I’m generally of the belief that political polling is dead, but no one has bothered to tell the pollsters that. Election polls have been so incredibly wrong for at least a decade, and so I tend to ignore them rather than become riled-up in one direction or another. As more and more people under the age of Death have switched over to mobile phones, you have to ask yourself, who is answering a phone survey?
I’m also old enough to remember the Tea Party when suddenly every Wingnut in North America cowardly claimed to never have been a Republican (“Imma indeeee-pen-dunt!”) rather than admit that they followed Chimpy McStagger off the cliff. We’ve compared them to Nazis burning their uniforms at the end of WW2. But I digress
This Gallup survey has caught the attention of our Failed Political Press.™:
- Preferences shifted from nine-point Democratic advantage to five-point GOP edge
- Average party preferences for all of 2021 similar to past years
- Largest percentage of U.S. adults identify as political independents
And UpChuck Todd, gleefully, is running with scissors:
WASHINGTON — If it’s Tuesday … Senate Democrats are set to embark on their doomed voting rights push. … President Biden is plotting a communications reset. … Gov. Kathy Hochul is in the driver’s seat for New York governor, per new Siena poll. … And more on the tension between Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis.
But first: Over the last 30 years, the NBC News poll has given us a good idea if the president’s party is headed for an exceptionally good midterm election, a shellacking or somewhere in-between.
And right now, the arrows are pretty much pointing in the “shellacking” territory for President Biden and the Democrats as we debut our Midterm Meter, which will use our poll to gauge the overall political environment for the president’s party.
For the second time today, I’m going to return to our pals at Electoral-Vote to bring me down from the rafters:
We’re definitely more than a little skeptical about the implied message of this poll, namely that people have watched the Democrats struggle with Build Back Better, and with the pandemic, and have said, “you know, a party with strong authoritarian impulses that tolerated an insurrection attempt on 1/6 isn’t looking so bad, after all.” To us, this “political leaning” poll is basically just a presidential approval poll (and Gallup’s “leaning” numbers track very closely with national “Biden approval” numbers). And a presidential approval poll gives only some indication as to how people will vote in the midterms.
Let’s put it another way: The Democrats were flying high in this same poll last year, averaging 48% Democratic/lean Democratic to 43% for Republican/lean Republican. And while the blue team won the presidential race, and a couple of close (but wonky) Senate races in Georgia, they otherwise did unexpectedly poorly downballot. So, the “national partisan lean” doesn’t seem to have been much of an advantage. Still, we note the Gallup survey because there aren’t too many polls at this time of year, and perhaps the conclusions readers draw will be different from ours.
E-V charted the Gallup numbers over time and that supports their their conclusion, above:
If you want more detail, here are the numbers for the last four quarters:
Partisan ID Q1, 2021 Q2, 2021 Q3, 2021 Q4, 2021 Democratic 30% 31% 28% 28% Democratic Leaning 19% 18% 17% 14% No Lean 10% 5% 8% 9% Republican Leaning 15% 17% 16% 19% Republican 25% 26% 28% 28%
As you can see, many of the categories are shifting within the margin of error. It’s entirely possible, for example, that the number of Democrats has been entirely stable at 29% or so. Most of the actual movement has been among people who identify as independent (many of whom aren’t really independent).
Real independents are unicorns in our very stratified environment. I don’t think that they exist even at the 9% level.
Anyway all of this is to say it’s BS. We’re a ways out from the midterms, a lot can happen, and this survey doesn’t really mean anything.