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'Red Wave' Narrative May Be Built On Crap Polling? Color Us Shocked.
Dems may be on to something if Fox News is calling this a 'conspiracy theory.'
in the final weeks of the 2022 midterm campaign, national polling averages appear to show a number of close races for the House and Senate tilting toward likely Republican wins. Very serious analysis pieces attempt to explain what's going on in the national mood — maybe it's Republicans deciding to stick with their party as the election gets nearer? People getting tired of hearing about abortion rights? Anger over declining gas prices, maybe?
Or perhaps the polling averages are being skewed by a lot of garbage data from GOP-friendly polling groups that have injected polling results that don't have much to do with actual voter opinion. Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg notes on Twitter that there appears to be a "ferocious" GOP effort to "flood the zone with their polls, game the averages, declare the election is tipping to them." He says that while it's entirely possible for Republicans to win in many of the elections next weeks, the polling and early turnout numbers so far suggest there's not really any sudden shift to the GOP — especially not if there's strong turnout by young voters.
Rosenberg warned Sunday that media organizations are being "played" if they uncritically report polling averages like those from FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics, given the number of GOP-aligned polls being added in recent weeks in key states. Just look, he says, at the percentages of polls the GOP-friendly groups have been doingin states Republicans consider competitive, compared to polling in states where Republicans don't think there'll be much movement:
“Here are the percentages of polls released by GOP allied groups ranked A/B in @fivethirtyeight of all polls taken in the state in October: AZ - 75% GA - 55% NV - 60% OH - 50% PA - 60% WA - 50% and in states they think are not competitive: CO - 20% NC - 29% WI - 0% 2/”
— Simon Rosenberg (@Simon Rosenberg) 1667167274
How much might the influx of GOP polling be skewing the polling averages? Rosenberg notes that there's a "3.3 pt difference between the generic on Real Clear [Politics] and one without any partisan polling."
It's not just Rosenberg, either; Tom Bonier, CEO of Progressive data firm TargetSmart, pointed out Friday that an "avalanche" of GOP polling — some relying on an "older, whiter, more male" sample of voters than in the actual electorate — was making it look like Republicans were moving ahead.
“Last week: polls show GOP leads nationally Early this week: polls show Dem leads nationally Late this week: GOP pollsters release an avalanche of polls showing GOP leads. This one, like the PA poll yesterday, shows an older, whiter, more male electorate than we've seen in GA.”
— Tom Bonier (@Tom Bonier) 1666990303
Digging further into that particular one-day poll is eye opening; it shows Republican Gov. Brian Kemp with almost 20 percent of the Black vote, which ... nah, not bloody likely. A recent survey of Black voters in Georgia showed only 15 percent had a "favorable" view of Kemp, and that's not even the same as saying they'd vote for him.
And wouldn't you know it, the influx of GOP polling showing Herschel Walker suddenly up three points — which has brought him within a point of Sen. Raphael Warnock in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate — all appeared well after news stories about Walker's having paid for an abortion . As Kerrey Elevald explains at Daily Kos, until around October 21, Warnock had a fairly steady three or four-point lead, but then, voila!
Of the seven aggregate polls taken since Oct. 21, five of them were conducted by either GOP-aligned groups or pollsters that use friendly GOP modeling: Trafalgar Group, Rasmussen Reports, Moore Information (Walker poll), co/efficient, and InsiderAdvantage. All of them put Walker in the lead by anywhere from 2 to 5 points.
What's more, the New York Times /Siena College poll from the same period still showed Warnock leading by three points, while an Atlanta-Journal Constitution poll showed the two in a tie.
Perhaps the most deceptive polling outfit is InsiderAdvantage, which polls for Fox affiliates across the country, giving the surveys the veneer of being even-handed media-sponsored polls. But a quick google search of the pollster finds their handiwork generating GOP-friendly headlines in several of the key contests they have polled:
• FOX 5 Atlanta : Kemp, Walker hold leads in major Georgia races in new InsiderAdvantage/Fox 5 poll
• FOX 29 Philadelphia : InsiderAdvantage/FOX 29 poll: Fetterman, Oz neck and neck as Shapiro’s lead over Mastriano narrows
• FOX 10 Phoenix : 2022 Arizona Election Poll: Lake leads governor's race, Senate race tightens
Wow, Republican prospects are really improving across the board. Amazing.
The Fox News website even ran a story this morning about the influx of GOP-friendly polls and their effects on polling, although the piece frames the data as a nutty "conspiracy theory" being pushed by MSNBC host Joy Reid, don't you know.
If you ignore all the accusations that Reid is a dangerous crazy, the story actually reports Rosenberg's concerns, noting his observations — or "claims" — that roughly half of the polls included in recent swing-state averages have come from Republican-aligned firms. Rosenberg even gets a fairly substantial blockquote (we've corrected typos in the Fox News transcription):
"What’s really unfortunate is that the places we rely on to help us tell us what’s going on in the election have been corrupted by a flood of Republican polling in the last few weeks. Now, in six major battleground states, more than half the polls conducted in October have been conducted by Republican firms. That means basically we can’t trust the data on Real Clear Politics or FiveThirtyEight any longer. It’s essentially Republican propaganda," Rosenberg claimed. [...]
"Listen, these are junk polls. The Republicans, this is part of the information war. They’re trying to suppress Democratic turnout, create more negative sentiment for Democrats and more positive sentiment for them. What I think is disappointing, many of the people who do the analysis on elections, should’ve caught this. This is an unprecedented massive campaign by the Republicans to game the polling average. And it’s disappointing to me this wasn’t caught earlier by many of the people that do this that are on TV and do this for a living. But it has to be understood now that the polling averages have been corrupted. We now need to look in my view towards the early voting," Rosenberg said.
Rather than address any of Rosenberg's substantive critiques, the story simply closes by insisting that "Reid has had a history of pushing bizarre and outright false conspiracy theories and misinformation," pointing to an erroneous 2020 Tweet in which Reid misstated the origins of the name "FiveThirtyEight." (She'd mistakenly said it was named for George W, Bush's margin of victory in Florida in 2000, when in fact it's named for the total number of seats in the House and Senate, so really, nothing she reports can ever be trusted again.)
In short, don't let stories about a coming "red wave" next week fool you into not voting. Most of the biggest races are so close that the polling is a tossup, so turnout is going to mean everything, the end.
UPDATE: Also too, speaking of turnout, especially by the youngs, there'sthis very encouraging information from the aforementioned Tom Bonier, in a short thread noting that if John Fetterman's debated performance had an effect on Democrats' enthusiasm, it's not showing up in turnout for the early vote.
“But the most astounding element of the PA early vote? Voters under the age of 30 returning ballots thus far are +69.2% D. At this point in '20 that same age group was +51.9D.”
— Tom Bonier (@Tom Bonier) 1667269783
Just 4 days ago, the Dem margin among those ballots returned so far was 2 pts wider than the same point in 2020. Now it's 3.6 points wider. Meaning the returns since the debate have gone even more solidly Dem than they were before.
But the most astounding element of the PA early vote? Voters under the age of 30 returning ballots thus far are +69.2% D. At this point in '20 that same age group was +51.9D.
He adds that one reason that the youth vote may appear lower this year is that unlike 2020, young Republicans don't appear to be turning out like they did in 2020. Hope that turns out to be the case!
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