A poll can be both statistically valid and completely inaccurate. There is a third choice. Personally, when it comes to the NYTimes/Siena polls, I am going to suggest to you that they are completely irrelevant. I find it highly unlikely that a generic Democrat polls 17 points better than the incumbent. In fact, let’s start with that, at the congressional level:
This is a good place in the textbook to delve into the advantages of incumbency in congressional races. Remember, an incumbent is a current officeholder who is seeking to be reelected to that office. Incumbent congressmen have excellent odds of being reelected. This is especially true of Representatives. As the Center for Responsive Politics put it, “Few things in life are more predictable than the chances of an incumbent member of the U.S. House of Representatives winning reelection.”
In the past twenty years, the lowest reelection rate for the House of Representatives was 85 percent, and the mean reelection rate is more than 94 percent. Reelection rates in the U.S. Senate are a bit lower, but still impressive. In the past twenty years, the mean reelection rate for senators is 86 percent. (2) It is difficult to square these high reelection rates with Americans’ overall low opinion of Congress. Gallup tracking polls of Americans’ opinions of Congress over the past twenty years reveal that rarely do more than 25 percent of Americans approve of Congress and frequently their approval is down in the 14-20 percent range. In one recent Gallup survey, as few as 9 percent of people approved of the way Congress was handling its job. (3)
For incumbent Presidents, we see even clearer advantages.
All the forecasting models, however, indicate that incumbency matters and that a presidential party seeking a second term has a decided edge over the opposing party. While several models predict the vote for the party holding the White House and therefore do not explicitly include incumbency as a variable, under neutral conditions (50 percent approval ratings, tied preference polls, and average economic growth) each predicts an in-party popular vote victory with the in-party candidate receiving 52-56 percent of the two-party vote. The models differ over whether the incumbency advantage is a personal or a party advantage and whether it extends beyond a second consecutive term for a party, but each finds at least a first-term reelection advantage. As Helmut Norpoth has observed, only three (now four) times since the Civil War has the in-party been denied a second term, and the incumbent (elected) president did not run for reelection in two of these three cases.
So, for us to take this poll seriously, we would have to believe that an entire century and half’s worth of learned behavior has been thrown out the window because Cocoa Puffs pricing went cuckoo. It simply does not make sense that President Biden, but not the Democrats themselves, could be so unpopular as to, well..
Encourage voters to pick door number, any? In this same poll, voters swing 10-20 points, depending on the state, if Trump is convicted, which by the way, only 39 percent of this sample thinks he will be. So we not only have a foolhardy electorate, we have a cynical one as well. Is this true? Let’s look at this more granularly. If we accept these polls that show the President with only an eight point lead with Hispanics, than we have to choose to acknowledge the superiority of Siena over say, this one:
From the October 4th, The Claw News:
There is a lot of bad data out there, mostly because of the face that it is almost impossible to collect it. So when I tell you there is a lot of bad polling, almost all of it, it does not mean I think the polling is intentionally bad, or done with a purpose of propaganda. It just means that Republicans are much, much easier to reach than Democrats. I have spoken about this before. It is one of the biggest reasons I saw the 2022 election going differently than most.
What the pollsters did not figure out, however, is that this is not a problem that can be fixed with weighting. As I have said, a young person that talks on the phone, is more conservative than one that likes to text. Generally, this cuts across all demographics. Republicans are more likely to participate. That said, there are some polls that do a good job of reaching their targets.
Despite the controversies surrounding his name in recent years, Trump has a 36% favorability rating among Hispanic voters, four points above the margin he had when he left office in January 2021, according to a previous Univision News poll. However, if the presidential election were held today, and the contenders were Biden and Trump, 58% of Hispanics would vote for the incumbent Democrat and 31% would vote for the former Republican president.
This is from September. So we can see that when a high quality live interviewer poll also has bilingual capability, the numbers shift. So whether we believe the Siena poll or not, the great thing about modern polling is that you can choose your own adventure. A person can choose to believe Trump is up 10, or the President is up 4. We can look at these numbers and decide that a delusional electorate does not believe Trump will be convicted, but if he is, he will lose 20 points of support. Or we could evaluate it in another way..
As Michael Podhorzer has demonstrated, pollsters influence outcomes by letting their own biases and intuitions tilt poll results by deciding who to include in the sample. A month before its late-October 2022 poll showing a four-point deficit, the Times/Siena showed Dems up by two points. In the October story, the Times/Siena showed Biden losing ground among independents and women. But as Podhorzer writes, “What the paper didn’t disclose was this: Independent voters hadn’t changed their minds; the New York Times changed its mind about which Independents would vote.”
The number one thing to remember about polling, is that after about 2000, for the most part, bases solidified and voters do not often change their minds. Partisanship has hardened. All elections are about turnout. While independents may be in a sour mood, they are also displaying nihilistic tendencies, and my research suggests the most likely scenario is one that makes 2024 a base election, much like 1996, where turnout was low. That is to say, independents may or not ever figure out what shoes to wear with their suit, or more likely, many don’t go to the dance in the first place.
Support doesn’t change; motivation to vote does.
If Joe tracks anyone historically, it is Reagan in 1983. Now while I don’t expect quite as big of a landslide, I do expect the President to win by more than eight points, irrespective of third parties, and add N.C. and possibly OH to his electoral vote total.
Am I confident? Absolutely. Plus, I know there are some policy ideas currently being discussed that could really swing the rust belt. I am not going to divulge them, but suffice to say, it will be a much different electorate one year from now, both in mood and in motivation.
Are these polls accurate? I think the correct answer to this is, it would not matter this far out if they are. Look, we are 16 days from Thanksgiving, the air is finally clean and crisp after a brutal summer, and I am once again treated to the sounds of leather bouncing on hardwood.
I long ago stopped concerning myself with the mainstream media.
Thankfully, I am not alone as the so-called legacy media is being supplanted by more independent sources.
The electorate today has no bearing on the electorate in 2024. Joe has taken relentless abuse from the press, and has barely even warmed up his voice on his campaign messaging. As that evolves, and after Iowa it will, I will be doing extensive coverage on polling over the next year, and you can count on regular objective analysis, so I encourage you to follow my work.
We don’t know which clown Republicans will get to drive their car, and it will not matter. One party has a history of flirting with cliffs, and the other a history of steady steering.
All we have to do is remind them of how scary it was to be stuck in the back seat with no seat belt, while they were driving.
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