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Bush Leads in New National Poll

A national USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll conducted Sept.13-15 has Bush leading among RV's 52-44 percent, with 2 percent for neither and 2 percent no opinion.

Comments

All this stuff seems consistent with a "real" lead for Bush of 3-4 points nationally and a virtual tie in the battleground states; if we're still up by 5-6 points in places like NJ this one poll's no cause for concern. (If NJ is actually tied, that would be a problem.) Since Ruy hasn't deconstructed this one yet, check out Chris Bowers' analysis at www.mydd.com-- it's not the first time Gallup's showed Bush with a huge lead no other poll gives.

Well, thank you, Dan.

I sure hope after this dreadful last week we will finally stop talking about National Guard service or cocaine habits or abortion stories (especially if someone forget to press the tape button). The people have decided on that in 2000. Dubya passed. We may not like or understand it. But let's get over it.

What a colossal blunder that in the week when our 1000th soldier was killed the whole nation was talking about typing machines. (It's not from me, it's from Nationalreview. But they're right.) This poll is the reward for that even if it's not the only poll, and even if we're less than 10 points behind.

Kerry himself is doing fine. His points are dead on. So I hope these secondary campaigns and stories about Bush's past stop. Let the candidate be heard.

"I sure hope after this dreadful last week we will finally stop talking about National Guard service or cocaine habits or abortion stories (especially if someone forget to press the tape button). The people have decided on that in 2000. Dubya passed. We may not like or understand it. But let's get over it."

A fine conclusion IF you pay attention to only this poll. Problem is, all the other polls of late (so far) show instead a TIGHTENING race, suggesting that the very stories you dismiss are having the desired effect.

Here's how I look at it. In the month of August, Bush, his Swift friends, and the Republicans more generally, took a two prong approach. One, they tore into Kerry with vicious attacks on his character, both through the Swift Lies and the convention. Two, they tried to beef up Bush's image, in particular by focusing on national security issues. By any rational account, there was a lot more of the first then the second. As one telling sign of this, it was Kerry bashing, not Bush supporting, that was front and center on Bush's own web site.

What was the effect? A clear if modest lead for Kerry turned into a clear if modest lead for Bush. So the tactic worked.

My view is, don't complain about the tactics, steal them. Return fire. Pay the Bush campaign the ultimate compliment of acknowledging the efficacy of their approach. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

And what should we imitate? Well, I think that the empirical approach is best. Since the tactic employed had two parts, be sure to adopt BOTH. There's no way of knowing apriori which of the two was the effective one, or of concluding that it was only one of them.

Pious calls to avoid attacking Bush's character are just so much blathering, based on nothing of logical or empirical merit. They signify nothing.

Here is Al Hunt's analysis of polling in today's (September 17) Wall Street Journal:

What If the Polls Are Wrong?

Election Surveys That Screen Out
'Unlikely' Voters Might Be Outdated
September 17, 2004

Presidential elections are poll-driven. The candidate ahead in the surveys usually gets better coverage, and the results energize supporters. The one behind often comes across as doing little right, and campaigns and constituencies lose confidence.

But what if the polls are wrong, and we aren't surveying the real likely electorate?

This might be more than an academic issue. A number of polls this presidential race show a gap in the preferences of registered voters vs. likely voters. In these models, the president usually does better with likely voters, the figure most news organizations emphasize. To get to likely voters, all polling organizations use what is called a "screen," asking questions to determine who is likely to actually turn out on election day.

These screens differ greatly, as there is no consensus among experts on what works best. "This is an art, not a science," says Peter Hart, the prominent Democratic polltaker who has helped conduct The Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey for 15 years.

This controversy will be fueled by today's just-released Gallup poll that shows George Bush with a 13-point lead over John Kerry. That is at variance with other surveys this week, which suggest a tight race with a much smaller Bush tilt. But the likely voters margin also is considerably larger than the eight-point advantage in Gallup's registered voters in this survey. The likely voters match-up invariably gets more attention.

Gallup explains it has what it considers a time-tested formula for determining most likely voters. It asks eight questions, such as current intensity of interest, past voting behavior and interest, and whether you know where your voting place is.

"We've discovered that if we ask a set of more indirect questions, we can better predict who is or is not likely to vote," Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll, has said.

But there is reason to suspect those criteria are outdated, especially in an election where both sides say the intensity level is much higher than four years ago and get-out-the-vote organizations are considerably better than ever -- few people on Nov. 2 will be in the dark on where the voting polls are.

"A formula that made sense years ago may not recognize all the changes in society," notes Mr. Hart. "It gives more credence to past behavior and too little to current interest."

