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Post Foley Shifts?

Topics: 2006 , George Bush , The 2006 Race

"This is as close to pollster hell as it gets." Or so wrote GOP pollster Bill Cullo last night on Crosstabs.org. While this may be an especially hellish week for Republican pollsters, Cullo makes a very valid point. "These days, any national voter survey more than 72 hours old is largely obsolete," he writes. "All indications are that the whole Foley situation has eviscerated any hint of a Republican reversal that may or may not have been underway." But what evidence do we have of that evisceration? Let's take a look.

The best evidence for the Republican "reversal" was a consistent 2-3 point improvement in the Bush job approval rating from August to September in national surveys of adults. As the table below shows, the five national surveys conducted entirely after the Foley resignation all indicate a 2-3 percentage point movement back in the opposite direction:

Bush%20job%2010-5.jpg

I usually hesitate to make too much of the often variable three-day rolling averages from automated pollster Rasmussen Reports, but one particular finding this week looks particularly ominous for the Republicans. Bush's "strongly disapprove" rating today sits at 46% after rising steadily from 39% a week ago (according to data on Rasmussen's premium site). It had averaged 39-40% during September and only registered as high as 46% on one other day this year (May 23, ten days after the all time low point on Charles Franklin's chart).

On the other hand, measurements of the generic congressional vote did not show a consistent change one way or another on the national surveys reported so far this week (including a Pew Research Center survey that happened to be in the field just at the Foley story broke):

Generic%2010-5.jpg

Averaging across the four surveys shows no change. Why a small shift on the job rating but no change on the generic ballot? While the differences in population (adults vs. registered and likely voters) may have played a role, I see no obvious explanation. Still readers should note that the two biggest shifts to the Democrats occurred on the registered voter samples done entirely over the last three nights (Time & AP/IPSOS).

Cullo's point is worth remembering: The surveys above may be obsolete again by this time next week. However, given that the Foley story has focused much more directly on the Republican leadership in the House over the last few days. That turn in the story may explain the reportedly ominous internal GOP surveys discussed in this Fox News story (via Josh Marshall). 

We will no doubt have more national surveys to report soon that should clarify things. Stay tuned.

Update: The Rasmussen Report update this morning showed the percentage expressing "strong disapproval" for George Bush dropping from 46% to 44%.

In his more graphical analysis of the trend in the Bush job rating, Charles Franklin ncluded one more survey I missed: The two national surveys from the Democratic aligned Democracy Corps conducted 9/17-19 and 10/1-3. They show the Bush job rating dropping one point among likely voters (from 44% to 43%). They show no change on the traditional generic House question. Democrats led on both surveys by 10 points (51% to 41%).

 

Comments
matt:

I know this is a little dicey, but Rasmussen had a drop for Bush over a week ago. So there's at least the suggestion that Bush's decline predated Foley; it appeared to start round the time the NIE (and thus Iraq) was in the news.

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Georgann Marks:

A better indicator is how many people stood and cheered at the assassination of George Bush in Toronto movie theaters.

Dontcha just love populism? It always finds a way.

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Patrick Egan:

How's this for an explanation: the Bush "bump" over the past few weeks was fueled by heavy media attention paid to the issue of terrorism. Thus the post-Foley drop isn't due to the Foley story itself, but instead is a result of the media paying less attention to an issue that plays very well for Bush. That's why we see a change in favorability ratings, but not generic ballot.

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NumberCruncher:

The Bush "bump" was fuelled by relief that gas prices were returning to manageable levels - together with him having had about a billion dollars worth of free publicity over the fifth anniversary of 9/11. He would have had to be moribund not to get some benefit from those. But then, how quickly we forget as it is back to the daily grim reality of Iraq (where he would have taken a hit anyway) and then Foley. It will be astonishing to me if he improves before 11/7; the only real issue is how much further he is weakened before then.

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Stay tuned, folks. Kenneth Stepp, http://www.steppforcongress.blogspot.com

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Gary Kilbride:

Bill Cullo's comment about obsolete poll data reminded me of a race in my congressional district, NV-1, in 1994. Incumbent Democrat Jim Bilbray was expected to cruise to victory against veterinarian John Ensign. In fact, Mason-Dixon released a poll about a week before election day giving Bilbray a considerable lead.

However, almost simultaneous to that release the right leaning Las Vegas Review Journal published a story that a Bilbray advisor would benefit financially by about $7 million from a land deal that Bilbray proposed in congress and was on the verge of being passed. That story got bigger by the day and made its way into newscasts and late commericals. Meanwhile, the pundits kept quoting the old poll margin while you knew it couldn't be accurate. There aren't exactly rapid fire releases of polls in House races to gauge late developments.

Sure enough, Ensign took advantage of the perfect storm GOP year and the late scandal to upset Bilbray by about 1400 votes. It's very possible he never would have had a political career minus that Bilbray scandal, but now he is looking at easy re-election this year and perhaps more terms to follow.

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