Political Animal


August 15, 2012 3:20 PM Polling’s Crazy Stretch

By Ed Kilgore

As you probably know, I don’t obsess about polls until fairly close to election days unless they involve a less-tested race or show some interesting trend or sub-current. But it’s tempting to get overexcited about them, particularly in a year when there’s been relatively little movement in the presidential contest. So I urge you to pay attention to Nate Silver’s warning today that we are entering a “foggy” period in presidential polling thanks to temporary “bounces” involving the now-underway Republican veep rollout and then the two conventions.

Best we can tell, Nate reports, the “Ryan Bounce” for Romney is subpar—somewhere between zero and two percent, as compared to a median figure of 3-4% in election years going back to 1988. But it’s not clear whether that’s because (a) he’s already relatively well known; (b) he’s controversial, to put it mildly; or (c) in this polarized climate all “bounces” are going to be somewhat limited by the low number of swing voters.

If the latter proposition is correct, we’ll probably see subpar “convention bounces” as well. But in any event, watching the polls before 45 days out could be very misleading. After that, down the stretch, they tend to get more and more accurate, and that’s when to tune back in.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • longwalkdownlyndale on August 15, 2012 3:34 PM:

    Yup and don't forget we are getting into high summer vacation season, which could throw yet unknown into the mix. I have nothing to back this up, but bet that the "contact rate" for polls goes down as so many people go on vacation. Especially older, wealthier folks who are more likely to vote. I suspect this and people paying more attention to the race is one of the reasons polls tend to firm up after Labor Day.

  • T2 on August 15, 2012 3:36 PM:

    compared to Palin four years ago, I guess you could say Ryan is "relatively" well known. But outside his home state and the TeaParty, I don't think he is. Sure he's the guy behind the Ryan Budget...but that isn't actually anything at all...just some baloney the House voted on to stick a needle in Obama's eye...exactly the kind of political baloney that most of our country ignores because they know is is baloney. So if non-TeaPartiers have heard of him, they know him as just a member of the most hated Congress in history and a baloney salesman, if at all.

  • c u n d gulag on August 15, 2012 3:49 PM:

    I agree, Ed.

    But just think where the polling would be if Mitt weren't an entitled rich d*ck, who thinks his poo-poo should be made into a dessert topping, and his pee-pee into popsickles, for "The Help" to enjoy.

    And if he weren't a politician who has looks so god-awefully stiff no matter where you place him - unless it's with the other members of his Country Club set.

    Imagine if the Republicans had been able to get someone who was actually a good politician, and not simply the best pick in a litter of metally-defective and rabid mongrels?

    THEN, the polls would matter, because President Obama would likely be far back.

    Instead, the President seems blessed again in the people who are opposing him.
    How lucky does one have to be to run against the following three people, in the three defining elections of his career?
    *Crazy IL transplant, Alan "I Kicked My Lesbo Daughter Out Da House!" Keyes.
    *Tired, spent, compromised, John "The Old Man And The 'C' At the Naval Academy" McCain and loopy Sarah "The Whore of Babblin'-on" Palin.
    *And now, Mitt "Little Lord Flauntitalot" R-Money, and Paul "The Neighbor's Kid Who's Come To Shiv Grandma For The Inheritance" Ryan.

    Yes, Obama could still lose.

    But, with a run of luck like that, I'd be hard-pressed to bet against him!

  • Ron Byers on August 15, 2012 4:07 PM:

    (I)n any event, watching the polls before 45 days out could be very misleading.

    Then why do we spend so much time obsessing on polling this time of year?

  • Mark Rubin on August 15, 2012 4:32 PM:

    Regarding the convention bounces, it's my sense that they ought to be lessening during each cycle, as the conventions themselves are less significant. They're shorter, less of the conventions get televised, ratings are down and it's unlikely that any convention will result in real news. Veep choices are different, as they still generate headlines and, if anything, are more likely now than in the past to be decided before the conventions. (Think Kefauver, LBJ, Agnew, Ferarro, Quayle, etc.) Seems like that ought to be factored into any analysis of the import of a convention bounce.

  • JM917 on August 15, 2012 4:50 PM:

    I agree with Mark Rubin--these "bounces" are getting less bouncy most every time.

    In Romney-Ryan's case, the post-convention bounce is going to be especially squishy because, no sooner than the last convention orator orates, the last balloon pops, the last Tampa stripper strips for the good Christian TeaOP conventioneers, and the last triumphant words of the Romney-Ryan Dynamic Duo die out in the rafters, there ensues Labor Day weekend, with families taking off for the beach and the BBQ pit--and then immediately comes the Democrats' convention, full of sound and fury against whatever the Repugs have been doing and braying.

    Whatever boing-boing Romney-Ryan get from their Tampa spectacle is going to get sat on by Obama's "last word" from Charlotte.