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We are now less than four months away from determining who runs the show in the U.S. Capitol.
For someone just blindly looking at the big numbers, the release of Politico's new poll late last week (when many of you were presumably in Detroit) might give pause to the Democrats, and a bit of buoyant glee to adherents of the GOP. Indeed, a cursory search through my Twitter feed revealed just that.

After all, here is a national poll showing a two-point edge for the Republicans in the generic ballot (44-42) over the Democrats. And here is a poll that showed a pretty outsized negative-14 split on job approval for the President (43-57, they did not allow undecided as an option, evidently).

On further review, however, there is a lot less than meets the eye here. If anything, this poll might be yet another sign of a status quo election in November.

The reason why lies just after the jump...

The simple answer to why I think this poll does not speak to inherent Democratic peril in the fall is simply a matter of the sample. Politico (through their polling partners GfK and Social Sphere) decided to, rather than conduct a simple national poll, to conduct a poll of what they deemed as the "competitive" House and Senate seats up for grabs in November.

Now, assuming that the readers can appreciate the distinction, there is nothing wrong with doing that. Unless you lump these results in with other national polling, which is (again, from a mere scan of the Twitter chatter on this poll) what a lot of folks were doing.

Herein lies the problem: Politico's decisions on what races rate as "competitive" are decent (maybe a bit broad: 16 Senate races and 66 House races). But it is also inherently biased, however incrementally, to the GOP. Look at the numbers: even though Barack Obama carried more of the over five dozen House districts included in the sample (he carried 36, while Romney carried 30), the average Obama performance in those districts (as culled from our own database of presidential performances by congressional district) stood at 49.0 percent. This runs almost precisely two points behind Obama's national performance.

Indeed, in these 66 House districts that made up the Politico poll sample, Mitt Romney was at near perfect parity with the president, despite losing by nearly five million votes nationally (or, to keep apples to apples, 3.86 percent).

Of course, on the Senate side, the differences were even more stark. Anyone who follows elections knows that the reason why the 2014 battle for the balance of power in the Senate is so tenuous for the Democrats is that they are playing incumbent defense in some states that are, quite simply, pretty butt-ugly for them. And, as it happens, the Politico sample reflects that. To their credit, they tried to ameliorate that by including some states where the Senate races are, at best, marginally competitive to date (Minnesota, Virginia, Oregon, and New Hampshire immediately come to mind). Even at that, however, the average Obama share of the vote in those states was hovering around 45 percent, which is a full six points below Obama's national 2012 performance.

So, taken together (the House districts made up slightly more of the sample than the Senate districts), it wouldn't be unreasonable to estimate that the electorate for this poll would come in around 51-47 in favor of Mitt Romney, in terms of their 2012 electoral preferences (See addendum at the end of this piece).

Viewed through that lens, the polling outcomes in this Politico poll actually aren't too bad for the Democrats. Obama's 43 percent job approval looks lousy, for sure. But, while it isn't something you'd necessarily pin on the refrigerator, it is roughly four points below how this sample presumably voted in 2012. In recent national polling, the president has run anywhere from five to 11 points behind his 2012 performance nationally. So this falls right in line.

And a two-point generic ballot edge for the GOP looks less impressive when you consider that, in all probability, this was a group of respondents that had more Romney voters than Obama voters, so the Republican edge here looks less impressive.

What this poll does tell us (besides a fairly fascinating set of data saying that, regardless of party, high-profile endorsements are a net drag on a candidate) is that the Senate map sucks for Democrats. Which, of course, is nothing that close followers of electoral politics haven't known for a very long time.

Addendum: (5:13 PM PST)  An important note from the team at team at HuffPollster:

Keep in mind that Politico's sample consisted only of voters in 16 states and 66 U.S. House districts with competitive races in 2014 (voters were selected proportionately for the initial sample, so that a large state like Michigan would contribute roughly six or seven times as many registered voters as a smaller state like New Hampshire).
So, the 2012 numbers would be a little better for Obama in that respect, when retrofitted for size. Still, HuffPo's Rachel Lienesch estimates that the sample did vote for Romney in 2012, but by a smaller margin (she estimates it at 0.3 percent). So, while the larger point is still valid, the margin separating the "competitive races" sample from a larger national sample are a few points less broad than previously thought.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 03:15 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos Elections.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm not sure what your point is. (6+ / 0-)

    It seems to be, "by focusing on the competitive races, the Politico sample accurately produces numbers that show less support for Obama and Democrats there, than a poll of the whole country."

