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The “bounce” from the Democratic National Convention and how that temporary benefit may be distorting presidential polls

by | Sep 26, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

Pro-abortion President Barack Obama

It just gets curiouser and curiouser. The “mainstream” media is awash with stories more or less announcing that there ought to be a cessation of hostilities—that Mitt Romney ought to just concede the election is over and save everybody the bother of voting.

Yet Rasmussen Reports—which came within one point of exactly predicting Mr. Obama’s winning percentage in 2008—tells us today that Romney and Obama are tied at 46%. And if “leaners” are included, Romney is ahead 48% to 46%.  Gallup’s seven day rolling average today has Obama up three points, 48% to 45%.

On the other hand, the latest Washington Post poll has Obama up in both Ohio and Florida, two swings states by eight and four points, respectively.  But Rasmussen, examining all eleven swing states, concludes that Obama is up one (46% to 45%) with the candidates tied at 47%, if leaners are included.

So what can be said? One factor, which may explain a lot more than is first thought, is that the afterglow—the “bounce”—from the Democratic National Convention (DNC) has lingered. If true, numbers like the Washington Post’s will soon come down to earth and the race will reassume the very, very competitive form it has demonstrated for months.

Moreover, that bounce may be disguising some underlying realities.

The Weekly Standard’s Jay Cost consistently offers intensely interesting, well thought out explanations that include the problem of pollsters surveying significantly more Democrats than Republicans but go beyond that. Cost makes several intriguing points this morning as he looks at a number of reputable polls.

First, and not to belabor the point, if you assume that the electorate for 2012 will be essentially identical to 2008—and not, say halfway between 2008 when Democrats cruised and 2010 when Republicans did very well—then you will find Obama with a multiple point advantage. But where is the evidence this will be the case?

Second, Cost writes,

“Obama’s average overall margin over Romney in these same [five] polls is roughly 4 percent. Bottom line: You do not get a four-point lead overall with a tie among independents, unless you are squeezing substantially more votes out of your base than your opponent is. And more generally, you are not ‘winning’ an election in any meaningful sense of the word when 3/5ths of unaffiliated voters are either undecided or against you.”

So is Obama “squeezing” more votes out of his base—that is, are greater numbers of Democrats than usual telling pollsters they will vote for Obama? Right now the polls are saying just as many Democrats are voting for Obama as Republicans for Romney. But Cost’s important point is that this NOT typical.

“The GOP control over its base has been remarkably consistent over the last forty years (at least in years without a major third party challenger), falling within a very tight range of +81 and +87, for an average of +84 over the last three cycles. Notice that the GOP outpaces the Democrats in party unity. That was true even in 2008, which was the best year for the Democrats and the worst for the Republicans in a generation. But notice also that the average of recent polls have the Democrats more unified than the GOP. That is a historical anomaly.”

This could happen, obviously,  but Cost “suspect[s] that when the Democratic enthusiasm bump from the DNC finally settles, we are going to see the two parties sort themselves roughly in line with what they have done through history – meaning a slight edge for the Republicans, not the Democrats. That is also going to shrink Obama’s margin.”

He concludes with this “Final thought”:

“As I mentioned earlier, a big ‘tell’ here is that Obama cannot build any kind of a lead among independent voters. That suggests to me that his advantage is built entirely on Democratic enthusiasm, which right now is above its historical trends and clearly on a post-DNC bump. Nobody in the postwar era has won the presidency by carrying less than 49 percent of independents, and Obama is quite a ways below that mark, even if some polls show him at or above 50 percent nationwide and in the key swing states.”

And one final related point, as noted by Gerald Seib of the Wall Street Journal.

“In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, Mr. Obama leads among all registered voters by six percentage points, and among those who appear likely to vote by five. But among those who voice the highest interest in the election—in other words, those who seem most intensely interested in voting—Mr. Romney leads by three percentage points.”

Ignore the naysayers and, as always, watch the basics. Obama’s lead will come down to earth for all the reasons explained above.

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Categories: Obama