Patterico's Pontifications


2010: The polling Carville & Greenberg only whisper about

Filed under: General — Karl @ 3:55 pm

[Posted by Karl]

Last week, I took a look at the Left’s wishful hypothesis that a tarnished GOP brand was going to save the Dems in the 2010 midterm Congressional elections. I missed the most recent Congressional Battleground survey from Democracy Corps (.pdf) — an outfit led by James Carville and pollster Stanley Greenberg — mostly because they made little effort to promote it. The money and effort put into this survey — which covered 1500 likely voters in 40 Democratic-held and 20 Republican-held target House districts — makes it the sort of project you generally would not like to put under a bushel.

Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies has several blog posts explaining why the Dems might have wanted to keep this survey on the downlow. In the first post, Bolger notes that those awful Republicans have not budged from about 43 on the “feeling thermometer,” while Dems have dropped from 49 to 44.2 since April. As in other polling, the generic Congressional ballot has deteriorated for Dems. And the more significant re-elect question was not any better:

Democracy Corps also tested two key measures of ballot standing. In seats with an incumbent, they asked a two way re-elect (which is really the best wording of the myriad of re-elects out there). In April, Dem incumbents (and they gave the actual incumbent name) had a 39% re-elect/37% new person score. That’s down to 40% re-elect/45% new person now — a seven point shift against the Dem incumbents.

GOP incumbents have not had the same shift. In April they had a 39% re-elect/40% new person score, while in October it’s 40% re-elect/40% new person. These data show that Republican incumbents in swing seats are not out of the woods — but also that Dem incumbents in a similar situation are going deeper into the woods.

Bolger’s second post highlights that in the Dem districts, plurailities see their Representative as as “too liberal,” “will raise my taxes,” and “puts (his/her) party in Washington ahead of the people here,” with a majority saying their Dem “supports too much government spending.” Meanwhile, Democracy Corps got disappointing results on the negative characteristics tested aginst GOP incumbents. Bolger contends:

These data put a dent in the conventional wisdom that individual Republican incumbents are not getting some bounce off the Democratic Party’s problems. This is NOT a pox on both your houses of incumbents — instead, there are very real concerns with the Democratic party.

Democracy Corps disagrees (natch):

It is true that in this survey, the Republican incumbents have stronger numbers on some attributes than their Democratic counterparts. But that is expected, considering that nearly all of these Democrats are freshmen or sophomores while most of the Republican incumbents have long served their districts.

Yet despite this advantage, these Republican incumbents have lost significant standing since our last survey in July (much like everyone else in Washington), and show serious weakness on a number of important measures where you would expect a better performance from long-time incumbents. For example, just 40 percent of voters in the Republican districts say they will vote to reelect their member, the same result as in the Democratic seats. When we phrase this question differently, a 50-percent majority now say that they “CAN’T vote to reelect (their incumbent by name) because we need new people that will fix Washington” versus just 39 percent who say they “WILL vote to reelect (their incumbent) because he or she is doing a good job.” This represents a large drop since July and is a much worse showing than the Democratic incumbents. Finally, the Republican incumbents are only able to manage 48 percent of the vote in a named matchup with generic challengers – exactly the same level of support that the Democratic incumbents receive. And while the percentage supporting the generic challenger is lower in the Republican-held seats, our Voter Choice Scale[1] identifies 19 percent of voters as “winnable” for the Democratic challengers (against just 10 percent for the Republican incumbents), suggesting that the challengers have much more room to grow in these seats. Clearly, these Republican incumbents are very much at risk.

Note that in all of that spin, the primary piece of data is that “CAN’T vote to reelect” question on which Democracy Corps claims GOP has “a much worse showing than the Democratic incumbents.” The number for the GOP was 50%, which is bad. The number for the Dems was… 48%, which looks like margin of error. Moreover, the saliency of the “CAN’T” question compared to the standard re-elect question is (ahem) debatable. Perhaps the surest sign that not even Democracy Corps buys this spin is that they ran back out into the field to similarly poll 15 long-term Democratic incumbents in mostly very Republican seats that the NRCC may target — their vote averages only 50%.

