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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Does Bush Really Have a 7 Point Lead?

I’ve certainly made no secret of my skepticism. Now consider this excellent analysis along the same lines by Professor Alan Abramowitz of Emory University, one of the leading academic analysts of American politiics. (He sent this to me in an email and graciously agreed to allow me to share it with readers of this blog.)

1. The latest Gallup Poll has Bush ahead of Kerry by 52-45 percent among likely voters but by only 49-48 percent among registered voters. Based on the numbers of registered and likely voters in their sample, this means that Gallup is projecting that 89 percent of Bush supporters will vote but only 79 percent of Kerry supporters will vote. That seems unrealistic. It is way out of line with data from the American National Election Studies on turnout among registered Dems and Republicans in recent elections. For the past three presidential elections, the turnout gap between Republicans and Democrats has averaged 3 percentage points and was never larger than 4 percentage points. The smallest gap was in 1992 (1 point), the election with the highest overall turnout. Assuming that 2004 will be another relatively high turnout election, we should probably expect a relatively small turnout gap, similar to 1992.
2. Among registered voters, Gallup shows Bush leading by one point overall, with Kerry leading 90-7 among Democrats, Bush leading 90-7 among Republicans, and Kerry leading 49-46 among independents. This means that Gallup’s sample of registered voters includes more Republican identifiers than Democratic identifiers. But in 2000, according to the VNS national exit poll (which hits the overall percentages for Bush and Gore right on the nose), Democrats made up 40.3 percent of the electorate while Republicans made up only 36.5 percent of the electorate. If you apply Gallup’s trial heat results among Democrats, independents, and Republicans to the VNS 2000 electorate, Kerry comes out with with a four point lead: 50.3 percent to Bush’s 46.4 percent.

Food for thought, eh?

20 comments on “Does Bush Really Have a 7 Point Lead?

  1. tony on

    Two new polls are out. Fox shows Bush up 47-43% in the thre way, with Kerry ahead in the battlegrounds, 46-44. Bush carries 94% of Republicans, Kerry 80% of Democrats. Kerry has a nonsignificant lead of 42-40 among independents. They report a “marginal” bounce for Bush, but an essential tie in the race, leading in with a 47-45% Bush lead in a two-way race. They use likely voters and don’t report registered voters.
    In the CBS poll, Bush is given a 4 point bounce, with a 49-42 lead among registered voters. Bush gets 91% of Republicans, Kerry 81% of Democrats, and Bush has a lead of 48-39% among independents. Given the sample size of the subgroup, I don’t know if that lead among independents is statistically significant. The sample included 1058, 909 of them registered voters. 368 were Republicans, 336 Democrats, so they seem to have had a bias to finding Republicans. They weighted to have 340 Republicans and 354 Democrats.
    Ruy will have a lot more interesting of a take on this. I’m amused that the Fox report has been one of the more negative ones. It’s not clear to me what else is up.
    Clearly those 11% Bush lead reports were silly and mistaken, as has been argued long and hard. The Fox 4% among likely voters I find modestly encouraging, particularly given the battleground info. The CBS 7% among registered voters was a bit depressing as it stands in such contrast to the Gallup 1% among registered.
    I’d seen a report from talkingpointsmemo that both parties reported about a 4% Bush lead. That seems a reasonable interpretation of the varied data to me, but what do I know?

  2. David in NY on

    Gallup didn’t seem to mention another Apple-Orange distinction between this poll and all prior ones. The recent poll was taken in the immediate aftermath of one candidate’s convention. This probably does more to invalidate the comparison than the RV-LV disparity.

  3. AS on

    I dunno, Ruy. Another way to look at the gap between RV’s and LV’s in Gallup’s sample is to examine closely those voters who they predict won’t vote, but are registered. In a presidential year, we’re only talking about 14-15% of registered voters who don’t show up. (It may be lower this year, but clearly Gallup is going by past performance.) If those voters, by virtue of not showing up, produce a 3 point swing in Bush’s favor, then a little math shows that they must favor Kerry by about 60-40. Thinking for a minute about who these people are — likely low income, poorly educated, heavily minority — I don’t think this is surprising or wrong at all. If Gallup’s sample had more R’s than D’s and this is still the result, I think we’re looking pretty good. Because, in fact, I expect the registered non-voter pool this year to be closer to 10%, AND I expect (as always) more D’s than R’s to show up.
    Their LV screen is (as they themselves admit) just an educated guess that amounts to mathematical masturbation. It’s meaningless, as your peerless posts frequently remind us.
    (And BTW, before anyone takes me on with numbers: I know the turnout rate is only 55%, but that’s 55% of all OVER-18 ADULTS, including non-registered people and non-citizens. The turnout rate of registered voters is around 85%. A lot of people misunderstand that.)