    But if you want to use polls to estimate the results of the 2014 elections, that is exactly what you need.  

    •  point may be (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      flatford39

      No one poll is worth much. there are variables such as the outfit doing the polling, or the sample, or the way the questions were asked. the inferences others are drawing are using this poll as equivalent to other polls, which used different samples of districts. Bottom line: it may not support the inference that casual readers (i.e. MSM) make of it.

    •  I think the point is (9+ / 0-)

      that comparing this poll to other so-called "generic ballot" polls is not an apples-to-apples comparison.  In other words, your "normal" generic ballot poll is polling voters in "safe" districts and states (going both ways.)

      The point is that if you're comparing this poll to other generic ballot polls, this poll looks friendlier to Republicans because the sample is friendlier to Republicans.

      30, white male, TX-07 (current), TN-09 (born), TN-08 (where parents live now)

      by TDDVandy on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 03:58:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Actually, it's not. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jasonhouse, redwagon, BelgianBastard

      If the "competitive" states included Texas, Utah, and Tennessee, you'd expect a rather different outcome than if they were California, Massachusetts, and Delaware, event if the poll results were identical, for the polled states.

    •  Here's the point: (9+ / 0-)

      We've got work to do.

      We are competitive in Senate races we shouldn't be competitive in. We have struggles ahead in some Senate races we've held. They're not out of reach for us though.

      If we get the right message out, and actually GOTV, we have a shot at winning the House.

      "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

      by zenbassoon on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 04:55:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The point seems to be that: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BelgianBastard, Linda1961

      1. A generic poll of the nation as a whole would show a much different result.

      2. One would expect a generic poll of states and districts that lean red to be more favorable to the GOP than 44-42.

      3. With more than 4 months until the November elections, the Dems have a decent shot at holding the Senate, especially since they can lose up to 5 seats and still remain in control.

    •  Simple (0+ / 0-)

      The poll is NOT being sold by most of the media in the way which you (correctly) understand it - but rather as a NATIONAL snap shot -- perhaps the opening of a "wave" election - where the entire country is supposedly feeling the same way - but which regional polls put the lie to.  

      Another words, while the poll may (or may not, 2 points isn't much in close states, particularly 10 weeks before people pull the levers) be accurate FOR THE SPECIFIC BATTLEGROUNDS THAT IT COVERS -- those are NOT the entire country, but a selection of districts which everyone thinking already know are pink.  So, rather than showing a rush to inject masses of new GOP members into government - it shows absolute status quo  with us having a sucky senate map as far as defense is concerned, kinda like Asia in Risk, but not having the type of rush that we saw in 2010 - which is NOT what the MSM is working so hard to create the image of.

      That's all.

  •  well, did they sample it as a three party race? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BelgianBastard

    us, them, and crazy?
    there sure seems to be some potential for that race at least in ole miss...

  •  It's the voter intensity, stupid. (7+ / 0-)

    I'm not believing that the elections in the fall will reflect anything like this.  If the GOP voters have the intensity that I think they have, and the DEM voters don't give a shit in turning out to vote, you'll see some scary results.  Do not delude yourself.

    By the authority vested in me by Kaiser Wilhelm II, I pronounce you man and wife. Proceed with the execution...and the kiddie pool needs to stay open 24/7!

    by HarryParatestis on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 03:41:25 PM PDT

  •  We're not unscrewing here, are we? (7+ / 0-)

    ...because that is what the fantasy-based conservative community does. We need to know what is real, not what makes us feel good.

    So, is this analysis legitimate or just the democratic version  of trying to make chicken salad out of chicken poop?

    •  No. The poll (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BelgianBastard

      (if I'm reading the diary correctly) doesn't account for the other 369 Congressional districts and the other 17(?) Senate races, so the numbers may indeed be off--if what one is looking for are numbers for the whole country.

      "Lone catch of the moon, the roots of the sigh of an idea there will be the outcome may be why?"--from a spam diary entitled "The Vast World."

      by bryduck on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 03:50:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well, no. (7+ / 0-)

      It's not that this poll is invalid, but that in comparison to other generic ballot polls the sample is skewed Republican because unlike other generic ballot polls, this sample is not composed of voters in the entire country but instead of voters in a smaller selection of states and districts that happen to tilt slightly more Republican than the country as a whole.

      The danger is in taking this at face value and comparing it to the other "generic ballot" polls out there.