Bolger’s third post starts by replying to Democracy Corps, but goes on to look at their numbers on the issues. In the Dem districts, the GOP not only had advantages on the economy, taxes, the budget deficit, and government spending, but were within the margin of error on healthcare and Medicare. Indeed, the GOP had a bigger advantage on the economy and Medicare in Dem districts than in GOP districts.

Bolger’s final post of the series looks at Democracy Corps’ economic message testing for the two parties:

It’s a very interesting and well-done series. The good news for Republicans is that the intensity of support for the GOP messages on the economy is stronger than the intensity of support for the Dem messages.


They tested a series of messages about what both the Dems and the GOPers “might say about the economy” and then asked how convincing respondents found each statement. The results of the six Dem messages point to some that have credibility with a majority of voters in these 60 districts, but those messages lack intensity. In comparison, they tested four GOP messages on the economy, and all four have higher intensity than any of the six Dem messages. Three of the four GOP messages have significantly more pop (a quick shout out of thanks to the folks at Democracy Corps for writing such well-crafted GOP messages for us to steal).

Unsurprisingly, the GOP message with the most intensity links the stimulus, the bailouts, the budgets, and rising unemployment.

Intensity in messaging matters, but intensity also matters for voter turnout, particularly in midterm elections. Democracy Corps recently conducted focus groups on that sort of intensity, which Charlie Cook summarized as follows:

Democrats would have to set up machine-gun nests to keep these people from voting, while the lethargy among Democratic voters is palpable.

No wonder the normally talkative Carville would want to stay away from this subject.


17 Responses to “2010: The polling Carville & Greenberg only whisper about”

  1. There is the old adage about leading horses to water but the Hoffman race in NY23 may finally bring religion to the GOP. They thought they were so clever to nominate a left wing RINO in the district. Even Gingrich who, for all his contributions in 1994 and before, quickly wore out his welcome as Speaker, signed on to the obvious move by the committee. One good comment I’ve seen is that Tea Party folks need to be turning out for these central committee spots and getting control of the party away from the old spending flacks. We can get the party back on track but it will take work by these young people who are demonstrating.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  2. Charlie Cook is wrong.
    The dems have the New Black Panthers and Eric Holder to take care of turnout.

    Richard Aubrey (1a24d6)

  3. Dem’s machine gun nests would just be bonus target practice for tea partiers.

    John Y (6fcefc)

  4. I need to re-read this because it has so much information but I really enjoy reading your posts. You make your points clearly and in a conversational style that is easy to read and even easier to understand.

    DRJ (dff2ca)

  5. 2010 cant come soon enough!

    The Emperor (09c9e3)

  6. DRJ,

    Thanks, though I could benefit from your relative brevity.

    Karl (6aa6ff)

  7. Some of the Democrats’ lethargy is understandable. Supporters whose Party is in power almost always feel less intensity than supporters whose Party is out of power. Current levels of intensity suggest Republicans (conservatives) will be more motivated, but that doesn’t mean Democrats (liberals) can’t recapture some of their original Obama momentum, especially if the White House convinces Democrats the policies they care about are in jeopardy.

    If that’s correct, then I expect the White House will argue even more that Republicans are solely to blame for any defects in whatever health care legislation eventually passes, no matter how many Democrats defected in the process.

    DRJ (dff2ca)

  8. On the subject of health care, has the left put out a stop order on discussing the Wellpoint cost study that was referred to in the WSJ today about the skyrocketing cost of individual insurance post reform?

    daleyrocks (718861)

  9. DRJ, while I understand your simplistic tying together of the parties and the different ideological bases, I believe you are very wrong. The Republican party is the Moderate party. And the Demmocrat party is the Liberal party. There is no currently viable Conservative party. But times, they are a’changin’. Either the Republican party moves back to its Conservative base, or it goes the same route as the Whig party.

    The Democrats have ***** the pooch on this one. But, like the Democrats of the 90s doing the same thing, they can look forward to the Republicans reviving them. Every time the Democrats lurch leftward, the Republicans match that lurch.

