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Of Generic Votes and Likely Voters

Topics: 2006 , Likely Voters , The 2006 Race

Today's flood of new national surveys provides enough raw material for a week's worth of blog posts.  The new surveys are from ABC News/Washington Post, CBS/NY Times, CNN/ORC and USAToday/Gallup, plus one more from Newsweek released over the weekend.  I want to highlight a few key results, particularly what the new surveys tell us about shifts in the so called "generic congressional" ballot.

As Charles Franklin notes in the previous post, these surveys do indicate an improvement in the Democratic margins.  I want to take a closer look at an issue that inevitably confronts us when considering the generic ballot question, whether to watch results among all registered voters or just the sub-samples of "likely voters" as defined by each pollster.  The surveys from CNN, Gallup and Newsweek provide both, so the following table provides both. 

10-9%20generic%20before%20and%20after.jpg

While some of the surveys (Gallup and CNN) show more change than others, all but CBS/NYTimes poll showed at least some improvement in the Democratic margin since September.  When we average the results of the registered voter samples, the Democratic margin increases from 11 to 14 percentage points. 

When we shift to likely voters, things get a little murky.  Only two of the newest polls -- the ones from Gallup and CNN -- reported results for likely voters in both September and October.  And both show bigger swings toward the Democrats, but among both their likely and registered voter subgroups.  The change for Gallup among likely voters is simply enormous (from a dead heat to a 23 point Democratic advantage).  CNN also shows an eight point gain in the Democratic margin among likely voters (from 13 to 21 points).

So which population should we follow?  Frank Newport made the case for the Gallup likely voter model in a post here last week, and a lively debate ensued that will no doubt continue over these new results.  Consider the following table that shows how likely and registered voter results have compared since Labor Day on the pollst that reported both.

10-9%20likely%20vs%20regis.jpg

There is no apparent consistency in the differences between the registered and likely voter samples.  On average they seem to make the margin about a point less Republican, but even that disappears when we remove the mid-September USAToday/Gallup poll from the analysis.  Consistent with past criticism, the likely voter model appears to be producing more volatile results, particularly for Gallup.  But for all the sound and fury of the debate, likely voters and registed voters are looking more or less the same. 

 

Comments
Ryan:

This doesn't exactly relate to the likely voter model but with all this new data it seems to confirm a trend that I haven't seen mentioned that I noticed at the beginning of the year.

That is, it seems the polls that find Bush's approval rating slightly higher find a paradoxically larger Democratic margin in the generic ballot. Obviously the Democrats have been leading all year to some extent, but it also seems that the margin is less for those polls that find Bush's approval rating lower.

This is the opposite of what one would expect obviously. I don't have time to find solid data to support this, only anecdotal evidence. For example, I noticed that while Bush's approval fell between March and May, the Democratic advantage in the generic ballot question seemed to decline as well.

This recent batch of polls were taken about the same time compared to polls taken 2 months apart so I guess it's kind of comparing apples to oranges. But it's so counterintuitive, I just wanted to bring it up to see if anyone else had noticed or if there was a some logical step I'm missing that would explain the phenomenon.

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AndyL:

I keep hearing that 'Foley' might cause many consrevative voters to stay home next month; have any of the LV/RV polls shown a drop in likely voters when compared to those registered? Could this account for some of the Dem/Rep 'swinging' we've seen lately?

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L. Bordeaux:

I think polls are purchased and/or sponsored by the media to project an image that they desire, but are no closer to reality than the National Enquirer. When the emporer and Slate and all the liberal pundants are done making the news to fit their desired outcome, the voters will still look at the realities of a divided electorate where half the people want something for nothing and vote blue; and half the people recognize that something only comes from hard work and an expenditure of real energy and vote red. Sadly those who vote blue tend to be covetous, greedy, lazy, idolent and sinful in their lives and it's always some other person's fault when things go poorly and they hope Big Brother Government will help them out of ther predicament. I for one am tired of their whiny crap. I will vote red knowing that the only way to ensure peace is to be willing to fight for it. Bullies and tyrants don't negotiate, they smack you, take your lunch money and push you down. America is not the Bully, the Socialist tyrants of the world, the communist leftovers, the Islamo-facists are the tyrants. I for one will not be bullied anymore. Democrats apparently don't mind it. They prefer the right to kill unborn babies and drink pina-coladas on the beach ignoring the end of freedom. Whimps!

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