Zogby Identifies Enormous Generation Gap(s)

Today's Zogby tracking poll shows Bush's lead dwindling to 0.7%. However, what I find far more interesting than yet another in a seemingly endless stream of polls showing the race tied going into tonight's debate is the enormous generation gap(s) Zogby identifies:Mr. Bush is holding a lead among... those between the ages of 30-49 (64%).... Mr. Kerry is finding his support among 18-24 year olds (77%); and those over 70 (57%). This is particularly odd when one considers that, in 2000, national exit polls showed no significant variation in vote based upon age group:
       Gore   Bush
18-29	48     46
30-44	48     49   
45-59	48     49
60+	51     47
While Zogby's age group demographics are not exactly the same as this table, the two groups of data are so wildly divergent that it suggests a significant change has indeed taken place. I think the "over 70" lead for Kerry can be accounted for by the heavily disproportionate number of women in the over-seventy population compared to the over-sixty population (this is still a good sign, because senior women were the main demographic that crossed over to Republicans and led to disaster in the 2002 midterms). The enormous gap between those under 25 and those between 30 and 49 is more difficult to explain, especially when compared to 2000 data. I can think of about twenty different possibilities, all impossible to substantiate. What could be the cause of this?

Dwindling Undecideds and Persecuted Moderates

With twenty-seven days to go in this election, I think that, at most, there are around 7-8% persuadable / undecideds remaining. Further, "hard" undecideds, voters that do not lean toward either major candidate, might be only 3-4% of the electorate. Mark Penn of New Democratic Network disagrees with this assessment: The reality is that for months about a quarter of the electorate has been unsure of its choice for president, and despite the hundreds of millions of dollars of partisan advertising and rhetoric, that quarter remains in play. The recent controversy over how many Democrats or Republicans are in public polls has obscured the fact that the largest party in America is no party -- a plurality of American voters self-identify as independents, and they are the voters who will decide the election. Even though I generally disagree with its politics, which I find too centrist, I highly respect NDN's activism and organizational prowess on behalf of Democrats. However, I was extremely disappointed in this essay by Penn. He is right in pointing out that more people in this nation identity with neither major Party than identify than identify with either major party on its own. However, as a pollster for a former President surely he must be well aware that when it comes to holding an election, the non-affiliated are actually a far smaller group than either Democrats or Republicans.

There's more...

Virginia As a Swing State

Long term, I do not like Democratic prospects in most of the South. Some southern states that are currently toss-ups or lean-GOP have such huge concentrations of evangelical or born again white Protestants that it will not be long before those states become solidly out of play in favor of Republicans. In particular, I am thinking of Arkansas and Tennessee, where 49% and 51% of the electorate irrespectively is made up of either born again or evangelical white Protestants. That voting block alone basically guarantees nearly 40% of the vote to Republicans in Presidential elections, and that is only taking half of the electorate into account.

There are, I believe, four exceptions where Democratic Presidential nominees still have a shot over the long term: Florida (obviously), Louisiana (when not running against a southern Republican), Georgia (due to its enormous and booming African-American population) and, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Virginia. Lots of good things have been happening in Virginia that point to a long-term, pro-Democratic shift in the state.

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Party ID Debate Getting Press

William Saletan weighs in: This year's big controversy is the CNN/USA Today/Gallup tracking poll. Other pollsters are dismayed at Gallup's radical swings. In the two days after the first debate, Gallup's three-day sample went from an 11-percentage-point Gore lead to a seven-point Bush lead. Last weekend, Bush had a nine-point lead in the Gallup sample; two days later, Gore had grabbed the lead. Contrast this with the Zogby survey, which moved only four points and two points during those periods, respectively. Why the difference? Because Gallup and Zogby are looking for different things. Gallup is trying to capture daily fluctuations, while Zogby is trying to filter them out.(...)

Gallup and the New York Times/CBS poll use minimal weighting, based on the census. Goeas and Zogby, however, adjust their filters and weights to match the turnouts they expect among various demographic groups, based on past turnout, current voter registration, and other factors. Polls whose weights and filters are calibrated to reflect turnout, as opposed to just the census, tend to favor senior citizens, well-educated people, whites, men, and nonunion households. The weights alone can radically change the final numbers. According to the Post, on one recent night Zogby's weighting process shifted the results from a four-point Bush lead to a four-point Gore lead.(...)

The big debate about weighting this year concerns party affiliation. Republicans are indicating they're more likely to vote this year than in past years. Should pollsters believe them or stick with the old turnout projections, which favor Democrats? Usually, weighting protects the GOP. On his Web site, for example, Zogby argues that his polls are more accurate because "we apply weighting for party identification to ensure that there is no built-in Democratic bias in our sampling." But New York Times survey editor Mike Kagay agrees with Gallup poll editor Frank Newport that party affiliation, unlike race or gender, is too vague and changeable to measure or track reliably. So in addition to the difference among pollsters over which kind of bias to err against--active or passive--there's a philosophical disagreement over whether party affiliation is more like a trait or like an opinion. Good luck resolving that one.

Oh, did I mention that the article these paragraphs were excerpted from appeared in Slate on October 27, 2000?

I am glad that we in the blogosphere helped make this debate more public this time around. I don't expect that we will be able to resolve what is clearly a long-term running argument amongst pollsters that is at least partially based upon the differing purposes for which their polls are used. However, by bringing this debate into the light, I think we helped to dent the media narrative on Bush's September "surge." As for me, as I made clear on Friday, I am sticking with the camp that argues for weighting by Party ID (although I do wish that trial heats and exit polls conducted a more accurate measurement of Party ID). We'll see who was right on November 2nd.

Take the poll on this subject. It's on the main.

Howard Dean And Karl Rove Were Right

Short version of this essay: Party ID is closer to a demographic than it is to an attitude, but this is obscured by poor measurements of Party ID. Gallup is crap no matter what. Also, Howard Dean and Karl Rove are probably correct--forget independents! There are a lot fewer of them than often reported, and because of this they hardly matter in elections at all. Consolidating and energizing your base is a far better path to victory.

Apparently, the discussion over Party ID has taken several leaps over the past week, most of which I have missed because I have been focusing on other issues. Specifically, in addition to the Gallup defense trotted out earlier this week, Pew, and a good new poll blogging website, Mystery Pollster, have both weighed in on this issue. There are others, but I will restrict my discussion to these two.

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