Pollster.com

Articles and Analysis

 

House 06: Generic Ballot

Topics: 2006 , The 2006 Race

gb20061031small.png

The generic ballot measure of the House has surged up and not stopped rising since September 22. The surge began the week in which the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) appeared, followed by Bob Woodward's book, State of Denial. A week later the Foley scandal broke, adding to the move that began a week earlier.

The week or so before the NIE was published there was a small trend in the Republican direction which was remarked on in political news, but this very modest movement was abruptly revered. I would not have thought the NIE or Woodward revelations would have had much effect on mass public opinion, but the timing here is pretty convincing that these did in fact play a role. I speculate that was due to undermining the growth in approval of the administration on terrorism which built in late August and early September, though convincing data of this link is missing. Certainly no such inference is needed with regard to the impact of the subsequent Foley scandal.

The generic ballot is, of course, only a rough indicator of election outcomes (see here, but also see the forecasting efforts of Bafumi, Erikson and Wlezien here and Alan Abramowitz here). I also think the current upturn is a political equivalent of "irrational exuberance" in the sense that the run up in the polls seems likely to seriously overstate the actual vote margin. The current 17 point Democratic margin would be enormous, and even applying the "Charlie Cook Correction" of subtracting 5 points would still imply a 56-44 Democratic triumph. It may happen, but the generic ballot has virtually always overstated the Democratic lead, and this overstatement seems to get worst as the polling margin increases.

For a bit of perspective, the figure below plots the generic ballot since 1994. The conclusion is clear-- the poll measure has not been anywhere near current levels in the past 12 years. The practical result of this remains to be seen, but if Democrats fail to capitalize on this opinion advantage there will be some interesting research to understand why the seat gains fail to respond to this advantage in vote intent (well, in generic vote intent, which isn't the same thing.)

gb1994to20061031small.png

Note: This entry is cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.

 

Comments
MetaData:

There is one other big "event" that starts in September: The mainstream media starts talking politics.

News coverage of politics and the election is really light until Labor Day, then you start getting five or ten articles a day in every daily newspaper. For those of us who are politically wired this seems a little late-to-the-party, but the rest of the world is probably a little more balanced than we are.

The heavy news coverage would exaggerate pre-existing trends, such as the unresolved Iraq war.

____________________

Am I reading the chart wrong?

I don't recall the Dems leading the generic on election day in '94.

____________________

Selenops:

I love the effect of the typo in the above post:

"The week or so before the NIE was published there was a small trend in the Republican direction which was remarked on in political news, but this very modest movement was abruptly revered."

Though presumably you meant to say that the movement in the Republican direction was "reversed," it seems to me that it was indeed "revered" by political pundits everywhere.

____________________



Post a comment




Please be patient while your comment posts - sometimes it takes a minute or two. To check your comment, please wait 60 seconds and click your browser's refresh button. Note that comments with three or more hyperlinks will be held for approval.

MAP - US, AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY, PR