  4. gabby hayes on

    People are always interested in dirt.
    These talking heads don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.
    If you can’t say something nice about someone, let’s hear it. That’s the reality.
    This week, the story is Bush has skeletons in his closet, looky what we found here!
    Meanwhile, back at the campaign: WRONG for AMERICA.

  5. gabby hayes on

    Vanya T,
    You are correct. It’s 50-46 Kerry.
    As you state, probably Bush’s high water mark.
    This won’t help:
    “These documents represent strong evidence that Lieutenant Bush didn’t perform after April 1972, regardless of whether he received a paycheck,” said retired Brig. Gen. David L. McGinnis, who was a top aide to the assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs.
    Lawrence J. Korb, an assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration and now a national security specialist at a liberal think tank, said after reviewing the CBS documents that if Killian and Lt. Col. William D. Harris Jr. had written a truthful evaluation report on Bush, “he would have been called to involuntary active duty.”
    Added Korb: “For the commanding officer to suggest that his (Bush’s) evaluation be sugar-coated is a clear indication of the political influence Bush had. Korb said the alleged suggestion by Staudt was also a “violation of military ethics.”

  6. Vanya T on

    Well, looking at demographics, 35% of the population identifies as Republicans, 38-39% as Democrats, with the balance showing another (or no) affiliation.
    Currently the unaffiliated voters are breaking 49%-46% for Senator Kerry.
    Applying the math here:
    Amongst the 35% who are Republicans, 90% support Mr. Bush, 7% support Sen. Kerry. Translating back to percentages: Bush 31.5%, Kerry 2.45%.
    Amongst the 38% (using the low end of the range here) who are Democrats, the same is true. Those figures translate to 2.66% for Mr. Bush, 34.2% for Sen. Kerry.
    The remaining 27% split 46% for Mr. Bush, 49% for Sen. Kerry- or 12.42% for Bush, 13.23% for Kerry.
    Adding these up, we have Bush at 46.33% to 49.88% for Kerry, with the balance of 3.79 undecided.
    So- the margin in the race (using web-available demographics, and the Gallup polling numbers) looks like it favours Sen. Kerry by about 3.5%. This means absolutely nothing on an electoral college basis, of course, but the numbers amongst voters who aren’t either Democratic or Republican core presently tilt somewhat against the incumbent- and conventional wisdom shows that undecideds tend to break against a sitting president anyway.
    This should be the Bush high-water mark, barring an October Surprise- without something drastic, it’s hard to picture Bush’s numbers rising significantly, especially with the mounting Iraq death toll, no significant developments in the pursuit of al Qaeda, and a still-sluggish economy and job market.

  7. gabby hayes on

    I want to plant a seed here. Monday a new issue emerges. Monday, the assault weapon ban enacted 10 years ago will expire, thanks to the Republican controlled Congress.
    Lead sentence from the NYT:
    “Despite widespread popular support, the federal law banning the sale of 19 kinds of semiautomatic assault weapons is almost certain to expire on Monday, the result of intense lobbying by the National Rifle Association and the complicated election-year politics of Washington.”
    Discussion points for this issue:
    *Mothers, fathers, is this what you want?
    *Does this does make you safer?
    *Bowling for Columbine
    *John Muhammed sniper
    *Stories about purchases on local TV
    *We respect the 2nd Amendment, but we don’t need Sadr-like militias here

  8. gabby hayes on

    Every eledtion is about getting our voters identified, motivated, registered, and to the polls.
    This time we have numbers in our favor across the board. We are registering in record numbers, we are motivated, and we are going to vote in records numbers Nov. 2nd.
    I agree, though, turnout is the nuts of every election.

