Want Good Polling News? Look Elsewhere.

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JONATHAN COHN AUGUST 31, 2010

Want Good Polling News? Look Elsewhere.

From old friend Nate Silver, blogging from his new home at the New York Times:

The poll stealing the headlines this morning is from Gallup, and for good reason: it gives the Republicans whopping 10-point lead on the generic ballot. ... The poll is probably an outlier of sorts, by which I mean that were you to take the exact same survey and put it into the field again--but interview 1,450 different registered voters, instead of the ones Gallup happened to survey--you would not likely find the G.O.P. with as large as a 10-point advantage. This week’s Rasmussen Reports generic ballot survey actually bounced back toward the Democrats somewhat (although still showing them with a 6-point deficit); polling averages have them trailing by around 5 points instead; and there was no specific news event last week that would have warranted such a large shift in voter preferences.

Still, even if the poll is an outlier, that doesn’t mean it should simply be dismissed. ... No non-Internet survey has shown the Democrats with a lead larger than 1 point on the generic ballot for over a month now, whereas their worst results of late seem to put them in the range of 10-11 points behind. ... This is not the situation the Democrats’ faced earlier this summer, when the generic ballot was closer to even. Back then, a 5-point Republican lead on the generic ballot would have been pretty big news; now, it seems to be the new normal.

And from the Kaiser Family Foundation, whose survey has generally produced the most favorable polling responses on health care reform:

The August Health Tracking Poll finds that support for health reform fell over the course of August, dipping from a 50 percent favorability rating in July to 43 percent, while 45 percent of the public reported unfavorable views. The dip in favorability returned public opinion on the new law to the even split last seen in May before a modest uptick in support in June and July.

Americans’ views of how reform will affect them personally have changed little over the summer, with 29 percent saying in August that they and their family will be better off under the law, 30 percent saying they expect to be worse off and 36 percent saying it won’t make much difference. But the gap between those who think the new law will make the country better off and those who think it will make it worse off narrowed over the last month, with 39 percent saying the law will benefit the nation and 37 percent expressing the opposite view.

As I've said all along, I don't put huge stock in the polling on health care reform, good or bad. More than anything, it seems to track the overall political mood. And right now the voters seem to feel very, very unhappy.

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posted in: jonathan cohn, midterm elections, the new york times, g.o.p.

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