"For low-turnout elections those old models work well," suggests Bill McInturff, a Republican, and the other WSJ/NBC News pollster. "But in today's presidential election those models tend to [tilt to] a little older, a little more white, a little more affluent and a little more Republican voters. They may miss some of the extraordinary activity going on in African-American and Latino communities."

The registered-likely voters dichotomy also is evident in some of Gallup's state surveys including last week's Ohio results." Among registered voters in the Buckeye State, Bush-Cheney had a 48%-to- 47% edge, a dead heat. Among likely voters, however, this poll had the Republicans up 52%-44%; that garnered all the attention, followed by a spate of stories suggesting this key battleground state was moving to the president.

Curiously, the Gallup poll in the similar state of Pennsylvania at the same time showed a virtually even race among both registered and likely voters. And occasionally, the screen favors the Democrats; a Marist survey this week of New York state showed Sen. Kerry 11 points ahead among likely voters, but only seven points ahead among registered voters.

But most of the time the screen for likely voters tilts Republican. In 2000, Gallup's election eve survey showed George Bush ahead by two points among its likely voters; he trailed Al Gore by a point among registered voters, very close to the final outcome.

In 2000, the next to last WSJ/NBC poll before the election showed Republicans doing three points better among likely voters than registered voters. The election eve survey showed Bush up three points among likely voters, but failed to tally registered voters and didn't predict Al Gore's victory in the popular vote.

The Wall Street Journal and NBC News have settled on one question to screen likely turnout. Registered voters are asked their interest level in the election on a scale of 1-10, and those that respond 9 or 10 are considered likely voters.

Both camps expect an increase in the 105 million Americans who voted last time; the Bush camp looks for abut 111-112 million while the Kerry campaign projects 116-118 million; nobody can be sure exactly who those additional voters might be.

The probable outlook: Polls will vary and conflict if this race remains tight. Also, poll watchers must remember that the best survey has a three or four-point margin of error; that means if it shows the race even, one or the other candidate actually could be up by a half-dozen. Here's a final guide: if almost all the election eve polls show one candidate up four or five points or more, take it to the bank. But if most show the race within a couple of points, plan on staying up late election night.

check out jimmy breslin's column in newsday sept 16.

baasically prmeise: standard polls are useless because of cell phones

Dr. Joe-

Very good post. Thanks.

I saw two points, both of which have already shown up on this site from time to time, that bear repeating:

1) There's plenty of reason to doubt LV numbers.

2) It makes sense to look at more than a single poll.

I'll continue to say what I've been saying...looks like a slight Bush lead. It's going to be a close election. Keep focused and keep working.

And maybe having Gallup be so far from the other polls will actually get some who report polling data to think about what this all means a bit more than they have....

Kerry needs to counter Bush attacks on him. Bush has repeatedly said that Kerry has had multiple positions on Iraq. This is untrue. Kerry needs to pointedly say that this is not true. He needs to call Bush on this point, because it is a big selling point for Bush. Sure we don't trust Bush, but Bush is making the argument that we can trust Kerry even less.
Kerry has been remarkably consistent on Iraq. Kerry needs to address Iraq in simple terms. Kerry should forget about the vote to make Saddam comply. Kerry needs to say explicitly-
1. Invading Iraq unilaterally was the wrong tactic at the wrong time.
2. Invading Iraq has made Iraq into a new breeding ground for terrorists.
3. He will stabilize Iraq and get out.

Kerry needs to accuse Bush of repeatedly mistating Kerry's position on Iraq.
Most Americans don't know this is and always has been the Kerry position. Kerry needs to hammer this message. If the vote question arises, then we need to hammer that the vote was to force Saddam to comply, not to invade. There were many other options available rather than the one Bush chose, invasion. If Kerry cannot deliver this message, he will not get support for ability to handle Iraq.

Bob Shrum is to thank for this mess. Despite all the positive talk about the race being closer- Gallup lands a Wallup. Electorial map is weaker- Nadar is on in Florida.

Kerry is about a bad a candidate as Mondale.

In today's Salon.com, writer Joe Conason asserts that the polls hold more good news for Kerry than for Bush. He also gives a plug to Ruy's excellent ("smart, professional, duly skeptical analysis")! Because Salon is subscription, I'm cutting and pasting the text from Conason's text below instead of providing a link:

Kerry rising

Rumors of John Kerry's demise have been greatly exaggerated -- too often by doomsaying Dems themselves. A host of new polls suggest it's the president who should be trembling.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Joe Conason

Sept. 17, 2004 | To listen to certain Democrats these days is to learn that the presidential election is all but over, apparently because John Kerry slipped behind George W. Bush in a few national polls last week. These sad doomsayers whine constantly that Kerry "isn't tough enough," when what they are really talking about are their own mental weaknesses. Much of the anger and determination displayed by liberals over the past year seems suddenly to have deflated into fear and resignation.

