The Problem With Summer Polling

Jay Cost has a great piece on why summer political polls aren’t a very good predictor of election results. I’m inclined to believe his argument. Most people aren’t paying much, if any, attention to politics. The generic ballot always favors the Democrats to varying degress. Cost is right in that summer polls often have a higher percentage of non-voters than polls conducted closer to the election as it’s harder to determine voting behavior when we’re several months out from a mid-term election.

I do think there is a great deal of voter hostility towards the Republicans at the moment, and I do find it likely that the Republicans will lose seats in the House. I find it plausible, but less likely that those losses will result in a loss of control of the House. The Democrats don’t have the kind of compelling political message that the Republicans did with the “Contract for America” in 2004, nor do they have the sort of leadership that the Republicans did. Nancy Pelosi is hardly a figure who appeals to the values and sensibilities of Middle America.

Of course, the GOP isn’t doing much better. Voter apathy could be quite high in this election, despite the minority of vehemently anti-Bush voters that dominate the political news. The reality is that American politics are in a shameful state, and partisanship overwhelms all. Many of those polled in these summer polls are rightfully fed up with the way in which Washington has lost touch with the rest of the country — however, it remains questionable whether a choice between two parties who haven’t gotten their acts together will be enough to motivate voters to take action.

2 thoughts on “The Problem With Summer Polling

  1. “Voter apathy could be quite high in this election”

    I doubt it. In the current era of fierce partisan polarization and tireless GOTV operations that didn’t exist eight years ago, the era of voters sitting out general elections (even midterms) has likely passed. I think for midterm election standards, voter interest and intensity is already higher than it is most years in August, simply because more people from both sides of the spectrum are engaged in politics than were in 2000 and before.

  2. That could well be the case as well… it all depends on how many people really are active in politics compared to how many see the current partisan polarization as a turnoff. It would be interesting to take a historical look and see if there’s a correspondence between partisanship and turnout — it may well be that you’re right and that times of increased partisanship motivate people to go the polls in greater numbers.

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