Normally, I think Republicans tend to be too skeptical of pollsters. Down the stretch in 2008 and 2010, I found most of the polls from reputable pollsters (as opposed to newspapers and colleges) to be on the mark. That hasn’t been the case in this cycle. Once you get past Gallup and Rasmussen, most of the other big name pollsters seem to inexplicably be using a partisan breakdown similar to the numbers from 2008 — which was a historically good year for the Democrats. Of course, since then, there has been a historically good year for the GOP; so there doesn’t seem to be any reason whatsoever to assume that Democrats will have a +7 margin over the GOP like they did in 2008. Yet, most pollsters seem to be running on the assumption that the numbers are going to be almost that good for the Democrats, if not BETTER.
Well, the invaluable Jim Geraghty discussed this issue with Republican pollster John McLaughlin in order to try to get a sense of what’s going on. Here are the key paragraphs.
On what a realistic partisan breakdown would look like: The 2004 national exit polls showed an even partisan turnout and Bush won 51-48. Had it been the +4 Democratic edge of 2000, John Kerry would have been President. 2008 was a Democratic wave that gave them a +7 partisan advantage. 2010 was a Republican edge. There’s no wave right now. There are about a dozen swing states where in total millions of voters who voted in 2008 for Obama are gone or have not voted since. There are also hundreds of thousands of voters in each of several swing states like Ohio, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, and others who voted from rural, exurban or suburban areas in 2004 for Bush who did not vote in 2008, because they were not excited by McCain or thought he would lose. They are currently planning to vote mainly as a vote against President Obama.”
What Obama and his allies are doing now: “The Democrats want to convince [these anti-Obama voters] falsely that Romney will lose to discourage them from voting. So they lobby the pollsters to weight their surveys to emulate the 2008 Democrat-heavy models. They are lobbying them now to affect early voting. IVR (Interactive Voice Response) polls are heavily weighted. You can weight to whatever result you want. Some polls have included sizable segments of voters who say they are “not enthusiastic” to vote or non voters to dilute Republicans. Major pollsters have samples with Republican affiliation in the 20 to 30 percent range, at such low levels not seen since the 1960s in states like Virginia, Florida, North Carolina and which then place Obama ahead. The intended effect is to suppress Republican turnout through media polling bias. We’ll see a lot more of this. Then there’s the debate between calling off a random digit dial of phone exchanges vs a known sample of actual registered voters. Most polls favoring Obama are random and not off the actual voter list. That’s too expensive” for some pollsters.
Don’t let the Obama campaign game you, folks. Romney is right in the thick of this race.