Everyone Skeptical of Poll Showing Democratic Six-Point Lead

Gallup's latest contradicts the conventional wisdom

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Gallup's latest generic Congressional poll is in and it appears, on the surface, to contradict the prevailing notion of a Republican landslide victory in November. It reports Democrats to be ahead by six points, the "first statistically significant lead for that party's candidates since Gallup began weekly tracking of this measure in March," notes Gallup's Lydia Saad. You'd think that would lead to widespread liberal rejoicing. A number of left-leaning commentators, though, are cautioning liberals and conservatives alike not to read too much into these latest numbers. Here's why.

  • Tracking Polls: A Good Way to Look Stupid  "There's a reason we are careful when we discuss even the reputable daily tracking polls," writes the MSNBC First Read team. It's "because the fluctuations on an even week-to-week basis can make even the smartest political analyst look silly."
  • These Numbers Seem Random  The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen leans quite reliably left, but he's not popping the champagne cork: "there was no real reason for Republicans to have jumped out to a six-point edge in late May," he observes, "just as there's no real reason to think there's been a 12-point shift in Democrats' direction in less than two months." He concludes, looking at the Gallup charts: "the trends appear pretty erratic, and don't seem to reflect any meaningful rationale."
  • And They Still Suggest Dems Will Get Walloped  The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza tosses in all the usual "caveats" about this poll, including that these "latest findings" could well be an "outlier." But he also finds numbers within this odd poll that still point toward a strong Republican victory:

More than half (51 percent) of self-identifying Republicans describe themselves as "very enthusiastic" about the coming election while roughly half that number (28 percent) of Democrats say the same.

If midterm elections are about base turnout and history suggests they are that sort of base energy disparity could signal major Democratic losses in the fall--no matter what the generic ballot says.

  • One Possible Explanation  Mother Jones's Kevin Drum tentatively offers an idea to reconcile the conflicting jump in Democratic support with the simultaneously increased enthusiasm in the Republican base. "It turns out that the Democratic surge is largely due to a sudden jump in support from independents," he writes, and he notices that "whenever enthusiasm goes up among registered Republicans, preference for Republicans goes down among independents." Thus, his hypothesis:" every time Republicans do something that gets the tea party base excited, it simultaneously turns off independents." If that's the case, it could make GOP campaigning a little tricky.
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