      30, white male, TX-07 (current), TN-09 (born), TN-08 (where parents live now)

      by TDDVandy on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 04:01:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's even more depressing when you realize a pr... (0+ / 0-)

        It's even more depressing when you realize a primarily Republicans only poll shows Democrats only down by two points..

      •  I would also point out... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TDDVandy, redwagon, FiredUpInCA, GoUBears

        that it makes little sense to do a generic ballot poll if you are only going to poll certain specific districts.

        I mean, in states like LA, AR and AK, it's quite obvious that Landieu, Pryor and Begich will outperform a generic democrat.

        Or put another way: Do you think Susan Collins loses a milliseconds sleep if a poll comes out saying a generic dem would beat a generic repub in Maine? Of course not (it's why we all hope she retires asap; See also Snowe).

        I ride the wild horse .

        by BelgianBastard on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 05:34:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  But since these are the races that decide control (0+ / 0-)

        Saying they may not reflect national feeling clearly seems unimportant.

        •  See my comment above. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          GoUBears

          Generic polling of specific races makes little sense.

          Almost all of the Senate candidates are pretty much known, certainly on the Dem side of things. It doesn't tell you anything to ask people, "Well if nameless D runs against nameless R , how would you vote", when you already know who the D and R are, unless  what you want to know is is being a D or an R hurting/helping the D or R.

          A couple more examples: In MO, when Akin ran against McCaskill, a generic poll would have told you Claire was doomed. But she didn't run against a 'genericism', her opponent was Todd ffn Akin. Reid/Angle is another example. A case that is a bit more complicated was Delaware; solidly blue, and when the non-witchy masturbation abstentionist was pitted against non-Biden jr., it was blue. But had popular Rep (R) Castle won the primary he would almost certainly have won, and definitely out-polled a generic R.

          So, yeah, your statement "national polling is unimportabt" is correct, but so is geberic polling. Obama, Pelosi, Reid and Warren aren't running in NC, Kagan is.  Generic R isn't running in KY, deeply unpopular McConnell is.

          I ride the wild horse .

          by BelgianBastard on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 08:06:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  No (and I love Autocorrect....hahaha) (6+ / 0-)

      The short answer to your question is: nope.

      What I am saying is, as a note of caution, it that this is not an apples-to-apples comparison. This is a not a national poll in the way that we typically see them. Rather, this is a poll of selected "competitive" contests, which one estimate (from P'Co's Steve Shepard) is only one-third of the nation. And that those selected contests are housed in places more conservative than the nation at-large.

      There are still cautionary notes, to be sure. The Senate map has a lot of hostile terrain, as we've noted for a long time. That means Democrats are playing a ton of defense in places that are harder than the average state for them to defend. But, we knew that at the start of the cycle. I just think this poll, because of its unique sample, might've confused some folks and fed into a "Dems are dooooomed" narrative that is not justified, at least not by this particular poll.

      "Every one is king when there's no one left to pawn" (BRMC)
      Contributing Editor, Daily Kos/Daily Kos Elections

      by Steve Singiser on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 05:39:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  1 triillion to 1 bet to Adelson (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    redwagon

    That the  Democrats do not lose too Republican ,thier is so much dissenting between the GOP and Tea  Party,Adelson has bet 100 million dollar Republican will win the Senate seat,

    •  I still can't believe that dimwit didn't take... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      redwagon

      Silverman up on her scissoring-in-a-bikini offer. Lol, what a fool.

      I ride the wild horse .

      by BelgianBastard on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 05:37:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Also, too... (0+ / 0-)

        I'm pretty sure she knew that Adelson wouldn't take her up on the offer, still, talk about taking one for tge team, respect!

        And I would add, it's not just that she is beautiful, but that she is even more 'beautiful' on the inside; she is really smart, really funny and has a huge heart. If I didn't have a gf who was all those things too (congrats on passing your first year of law, babe :-)), I might be jealous, heh.

        I ride the wild horse .

        by BelgianBastard on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 07:27:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Pffft! It's from Politico (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GunGriffin

       I never considered it remotely reliable. It's just part of the narrative. The bad news is that as usual, it's going to come down to how many people are pissed off enough to vote against a person or a party, rather than a question of how many people are inspired to vote for a party or a person. Republicans usually win that fight and the Teabag Taliban is always pissed.
        The good news is that the Teabag Taliban has been pissing off other constituencies and not just each other this cycle and they've been doing so publicly and on the record. It will be about turnout and about how many women and other minorities are pissed off enough to show up. It will be about the Democratic Party stopping the kid glove shit and rubbing America's face into the crazy dangerousness that is the Republican Tea Party, relentlessly. Stop saving the baggers from themselves! Point and laugh!
        The other bad news is I don't think the Democrats will do that. I'm afraid they'll ignore the batshittery and pretend that their Republican opponents are behaving rationally, as usual.

