Polling

Captain's Quarters:

Editor & Publisher noted yesterday that Gallup reported a shift in party identification in the US; Democrats outpoll Republicans in party identification -- by a single point....

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A one-point difference, especially in a poll of 1,000 adults, falls within the margin of error in any case. It's interesting and revealing to see E&P cast this as a "historic shift" when Gallup reports that this has been unchanged for almost a year. Either E&P has a strong case of analytical illiteracy or they want to put a spin worthy of John McEnroe on what amounts to a lob.

But one issue does arise from this fresh polling, one that undermines practically every political survey published in the past couple of years. If party identification is so close as to be a dead heat, why do polling services routinely underrepresent Republicans? CBS polls routinely overpoll Democrats so badly that their results are hardly worth the effort of analyzing. Their last major poll had a disparity between Democrats and Republicans of thirteen points -- which they corrected to a nine-point difference. Surprise! It found that Bush's approval numbers had dropped!

Here's another that CQ noted earlier this year. Despite undersampling Republicans by 5 points, the NSA terrorist surveillance program managed to garner majority support, with or without warrants. CBS actually had their raw numbers correct in this poll, but "corrected" them through weighting to give Democrats a five-point edge. Again, it should surprise no one that this allowed CBS to report that Bush had suffered another drop in support in May of last year.

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The Strata-Sphere also notes the polling problem and makes a comparison to some recent Pew results.

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The Gallup numbers are consistent with the large PEW study done back in 2004, where the post 9-11 numbers where 31% democrat and 30% republican. Same one point, statistically insignificant lead. What Pew points out is how this is a ‘historical’ low for the Democrats if one looks back over 50 years, with this level of support being on par with their reversals in the 1994 elections.

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