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Momentum Shift?

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.

 

Comments
Aaron:

And this doesn't even include the more recent polling showing Whitehouse's 8-point lead in Rhode Island or the 24-point Dem lead in Minnesota. The GOP peaked a week or two ago. Now their dead-cat bounce is going to turn back down hard. Even Kay Bailey Hutchison's lead is down to single digits in a poll last week. Look for the Democrats to pickup 7-9 Senate seats and 25-35 House seats.

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Does anyone have an opinion on the quality of the analysis of the Senate races at The New York Times?

http://www.nytimes.com/ref/washington/2006ELECTIONGUIDE.html?currentDataSet=senANALYSIS

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Aaron:

Andrew, I'd call those NYT ratings a bit biased towards the GOP. No way is Tennessee Lean GOP at this point. That should be a tossup. No way is Ohio a tossup. That should be a Lean Democrat. And I think Virginia is closer to a tossup than a Lean GOP right now. And Rhode Island should also be a Lean Democrat, instead of a tossup.

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Aaron--

Thanks for your input. I personally thought that Michigan and Washington looked recently to be safe Democratic not leaning.

Be that as it may. Your conclusions of "a bit biased towards the GOP" seem to fly in the face of Political Arithemtick's work on the anti-GOP house effect at CBS/NYT in Presidential approval ratings (see http://politicalarithmetik.blogspot.com/2006/04/house-effects-and-presidential.html).

Does The New York Times use the same polling operation with CBS News for Senate races as it uses for national polls? Or does that house effect not translate to state-level surveys?

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Mark Blumenthal:

Andrew,

As far as I know, the CBS/NYT polling operation has not yet released any statewide pre-election surveys for the 2006 elections. I would assume the NYT ratings are subjective assessments (based partly on polls, partly on their own "read"), analogous to those done by the Cook, Rothenberg, Sabato, Hotline, etc.

Our ratings for Slate are based entirely on available polling data

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Mark,

Thanks for the apples-to-apples comparision. Now, can you do the apples-to-apples-to-oranges comparison so that we can figure out how much of the increase Charles observes in recent polls is related to changing sample universes (if any)? I'm squint-eyed trying to it figure out by looking at Charles' graph.

What really blew my mind is that Zogby has been running a likely voter model since at least mid-August. Say what?! I'll bet some respondents were thinking about a primary election when asked of their vote intention.

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Mark Blumenthal:

Mike,

I'll leave the slicing and dicing of Charles' graph to Charles, if that's ok.

As for Zogby, they use some sort of "likely voter" model on almost every survey all year round, in election years and off years. Note the answer in the Zogby FAQ to the question, "what makes Zogby so different (and accurate? JZ: We poll only likely voters who are different from just all adults."

What that model involves (beyond party weighting) is anyone's guess. You'll find no description of it Zogby's new, poll-specific methdology page.

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