    * sigh *

    "Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for a real Republican every time." Harry Truman

    by MargaretPOA on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 03:59:13 PM PDT

  •  Online vs random polls (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GunGriffin, redwagon, Shawn87

    The Politico poll is an online poll conducted by gFK. All the polls that use a randomly contacted methodology have been showing a slight Democratic advantage (1.2%) for months. A number of polls have switched to an online method by recruiting poll participants view internet recruiting.

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/...

    In 2012 Nate Silver gave almost no influence to these type of polls citing Zogby. This is a new trend with many pollsters switching to an online method since they are very inexpensive. They now include Reuters/Ipsos. The Economist/You Gov. gFK and others and they all appear to be biased by an over inclusion of GOP participants.

    I ignore these polls and only look at polls that randomly contact participants like PPP, Rasmussen, Gallup, NBC, ABC and Pew

  •  What you are saying is that this poll ignores (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FiredUpInCA

    the vast majority of Democratic districts which piled on to give Obama two presidential terms....

    In other words, if we interviewed ONLY Republican leaning districts, this is the kind of poll we'd get?

  •  You can't make a silk purse (0+ / 0-)

    out of a sow's ear.

    The inability of the democrats to even crack a hair's breadth the southwest where we keep being told those demographic changes (the so called brown wave) are coming spells deep, deep, possibly fatal trouble for that Party.

    Texas is Tea Party central right now as Wendy Davis is having trouble even with the women's vote.

    In New Mexico the Republican governor will sail to re-election.  Ditto Nevada.

    In Arizona the best the Dems can do for governor is a placeholder candidate with no chance of winning.  The Dems won't even field a candidate in many races as requests by Independents for primary ballots goes 58%-23% Republican.

    The only good news for Dems is that 2014 CAN'T be a repeat of 2010; there are only 468 seats up for grabs!

  •  One more thing: (3+ / 0-)

    the generic Republican may beat the generic Democrat, but actual Republicans tend to be much less popular than generic Republicans.

  •  last "generic republican" died in 2007 (0+ / 0-)

    now they all crazy- and running against them with the amount of baggage they have is much easier than polls like this will indicate

  •  Here are the states polled, with a 5.7% error? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    1040SU, wdrath, madronagal
    Alaska, Arkansas,
    Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, New
    Hampshire, Oregon, South Dakota, Virginia and West Virginia
    I've got a problem with this. If you had to label these states Republican or Democratic, how would you do it?

    I'd call Minn, and Oregon as pretty solid Dem.

    And Georgia, Kentucky, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia as pretty solid Repubs.

    I was getting ready to accuse the author of putting lipstick on a pig, but given these states, I would have expected a much bigger Repub preference.

    And given a 5.7% error rate for the states and an overall 4.1% error rate, this poll looks more worthless than good or bad.

    •  What? (0+ / 0-)

      OR, ok.

      But MT and WV both have two Sen.(D)'s. SD has one. You are mixing apples and oranges. Maine is pretty blue, but still elects Collins with gargantuan majorities every time the people there are asked to vote. MN almost elected an R last time. KY is extremely blue statewide, nnarrowly blue in state lege, and dark red as far as Presidential elections go. KS might elect a D governor, but not a D Sen or go D for POTUS. Apples to Apples is the key here.

      I ride the wild horse .

      by BelgianBastard on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 08:53:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  How does a generic ballot work (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FiredUpInCA

    with declared candidates?  Do people still think about their preferred candidate when making a choice?  So a Nunn or Begich or Grimes voter would say Democrat even if if there were no declared candidates they'd probably say Republican?

    •  Exactly. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FiredUpInCA

      All you are ascertaining is whether D or R behind your name is a plus or a minus, and this close in, even that data is contaminated by exactly the facts you point out.

      Now, Steven Singiser knows this stuff better than me, and he is very good at numbers on top of that. So I will gladly be told I'm wrong, if that's so.

      I ride the wild horse .

      by BelgianBastard on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 08:43:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Toss this pole in the pile. (0+ / 0-)
    •  No! (0+ / 0-)

      That's exactly what you shouldn't do. It's polling a different universe than any other poll, so you can NOT average it in with the others. There's nothing wrong with the universe polled; it's just different.

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