At such moments, a once-important Democratic functionary inevitably pipes up to get his or her name in the newspaper by attacking the party's candidate or campaign. Even if this person happens to be a thoroughly discredited figure like Tony Coelho, a washout as Al Gore's campaign manager, his remarks get ink because "it's a story" when Democrats criticize each other. What would really be a story is a Republican behaving with the same lack of discipline endemic among Democrats just now.

The liberal tendency to assume the fetal position upon hearing any bad news not only creates a damaging psychological environment for those who indulge it, but also repels undecided and independent voters who are seeking strong, confident leadership. Nobody wants to join a team that obsesses more about losing than winning.

And there is no reason to give up, regardless of any flaws in the Kerry-Edwards campaign or the Bush-Cheney convention "bounce." That bounce has fallen flat, returning the presidential race to a virtual dead heat, according to several new polls.

The new Harris Interactive/Wall Street Journal poll, completed on Sept. 13, shows Kerry with 48 percent, Bush with 47 percent and Ralph Nader with 2 percent. Those results were nearly identical to the last Harris poll, taken before the Republican Convention, when Kerry was ahead by 1 point. The most noticeable shift in this poll's results is that the 10-point lead Bush enjoyed last June is gone. More than half of the respondents think Bush "doesn't deserve to be reelected [sic]."

The most recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press shows the Bush lead falling precipitously during the past week. Between Sept. 8 and Sept. 10, Bush was ahead of Kerry by 54 to 38 among "likely voters" -- but between Sept. 11 and Sept. 14, that gap diminished to Bush 47 versus Kerry 46.

Today, the Economist released a new YouGov poll, which employs online technology developed by a British survey firm, and found Bush ahead of Kerry by a single point, 47 to 46. To the magazine's editors this represents an "impressive" result for Bush because more than 56 percent of the voters polled by YouGov say they are "dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time."

Democracy Corps, run by James Carville and Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, completed a new poll of 1,003 voters on Sept. 14, which also showed Bush one point ahead, 49 to 48 percent. Greenberg's poll includes lots of data suggesting that voters want a new direction -- and that independents, in particular, are deeply dissatisfied with Bush.

The latest survey by Investor's Business Daily and the Christian Science Monitor, completed Sept. 12, actually shows Kerry ahead by two points among registered voters and tied with Bush among "likely" voters. (For a useful discussion of this distinction and why it may not be meaningful at this stage, consult Ruy Teixeira's Donkey Rising blog, which provides smart, professional and duly skeptical analysis of media polls.)

As Gallup polling director Frank Newport said last week when Bush was riding high on a post-convention wave, the presidential election remains in flux and unpredictable.

"In all presidential elections there has been at least some movement between Gallup's Labor Day poll and the final outcome on Election Day," Newport explained. "The general tendency is toward a closing of whatever gap exists on Labor Day. Certainly, the race is close enough at this point to suggest that while it is possible that George Bush may maintain his lead or expand it, it is also quite possible that John Kerry will gain and move into the lead himself."

(Of course, placing too much confidence in horse-race polls is a mistake. In the final weeks of the 2000 election, major polls showed Bush ahead of Al Gore by three to 13 points -- and then Gore won the popular vote tally by more than 500,000.)

Aside from Newport's observation, there are other reasons for Bush to worry about voters souring permanently on him before Nov. 2. The most salient is the war in Iraq. A growing majority of people now understand that they were misled by the Bush administration, that the war is going poorly, and that the White House has no viable exit strategy. As public focus returns to the consequences of this administration's incompetence, John Kerry can still seize the opportunity to regain his lead -- if he dares.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

About the writer
Joe Conason writes a twice weekly column for Salon. He also writes a weekly column for the New York Observer. His new book, "Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth," is now available. Join Joe Conason along with Ann Richards, David Talbot and others on the Salon Cruise

Here's a postscript to Al Hunt's article posted by Dr. Joe:

*************************************************

WISE MEN: John Kerry remained on the defensive this week, and was unable to make up much needed ground against President Bush, according to two men who have run presidential campaigns in the past.

"The Bush bounce is beginning to look like a Hurricane Ivan surge," cracked Hamilton Jordan, who directed Jimmy Carter's presidential campaigns. With the contest still looking "more like a referendum on Kerry," he adds that the "relatively small number of undecideds" are moving "disproportionately in Bush's direction."

