"Fvcking retardS!!" Don't they know that PROGRESSIVES--THE OFFICIALS BASE OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY (TM)--are all about LOSING so we can WHINE even more!!!

Say it with me: "WHINING IS BETTER THAN WINNING!!"

Posted by: cr on July 20, 2010 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

See, cr: There you go again. Just can't resist bashing progressive Democrats, can you?

Posted by: NealB on July 20, 2010 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

No more or less than you can resist unnecessarily bashing the leader of the Democratic Party, or his right-hand man.

Posted by: cr on July 20, 2010 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

The problem with generic polls is that they only look at the forest, not the trees. They may capture a general feeling of dissatisfaction, but not how individual races will play out. And it is individual candidates that will decide the outcome. Put differently, we don't vote for generic candidates, we vote for individuals -- individuals with personal narratives and a record of public statements and policy positions. Once people start taking a good hard look at those statements and positions, public perceptions and attitudes start shifting. More and more, conservative Republicans are in the same position that liberal Democrats were in during the Sixties and Seventies. Then, in order to win their primaries, Democrats had to pass radical/liberal litmus tests that came back to haunt them in the general elections. Now, the same thing is happening on the right. In order to avoid/survive a primary challenge, Republicans are being forced to adopt positions that are so bat-shit crazy as to render them essentially unelectable in the general election (see, e.g., Rand Paul and Sharron Angle). Those Republicans who don't drink the Kool-Aid face expensive -- and divisive -- intra-party fights (see, e.g., Charlie Crist, John McCain). The Democrats may actually be able capitalize on this and pull this one out of the fire, if they can just resist their reflexive impulse to dump on their base.

Posted by: fradiavolo on July 20, 2010 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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