Mark Blumenthal | September 18, 2006
Topics: 2006 , George Bush , Slate Scorecard , The 2006 Race
Our last Slate Election Scorecard update on Friday night shows a shift in national momentum for the first time, based on recently improving Democratic fortunes in states like Tennessee, Virginia, Missouri and Washington. These gains have occurred despite the small upward trend in the Bush job approval rating as seen on recent national surveys, as noted in Charles Franklin's post on Friday. How could these trends be moving in opposite directions?
Our Slate national momentum meter is an average of the averages of recent horserace results in each of thirteen competitive contests we have included on the Slate Scorecard. Much of the shift appears to come from states where Democratic candidates have benefited from issues or tactical advantages specific to those states. These include George Allen's "macaca" gaffe in Virginia, Harold Ford's post-primary spending advantage in Tennessee, the DUI revelations regarding Republican Mike McGavick in Washington.
At the same time, the more recent improvements in the Bush job rating are slight and may have less immediate impact on the attitudes of likely voters in the key races states.
It is worth considering the question raised by several astute readers in comments over the weekend: Could the improvement result from a recent shift by some pollsters from reporting results among all adults to likely or registered voters?
I did a quick "apples-to-apples" comparison table to show August to September comparisons among individual pollsters reporting comparable numbers. The results in the chart below, tend to rule out that explanation:
Only Fox News reported results that are not comparable (likely voters in September but only registered voters in prior months). The other organizations all reported comparable numbers (at least on the PDF releases with complete results). As the table above shows, most of the August to September change was small - too small in most cases to be statistically significant for any one survey. However, five of the seven organizations show at least some improvement and the overall average indicates a two point increase in the Bush job rating.
Incidentally, while the Rasmussen automated survey showed an upward spike in the Bush job rating that peaked in the three days following the September 11 anniversary (47% approve, 50% disapprove), it has since subsided to roughly the same level (41%-58%) as measured in August (40%-58%). Consider that the two September surveys showing the biggest changes (Zogby & AP-IPSOS) were also conducted immediately after the 9/11 anniversary.