What advice would he give to the Democratic candidate? "He needs to find a strong and simple message and make it his own focused on the deteriorating situation in Iraq and on the U.S. economy. John Kerry needs to look deep inside himself, decide what he believes and thinks, cast caution to the wind and start saying it with some passion and emotion."

But John Sears, who ran Ronald Reagan's 1976 campaign, believes the Democratic nominee has "very limited" room on Iraq: "You get up and start criticizing the war and that may help Bush. Iraq ultimately may hurt [the president], but if it becomes a political issue people usually rally behind the president." Thus, he believes Sen. Kerry has "no choice" but to focus on the economy and domestic issues.

The president's campaign, however, better be careful, Mr. Sears cautions, "This week he didn't do much more than stall the clock. He's got to keep giving people reasons to vote for him. Now may not be quite the time, but soon he has to be pro-active."

Mr. Jordan believes that the president, while "hitting on all cylinders" now, is "still vulnerable on the true issues facing the country in this election. Bush only looks good right now in contrast to Kerry."

***********************************************

If old fogies like Jordan & Tony Coehlo would just shut up, Kerry's may yet get his message out IMO.

frankly0,

"Pious calls to avoid attacking Bush's character are just so much blathering, based on nothing of logical or empirical merit. They signify nothing."

Thanks for the compliment. But first off: I think the empirical merit is there. The race was tied since Bush's convention bounced had disappeared. But Bush soared after Kelley's book and 60minutes got to the front pages. Harris is fine, but his poll ended two days before Gallup. And while I don't rely on Rasmussens numbers I somewhat trust his tendencies, and at the moment this doesn't look good.

Now, I actually believe Kelley's and Rather's story. But the catastrophe is that they could be so easily neutralized. CBS' blunder with that paper is a godsend to the Repubs. And Kelley forget to tape the most important witness to her accusations. I mean, how pathetic is that?

The difference in approach is twofold: First the Bushies' fast response team is far more efficient. It brings tears to my eyes reading that they sent out point-by-point rebuttals to Kelley one week BEFORE her book came out. Our side waited almost two weeks before they rebutted an ad that had been out there. Remember?

Secondly, character attacks don't work as well coming from our side. The right wing electorate is able to ignore pretty much before they finally begin to doubt their leader ("Bush is a good man") and most importantly: the have a media machine to their hands that just denies the facts. (All the worse if one piece of evidence turns out to be fake..).

And the people know these stories from Bush's past, or at least the think they know them. They know he dodged the draft, and they know he did "irresponsible things" before his 40th birthday and all that. Dubya already survived one campaign. We need new evidence to show the people can't trust him. And there is plenty: he left us a four year record.

Everyday we talk about an already neutralized story (Alabama, cocaine, Texas Rangers) we don't talk about job numbers, Haliburton's army meals scam, the Iraq quagmire etc., etc.

I don't "piously call to avoid attacking Bush's character". Far from it. But we should attack him with the right stuff. Kerry does it. But he has trouble to drown out Dan Rather.

The republicans better hope that Gallup is right, but me, I don't think so. It was not so long ago that most polls had Kerry up in the 5% and Gallup was still showing Bush up by two or 3%. Whatever weighting, or methodology Gallup is using it has to be very different from most other polls.

I think if Kerry is within 1 or 2% in any state he will win that state. The vibe is so anti-war and anti-Bush and I think the 2 questions that tell the story are "rigth track - wrong track" and "deserves to be elected." These numbers are still against Bush.

I posted in regarding this in another thread, but I want to make sure everyone understands about this "poll."

They polled 1022 people, 51 percent said Bush, 45 Kerry; a 6 percent difference. Now that may sound fair, it isn't that out of line, but look at the breakdown by Registered Voters. Despite consistantly higher Dem turnouts this poll finds registered voters going 52 dubya and 44 kerry, an 8 point lead. Meaning, they polled more GOP to get artificially high results. Same would happen if you polled a group of dems, they would skew the results in Kerry's favor.

What especially is so tricky about this poll is that that the pollsters took a poll already skewed unrealistically towards Bush, and then cut it down giving him yet more advantage. The "likely voter" subset of the survey is 767, and that is the group that shows Bush up 13.

This poll is a Karl Rove special.

Hey who needs Ruy, you guyz have done a pretty fair job...I didn't realize just how much Gallup was not just an outlier but a renegad outlier.

The WSJ piece was interesting too inasmuch as I have long thought that turnout > 115 million spelled JFK victory...

