National Journal interviewed pollsters on the great party ID debate and Republican complaints that far too many Democrats are being sampled in the surveys. They gave fair hearings to both the polling outfits and critics like Rick Wilson in yesterday’s New York Daily news who observed thusly:
“Far too many of the public and media polls have set their likely voter screens and models to something looking more optimistic than the 2008 turnout model,” GOP consultant Rick Wilson wrote in Sunday’s New York Daily News, “which even Obama’s most dedicated partisans think is highly unlikely.”
But the real loser in this debate was Doug Schwartz, director of Quinnipiac Polling. In addition to childishly dismissing the complaints as sour grapes by Republicans, Schwartz indicts himself in explaining the controversy:
Schwartz, whose institute conducts polls in battleground states for CBS News and The New York Times, asserts that pollsters who weight according to party identification could miss the sorts of important shifts in the electorate that could be determinative.
“A good example for why pollsters shouldn’t weight by party ID is if you look at the 2008 presidential election and compared it to the 2004 presidential election, there was a 7-point change in the party ID gap,” Schwartz said. Democrats and Republicans represented equal portions of the 2004 electorate, according to exit polls. But, in 2008, the percentage of the electorate identifying as Democrats increased by 2 percentage points, to 39 percent, while Republicans dropped 5 points, to 32 percent.
Asked specifically about GOP complaints regarding the party-ID composition of public surveys, Schwartz said: “They’re the ones trailing in our swing-state polls.” “There are more people who want to identify with the Democratic Party right now than the Republican Party,” he added.
Our entire point is party ID changes from election to election yet Quinnipiac and the other polling outfits act like 2008 is the baseline and they are adjusting upwards in favor of Democrats from there. 2008 was a best-in-a-generation advantage for Democrats. Obama’s job approval is locked below 50%. The unemployment rate has been above 8% for 3 years and it’s actually higher if you count the people so despondent they simply quit looking for a job. There isn’t one economic indicator that is positive for President Obama and the economy always surveys as by far the #1 issue for voters (there is never even a close 2nd). Every single survey shows Obama’s 2008 coalition is less enthusiastic in 2012 than in 2008 (especially Hispanics and the youth vote). But Schwartz and other lemmings use 2008 as the norm and add in more Democrats for flavor because according to Schwartz “more people who want to identify with the Democratic Party right now than the Republican Party.” Few dispute more people identify with the Democrats which is why polls should be D +2 or D +3. However, no sane person looks at the litany of reasons outlined above and says I think Obama’s going to have even a bigger advantage in 2012 than he had in 2008. It’s professionally incompetent to reach such an absurd conclusion only the most politically partisan person could reach.