It’s time we clear up some misperceptions and confusion as to what the polls out there are actually saying. One common criticism I’ve been hearing from many liberals is, “Oh, so when the polls were showing Obama ahead before the debates, conservatives were calling it a conspiracy! But now that Romney is ahead in all the polls, now they’re legitimate!” Add in a plug for their new favorite polling blog, the New York Times’ 538, and this has become their standard defense.
As usual, they weren’t listening to what the critics were saying. Critics weren’t arguing the results, they were arguing the sampling sizes.
The 2008 election was a historic year for presidential election history in many respects, from having the first African American candidate win the election to record turnout at the voting booths. What also made 2008 stand out from the rest was the lop-sided turnout of both parties. According to Gallup, 39% of the electorate in 2008 was Democrat, 29% was Republican and 31% was independent. When you cut up independents between lean-Democrat and lean-Republican, the result was a 54%-42% Democratic victory.
In polling terms, when 10% more Democrats turned out than Republicans, it’s called D+10.
In 2004, the electorate was D-37, R-39 and I-24. So in other words, R+2. But when cutting up independents between leaners, it was evenly split 48%-48% (with Bush winning by a 51%-48% majority since the turnout was R+2). That’s typically how most elections turn out.
It’s obvious to understand why Democrats are doing everything they can to make 2012 look like 2008 again. But the truth is far from it.
According to Gallup, the turnout in 2012 will be D-35, R-36 and I-29. So in other words, R+1, more like 2004. But unlike 2004, when cutting independents up between leans Dem and leans GOP, Republicans actually hold the edge this time 49%-46%.
That holds pretty consistent with what most other polls are showing among likely voters. Gallup has Romney up 51%-46% and Rasmussen at 50%-47%. In fact, both Gallup and Rasmussen are predicting a stronger Republican voter turnout in 2012 than in 2004 and 2008.
Now the criticism many people have of some other polls is their sampling size. As Gallup shows, the turnout will be pretty even this year, like most other election years. In other words, D+0 (in fact, Gallup is predicting R+1 if anything). Yet many left-leaning polling agencies out there still base their sample sizes on 2008 numbers or sometimes even higher, going as high as D+13. This is what’s so absurd. Even the most hardcore Obama fan I know concedes 2008 was his good year and that he will not duplicate the turnout in 2012 that he had in 2008 (let alone do better). And even with a D+10 turnout, he only won by a 53% to 46% majority.
It’s also been well documented that Republicans have held the voter enthusiasm edge over Democrats all throughout 2012. Gallup shows that 64% of Republicans say they are more enthusiastic than usual about voting, while 48% of Democrats say the same. Rasmussen states, “Perhaps most significantly, Republicans are once again more engaged in the election than Democrats. Forty-nine percent (49%) of GOP voters are following the race on a daily basis. Among Democrats, just 42% are that interested. Throughout 2012, Republicans have consistently held the enthusiasm advantage.” And the Pew Research Center is documenting an all-time high of GOP voter enthusiasm, confirming that 73% of Republicans are growing more positive about the presidential campaign, up 23 points since early September. By contrast, only 66% of Democrats feel the same, unchanged from early September.
The swing state tracking polls are showing the same thing, with Romney up 50%-46% in 11-12 swing states according to both Gallup and Rasmussen. They show Romney leading among male likely voters in swing states while now breaking even with female likely voters, and the most recent AP-Gfk poll confirms this.
Perhaps most interesting of all is the independent voter sentiment. Both Gallup and Rasmussen are already predicting a stronger and more enthusiastic turnout among Republicans than both 2008 and 2004. On top of that, every poll out there shows Romney with a strong lead among independents as well.
Rasmussen shows Romney leading among independents by 9 points. Monmouth/SurveyUSA claims he leads Obama by 19 points among independents and ABC News/Washington Post showing Romney with a 20 point lead among independents – the biggest since Ronald Reagan in 1984.
So with Gallup predicting an R+1 turnout (D-35, R-36, I-29) or basically even, coupled with Romney’s lead in the swing states among male likely voters and breaking even with female likely voters, and Romney leading among independents by 9 points according to conservative estimates, I just can’t add up the math to an Obama win.