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Attempting To Decipher The Polls

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As expected, there has been a barrage of polls in the last few days. While it is impossible to determine what the final outcome will be on Tuesday night, I think it warrants a look at the polls to see if anything can be gleaned. The following is a list of those polls, the dates they were taken, the numbers on the generic congressional question, and the margin of error. Following the list of polls is my attempt to decipher the meaning of these polls and my own offering of some plausible and possible explanations…including commentary on some of the individual Senate contests.

Time Poll:
Conducted: November 1st through 3rd.
Margin of error: 3 percent
Generic Ballot: Democratic candidate: 55 percent; Republican candidate: 40 percent

Newsweek Poll:
Conducted: November 2nd through 3rd.
Margin of error: 3 percent
Generic Ballot: Democratic candidate: 54 percent; Republican candidate: 38 percent

Pew Research Center Poll:
Conducted: November 1st through 4th.
Margin of error: 3 percent
Generic Ballot: Democratic candidate: 48 percent registered, 47 likely; Republican candidate: 40 percent registered, 43 likely

Washington Post – ABC News Poll:
Conducted: November 1st through 4th.
Margin of error: 3 percent
Generic Ballot: Democratic candidate: 53 percent registered, 51 likely; Republican candidate: 43 percent registered, 45 likely

USA TODAY / Gallup Poll:
Conducted: November 2nd through 5th.
Margin of error: 3 percent
Generic Ballot: Democratic candidate: 51 percent registered, 51 likely; Republican candidate: 40 percent registered, 44 likely

CNN Poll:
Conducted: November 3rd through 5th.
Margin of error: 3 percent
Generic Ballot: Democratic candidate: 58 percent likely; Republican candidate: 38 percent likely

FOX News Poll:
Conducted: November 4th through 5th.
Margin of error: 3 percent
Generic Ballot: Democratic candidate: 49 percent likely; Republican candidate: 36 percent

As I review the data, it seems particularly important to look at the dates the polls were conducted given the recent events that may have had an impact on the numbers. The Times, Newsweek, Pew, and Washington Post polls were all completed no later than November 3rd or 4th indicating that they would have recorded some of the impact of the John Kerry remarks and the associated media attention the story received. In these four polls the average on the generic ballot (using likely voters where available) was 51.75 percent for the Democratic candidate and 41.5 percent for the Republican candidate.

The USA TODAY, CNN, and FOX polls were all conducted to include voter data from November 5th and only the USA TODAY poll included data from November 2nd. Note that the USA TODAY poll has the narrowest margin on the generic ballot of likely voters…which one could argue partially reflects the momentary impact of the Kerry story. In these three polls the average on the generic ballot (using likely where available) was 52.67 percent for the Democratic candidate and 39.33 percent for the Republican candidate.

While I’m not an expert on polling, my understanding is that it takes at least a couple days for current issues to be reflected in a poll. If you look at the Kerry incident, it made its way into the media on Tuesday, October 31st and it remained a topic through the Thursday November 2nd cycle. The Ted Haggard scandal first hit the media on Thursday November 2nd and remained a topic through Sunday November 5th. When looking at these dates in relation to the dates of these surveys, there is obviously a degree of overlap and an imperfect division relative to these two media blockbusters. Nonetheless, the polling results seem to reflect the impact of the two issues whereby the first four polls show a larger slippage of Democratic support while the final three polls suggest a greater slippage for the GOP.

To read the full article at Thought Theater…link here:

www.thoughttheater.com