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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dems’ Generic Congressional Ballot Advantage Unusually Stable

At Daily Kos Dreaminonempty has an elegant graphic in his post “Why 2014 is not 2010, in one very clear chart.” Go there and chew on it for a minute.
The chart shows two trend lines, using “loess curves” to depict the course of “Democratic generic congressional ballot polls” for 2014 and 2010 over time, beginning in January of each respective year. The 2014 line is fairly straight, showing a Democratic edge in positive territory, ranging from a low of about +0.4 percent to a high in the ballpark of +2.0 percent.
The 2010 trend line, however, is all over the place — from a low of about -8.2 percent to a high of approximately +0.2 percent.
You will remember 2010 as the year that Democrats got “shellacked” in congressional elections, as President Obama put it. The trend line is very different for 2014, much less volatile — and completely in positive territory thus far.
Granted, the 2014 line only goes to the end of August. In 2010, however, Dems started tanking in early July and experienced an even more precipitous decline beginning in mid-September, when many voters began paying attention. July and August 2014 have come and gone, and Dems are still hanging tough in positive territory. “In past years, massive waves have been quite obvious by now,” notes Dreaminonempty.
Apart from Dreaminonempty’s point that “2014 is not 2010,” what I’m hoping the chart shows is that the Democrats’ demographic advantage is kicking in, solidifying our edge, at least in generic balloting. Perhaps also that Republicans have befouled their nest to the point where some of their rational voters are beginning to bail.
As for how reliable generic ballot polls are in predicting outcomes, that’s another story. But the relative stability of the Democratic positive edge is most likely a good thing. You would rather see that than a mirror image of the 2010 volatility. As Dreaminonempty puts it, “…as of now, there’s no evidence of a developing Republican wave.”
The post has another chart, comparing polling for 6 other elections to 2014. Again the relative stability of Dems’ generic congressional ballot advantage in 2014 is striking.
Of course none of this will mean much if Dems do an inadequate job of turning out the base. Much depends on the scope and scale of the modernized Democratic GOTV projects now underway in the more closely-contested races.

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