    This time is different. This time the otherwise-silent Conservative base of this nation is not so silent. This time we’re not going to the prom with the lieing quarterback just to get to the prom. We’re telling the lieing quarterback he had better get his act straight or we’ll be at the prom and he’ll be sitting at home, alone.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  10. Is this a turning point? Maybe, but there is ample precedent for what you describe in the history of both parties, John.

    DRJ (dff2ca)

  11. In the 90s there was still a strong legacy from Reagan. When the excess of the liberals made an opening, Newt was able to use it to get a core group of real conservative freshmen elected and pair them up with the conservatives in the house to make a powerful coalition. Unfortunately I don’t see enough conservatives of influence or any viable conservative leadership to make real use of the opening the Dems seem to be making this time. The Republicans have bellied up to the trough, risen to their hind legs and become too corrupt and spoiled to rise above the Democrats and offer an alternative to the public. Given the public’s seeming ignorance and hedonistic self indulgence, the subservient press, and the refusal of the Republican party to offer a candidate that does not revolt a conservative, I find little hope. I really hope I look foolish for this later.

    Machinist (79b3ab)

  12. DRJ, I see both parties shifting ever leftward. Both parties are becoming ever more statist and ever more left of center. I don’t see anything in history shoving the Democrat party right. Reagan, and to a lesser extent, 94 Newt/Armey et al, shoved the Republican party right. But that didn’t last long. While the Democrat party is indeed liberal, the Republican party is not conservative. The Republican party is moderate with liberal leanings.

    That’s just how it is today. NY-23 could shove the Republican party toward its classic base. But only if RNC and NRCC actually have ears that work. Like I said in my article, the Tea Parties were not pro-(R), 912 in DC and elsewhere were not pro-(R), the “wee-weed-up” Town Hall meetings were not pro-(R) but RNC and NRCC think they were. Millions of people are fed up with the uber-statist, uber-leftist DNC and their chauffeur, the centrist or left-leaning RNC.

    It’s a mess the RNC cannot win if it maintains its course, despite the DNC handing them all the ammo.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  13. The Republican party has not had use for conservatives for a long time, if ever. Look at the contempt they had for Goldwater, Reagan, and the conservatives in 1994. They will jump on the bandwagon when the conservatives win enough public support to take the initiative but the conservatives must do that in spite of the party and the party establishment will move back as soon as they can. Like the leaders in the movie “Braveheart” the party leaders are comfortable losing while being bought off by the winners. You keep the field only as a negotiating tool to get better surrender terms. They use public support for defense and such to slow things down but this inevitably results in movement to the left. Reformers coming into Congress find they are at the mercy of the party machine and must play along until captured by the system or be marginalized to the point they can’t get reelected. Newt used the power of the conservative freshmen to force the party to his end, while using the power of his position to protect the freshmen from the party machine. As soon as Newt stumbled the thing fell apart as the establishment took back control and settled in at the trough.

    I don’t see either the leader we need or the next generation of conservative freshmen waiting to step in. I don’t see how we are likely to see much more than better foot dragging without both of those.

    Machinist (79b3ab)

  14. Well, if change by use of the soap-box and ballot-box is precluded, that leaves only one other box to use.

    AD - RtR/OS! (c561b5)

  15. […] carrying further than anyone would have dreamed a year ago. But Virginia is enough to confirm what Democracy Corps already discovered in their polling of swing districts — the reelect and issue numbers for Democrats are steadily eroding where it […]

    The Greenroom » Forum Archive » For whom the bellwether tolls (e2f069)

  16. […] carrying further than anyone would have dreamed a year ago. But Virginia is enough to confirm what Democracy Corps already discovered in their polling of swing districts — the reelect and issue numbers for Democrats are steadily eroding where it […]

    Patterico's Pontifications » For whom the bellwether tolls (e4ab32)

  17. […] broadly, the 2009 results were in one sense unremarkable. The greater intensity on the right, the rightward shift of Independents, the dissatisfaction with the way Pres. Obama has handling […]

    Patterico's Pontifications » 2009 election post-mortem (e4ab32)

Powered by WordPress.

Page loaded in: 0.1323 secs.