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November 05, 2006

A Little More On The Pew Poll

Blue Crab Boulevard links an AP article that mentions, quite begrudgingly, and near the end of the piece, the Pew Poll showing the net seven point gain for the GOP on the generic ballot question (from Dems +11 to Dems +4 -- which, based on past experience, is within striking distance of an actual outright Republican win).

The actual press release from Pew is here, which has the contest as 40-48 among registered voters.

So, 10-12% of the electorate is still undecided. Presumably most of these people won't vote. And to the extent they do -- if late deciders are breaking for Republicans, perhaps even later deciders will break the GOP's way as well.

Now here's something interesting. Fred Barnes is fond at pointing out that in 2006, 60%+ of polled adults say they approve of their own representative. He compares this with the 1994 elections in which less than 50% of the public expressed approval for their own represenative.

A 1994-style Democratic sweep, it seems, would be heralded by both a big edge in the generic ballot and majority disapproval of one's own representative. The Dems have never had the latter, and now, with two big polls just before the election, they seem not to have the former either.

Sure, the last two polls put them at either +4 or +6. But Republicans tend to overperform polls. They're likelier voters than likely voter models tend to show.

And, again, the 1994 Republican sweep had at least one poll -- the Washington Post's -- with Democrats at plus five on the generic ballot question.

And we all know how that turned out for them.

The narrowing of the Democratic lead raises questions about whether the party will win a large enough share of the popular vote to recapture control of the House of Representatives. The relationship between a party's share of the popular vote and the number of seats it wins is less certain than it once was, in large part because of the increasing prevalence of safe seat redistricting. As a result, forecasting seat gains from national surveys has become more difficult.

True enough, but it's still hard to rack up big gains in the House without a racking up a sizable advantage in total votes.

The survey suggests that the judgment of undecided voters will be crucial to the outcome of many congressional races this year. As many as 19% of voters now only lean to a candidate or are flatly undecided. The Democrats hold a 44% to 35% lead among committed voters. But the race is more even among voters who are less strongly committed to a candidate; those who only lean to a candidate divide almost evenly between Republicans and Democrats (5% lean Republican/4% lean Democrat).

Well, as Hillary Clinton said, "You don't have to fall in love, you just have to fall in line."

All right, I'm sorry I said that. Not exactly the sort of sentiment likely to get a reluctant Republican voter to pull the lever for the GOP. I just mean that ultimately, she's right -- given a choice between two options, you don't have to be wildly enthusiastic about your ultimate choice; you just have to feel that choice is better than the other one.

It's not exactly a rallying cry to say "Vote Republican -- we piss you off marginally less than the Democrats," but, alas, that's the case in most elections.

I think Republicans were a little spoiled from 2000 to 2004. Bush and the Republicans made big advances in the policies we preferred, and kept (or strongly tried to keep) most of the promises they made. In my memory, that's pretty much an aberration -- it's rare that most of a party's voters actually strongly approve of its leaders' performances.

The current situation seems, to me at least, to be the far more common one -- bitching and complaining about incompetence, cowardice, corruption, etc., while utlimately, reluctantly, giving them your support.

Republican gains in the new poll reflect a number of late-breaking trends. First, Republicans have become more engaged and enthused in the election than they had been in September and October. ....Republicans now register a greater likelihood of voting than do Democrats, as is typical in mid-term elections.

The Republicans also have made major gains, in a relatively short time period, among independent voters. Since early this year, the Democratic advantage in the generic House ballot has been built largely on a solid lead among independents. As recently as mid-October, 47% of independent voters said they were voting for the Democratic candidate in their district, compared with 29% who favored the Republican. Currently, Democrats lead by 44%-33% among independent voters.

Still a big lead, but they're breaking our way so far, there's no obvious reason to suppose they won't continue to do so as the election approaches. Losing independents fairly narrowly -- by eight or so -- probably means a Republican win, or tie (which is just as good as win at this point).

If I had to bet, I'd say we still lose the House, though more narrowly than we'd previously feared. But the possibility of continued GOP control is no longer merely theoretical, and not even a longshot. It's less likely than a Democratic win, but it's a 60/40 propositon at this point.

It really depends, as Jack Straw sagely observed, on the actual voting, and then, of course, Diebold throwing out the real votes and giving Republicans a 70-30 victory.

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posted by Ace at 09:03 PM

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