Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Be Cautious of Skewed 2014 Midterm Polls

A recent National Journal article by Steven Shepard should caution political pundits and campaign strategists alike about relying too heavily on voter polls in this midterm election year. Democratic and Republican pollsters interviewed all agreed that most of the public surveys on the big 2014 congressional races are underestimating the level of Republican support, Shepard reports. That's because most public polls conducted for media outlets or by academics are surveying the entire universe of registered voters, voters who may not actually cast a ballot on Election Day. In fact, in the past few midterm elections, Democratic-leaning voters have not turned out at close to the same rates as those who typically back GOP candidates. Those who are likely to vote in midterm elections are older, white and more Republican, Shepard notes. In the 2006 and 2010 midterms, for example, 79% and 77% of voters, respectively, were white. In the 2008 and 2012 presidential election years, white voters dropped to 74% and 72% (a record low), respectively. Younger voters also drop off in midterm years. Voters under 30 made up 12% of the 2006 and 2010 midterm electorates, compared with 18% and 19% of the 2008 and 2012 presidential election voters, respectively. As an example of how this might mean that Republican candidates are in stronger midterm positions than public polls indicate, Shepard points out that the respected NBC/Wall Street Journal poll in October 2010 showed more registered voters favored a Congress controlled by Democrats, by a 2-point margin, yet Republicans scored a historic midterm landslide the survey didn't anticipate. The same survey this month again showed Democrats with a 2-point edge. The takeaway? The possibility of skewed midterm polling is a good reason for both parties to be cautious about strategic assumptions and to focus on partisan turnout. For more, see http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/it-s-time-to-unskew-the-2014-election-polls-20140129

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