  9. gabby hayes on

    These two comments bear repeating from the original topic:
    “The smallest gap was in 1992 (1 point), the election with the highest overall turnout. Assuming that 2004 will be another relatively high turnout election, we should probably expect a relatively small turnout gap, similar to 1992.”
    “If you apply Gallup’s trial heat results among Democrats, independents, and Republicans to the VNS 2000 electorate, Kerry comes out with with a four point lead: 50.3 percent to Bush’s 46.4 percent.”
    Gallup has missed the last four presidential elections by 3-4 million per election, on average, never getting closer than 2 million.
    They aren’t paid because they’re right, because they aren’t. They’re hired because they have a NAME with a rep that has long since passed justification.
    Gallup hasn’t been close to right since 1984.

  10. Charlie T. on

    I don’t think you’re misunderstanding anything. The TV media just passes these poll results along with no underlying analysis of the fundamentals behind them. It’s all surface news and headlines. Reading this and several other websites regarding polls/politics is a literal godsend in terms of actually learning what’s behind the numbers.
    By the way, kudos to Jeff for pointing out the same issue at 4:54 this afternoon (in the previous item) and for publishing the same restated poll numbers as Professor Abramowitz. Something certainly does seem a bit off in these polls with the population that is being sampled and with the likely voter screens.
    BTW, some of the shills in the corporate media are doing it again in terms of the Bush AWOL scandal. Mathews tonight was basically shrugging his shoulders and asking what the big deal was about Bush’s service. What’s the point: “One guy went, one guy didn’t.”
    Perhaps the point is the lying and deceiving by Bush and his minions about whether he fulfilled his actual service 30 years ago. (The document written “for the record” at the time, 1973, by Bush’s immediate supervisor is pretty damning.) Perhaps the point is that the little episode about how strings were pulled for Bush to get him into the TANG and how he avoided accountability for his absences are metaphors for all that’s wrong with this administration, its policies, its coziness with the rich and powerful in this country.
    For somebody who crowed about the power of the second half of the F-911 movie in terms of how the working and lower classes are fighting this war in Iraq, Mathews can be pretty dense at times.

  11. gabby hayes on

    Ruy, the analyses you and the good professor have done are absolutely essential to our side.
    1. It sets the record straight.
    2. It reassures the troops and arms them.
    3. It impacts the dialogue and momentum.
    When I hear the question “why are they doing this?” I am reminded of something an old lawyer screamed at me when I was a baby lawyer. I had some case I’d found and was convinced I knew why the judge had ruled against us.
    He stopped me in mid-sentence.
    “The reason he ruled against us isn’t in any law book. He ruled against us because he wanted the other side to win.”
    Wow. There went my Judd for the Defense, Owen Marshall, Perry Mason cherry.

  12. Arun on

    Let’s assume that Gallup has kept the same methodology over the past few months (namely, 89% of Bush supporters and 79% of Kerry supporters will actually vote, and that the sample of voters is weighted more towards Republicans than the VNS 2000 electorate.
    How does it change the results of the previous polls? E.g., does Kerry get a bounce after the Dem. convention? etc.
    If I had the numbers handy, I’d do the arithmetic, but….

  13. CJM on

    In the Democratic primaries, it was pounded into our heads that Dean was absolutely ahead of Kerry. By margins of over 10% in most polls. Then Kerry wins the first primary by a landslide.
    Does the wrong polling analysis that happened during the Democratic primaries apply here in this election?
    This post seems to help understand how a 7 point lead with skewed voter affiliation will become a four point victory on election day for Kerry.
    PS: I know it ain’t over and there is a long way to go and anything can happen etc. etc. etc.

  14. Nate Roberts on

    My question to Ruy Teixeira (and other knowledgable readers) is why it would be that Gallup would adopt a methodology which would be biased towards the Republicans?
    Is is simply a mistake? Is there some alterior motive?
    My impression until now had been that the professional pollsters were exactly that –professional– but that the press often is not so professional/critical in how they report the results of polls. Now I am beginning to wonder. Or am I simply misunderstanding the significance of Prof. Abramowitz’s comments?


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