Political Animal


October 08, 2012 3:46 PM Not Real Complicated

By Ed Kilgore

Poll Denialism has subsided a bit since Romney began making gains last last week, but here it is again from John Nolte at Breitbart.com, in a form whose perversity really needs to be understood:

In 2008, President Barack Obama won the independent vote over John McCain by a margin of eight points, 52-44. This morning, a new Battleground Poll has Mitt Romney massacring Obama among indies by a whopping 16 points, 51-35.
That’s a 24-point swing among independents since 2008, a group that makes up anywhere from a quarter to a third of voters, and yet Battleground still has Obama in the lead 49-48…?
But if I’m skeptical of those bottom-line numbers, our journalist overlords who have chosen to palace guard instead of question will declare me a “truther.”

Put aside for a moment that Nolte is conflating 2008 exit poll numbers for self-identification with those of a current GWU-Battleground poll, with no examination of how the question is asked and how hard respondents are pushed to choose a label. And forget if you can that exit polls almost invariably show lower percentages of indies because nearly all respondents have just voted for a partisan candidate. There’s a more fundamental misunderstanding here.

At the height of the Poll Denialism uprising, there were two arguments you heard to support the idea the polls were cooked. The one that got most attention was that pollsters were allowing too many people to identify themselves as Democrats, and thus should “weight” the numbers to reflect the “correct” proportions based on past elections. But the second was that if Mitt was winning among independents, he couldn’t be trailing overall! The second is Nolte’s argument.

The two issues are, of course, inter-related: what happened after 2008 was that Republican self-identification took a significant dive, in part because the Tea Party Movement persuaded many of the most conservative voters in the electorate—certainly those least inclined to vote for Barack Obama in 2012—to self-identify as independents, so as to help persuade the Republican Establishment not to take them for granted. Presto change-o, this shift in self-identification simultaneously produced a larger Democratic plurality over Republicans while tiling independents significantly in a Republican direction. The net effect on likely candidate preferences was nil. Yet now both of these phenomena are being used to suggest there’s a secret Romney majority in the electorate that pollsters don’t want to admit.

It’s not real complicated. If part of your party’s actual base begins denying its partisanship, it will have a perverse effect on the spectrum of self-identification. If you have issues with that, Mr. Nolte, blame your Tea Party buds.

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.


  • flubber on October 08, 2012 4:25 PM:

    "this shift in self-identification simultaneously produced a larger Democratic plurality over Republicans while tiling independents significantly in a Republican direction. The net effect on likely candidate preference was nil. Yet both of these phenomena are now being used to suggest there’s a secret Romney majority in the electorate."

    Good stuff, Mr. Kilgore!

  • Karen on October 08, 2012 4:26 PM:

    The new Pew Reaearch poll showing Romney with a 4 point lead should stop this trend dead in its tracks. I'm terrified now.

  • sjw on October 08, 2012 4:33 PM:

    Regarding the latest Pew poll: bring on Democratic trutherism! (Seriously, it shows just how monumentally Obama messed up last Wednesday. And how difficult it will be to take back the narrative.)

  • c u n d gulag on October 08, 2012 4:40 PM:

    Relax, Gallup has them virtually tied:

    What that says about the American voting public, I don't want to mention - except that maybe they like lying liars who lie a lot to dimwit's.

    As for Nolte, how does somebody as obviously stupid as he is, get, and keep a job?
    The whole Teabagger movement is comprised of disaffected Republicans who don't want to self-identify as Republicans, and John Birchers who decided to finally escape their families basements and attics.

    Oh wait - it's Breitbartdotcom - so that's a very low barrier. I think their job ads say, "Hate Obama, still breathing, and have a computer? YOU CAN MAKE MONEY AT HOME!"

  • Ron Byers on October 08, 2012 4:45 PM:

    Looking at the Pew Poll, the raw numbers seem to track with the Gallup three day tracker. The definition of likely voter is the difference. Remember the Gallup 7 day tracker has returned to the pre-debate spread.

    sjw is right. Obama screwed up big time. He looked like a whipped puppy, especially at the end. I wonder about his health. He looked tired and as though he doesn't really care.

    That said, nobody wins an election on the basis of the first debate. Obama has time. He just has to be better prepared, presidental. I would like to see him large and in charge.

  • Kaen on October 08, 2012 4:50 PM:

    How does the Pew definition differ? Also, Pew has been good for the President all during this election cycle. This dramatic a change has to mean something very bad.

  • caitlinfinnegan on October 08, 2012 5:09 PM:

    If all it takes to swing voters is "the most awesome debate performance ever" vs. months of incompetence, then I'm going to need Ativan on a daily basis for the next 4+ years. I will loathe the Romney Presidency about 2x my disdain for George W. Bush's.

  • Nick on October 08, 2012 5:30 PM:

    You want Poll Trutherism? Spin by the Kos. Anyone coming close to admitting the grim reality is flamed beyond recognition.

  • Hue and Cry on October 08, 2012 8:15 PM:

    Former assistant to Dick Cheney, Lawrence Wilkerson said that as a Republican he is stunned by how Romney has changed those views as he has, it isn't normal, and his foreign policy speech and defense budget proposals are crazy as well.
    He called it insanity, operating on a Cold War music sheet.
    Wilkerson said those surrounding Ronmey--neo-cons such as John Bolton, will be like Dick Cheney influencing Romney, like Romney, like Cheney, never serving in the military, but always starting new wars. It disgusted him.

  • Anonymous on October 09, 2012 5:04 PM:

    "If you have issues with that, Mr. Nolte, blame your Tea Party buds."

    Oh, THAT one is gonna leave a mark! The more ridicule and disdain poured on the mouldering corpse of Dimbart Enterprises, the better. Hell, I'd trust the Batboy cover of National Enquirer before I'd believe a word posted on "Big" Anything!