I also have long thought that the negativity of the Bush camp is intended, in the main, as much to depress turnout as to drive up JFK's negatives

And all of this thought, puts Gallup in a new and sinister light for me because Gallup has the most extensive media coverage, Gallup polls that, if this continues, show the race as essentially OVER, could help depress turnout and to some extent become a self-fullfilling prophecy

Does anyone know the party affiliation breakdown for the Gallup poll. I looked at their site and can't find it anywhere. I don't give too much weight to polling organizations that don't disseminate their internals.

Regarding the idea that pollsters who don't call cell phones are missing a huge swath of the electorate:

Deaniacs thought the same thing before Iowa.

If I remember correctly, Deaniacs posting to Dean blogs came to the sad conclusion that their hoped-for cell-phone-using youth vote just didn't turn out.

So, they're (young cell phone users) a possibility, but they may be so wrapped up in their own lives that they don't see, in a visceral way (as many of us do), how this election will really effect them.

I sure hope I'm wrong.

Those reliant just on cell phones are still a pretty small percent of the population, which argues against this being a big factor. But that, along with those abroad, might matter at the margins in the election.

Does anyone know about the percentage of different populations who are abroad? How many, in particular, are from Florida or Ohio?

I recently did some polling field work for a political campaign. During the two hours I worked (6PM-8PM Monday evening), I got answering machines 60% of the time. The other person working at the time had a similar experience. I think the biggest problem with polls is not cell phones but answering machines and caller ID. How can you have a scientific poll when the subjects of the poll are screening calls. I think this is why you see such wild swings in polls like Gallup. Think about it. Who is going to want to pick up the phone right after a Republican convention? Maybe enthusiastic Republicans? Don't listen to the polls, at least until after the third debate.

The Gallup methodology is deeply flawed and not by accident. They assume 38% of likely voters will be Republicans and only 33% will be Democrats, which is close to the opposite of the actual numbers in 1996 & 2000. Gallup's chairman is a big republican donor.

From theleftcoaster.com:

This morning we awoke to the startling news that despite a flurry of different polls this week all showing a tied race, the venerable Gallup Poll, as reported widely in the media (USA Today and CNN) today, showed George W. Bush with a huge 55%-42% lead over John Kerry amongst likely voters. The same Gallup Poll showed an 8-point lead for Bush amongst registered voters (52%-44%). Before you get discouraged by these results, you should be more upset that Gallup gets major media outlets to tout these polls and present a false, disappointing account of the actual state of the race. Why?

Because the Gallup Poll, despite its reputation, assumes that this November 40% of those turning out to vote will be Republicans, and only 33% will be Democrat. You read that correctly. I asked Gallup, who have been very courteous to my requests, to send me this morning their sample breakdowns by party identification for both their likely and registered voter samples they use in these national and I suspect their state polls. This is what I got back this morning:

Likely Voter Sample Party IDs Poll of September 13-15
Reflected Bush Winning by 55%-42%

Total Sample: 767
GOP: 305 (40%)
Dem: 253 (33%)
Ind: 208 (28%)

Registered Voter Sample Party IDs Same Poll
Reflected Bush Winning by 52%-44%

Total Sample: 1022
GOP: 381 (38%)
Dem: 336 (33%)
Ind: 298 (30%)

In both polls, Gallup oversamples greatly for the GOP, and undersamples for the Democrats. Worse yet, Gallup just confirmed for me that this is the same sampling methodology they have been using this whole election season, for all their national and state polls. Gallup says that "This (the breakdown between Reeps and Dems) was not a constant. It can differ slightly between surveys" in response to my latest email. Slightly? Does that mean that in all of these national and state polls we have seen from Gallup that they have "slightly" varied between 36%-40% GOP and 32%-36% Democrat? I already know from an email I got from Gallup earlier in the week that in their suspicious Wisconsin and Minnesota polls they seemingly oversampled for the GOP and undersampled for the Dems. For example in Wisconsin, in which they show Bush now with a healthy lead, Gallup used a sample comprised of 38% GOP and 32% Democratic likely voters. In Minnesota where Gallup shows Bush gaining a small lead, their sample reflects a composition of 36% GOP and 34% Democrat likely voters. How realistic is either breakdown in those states on Election Day?

We need to get someone to bombard the mainstream media outlets so that they report this. Does anyone have phone numbers to call ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC (Hardball), or CNN (Newsnight)? NOT FOX.

Reporting these false polls plants an impression in voters' minds. It could result in a self-fulfilling prophecy: W. is unbeatable. Don't bother to vote Kerry supporters, the war is already lost.

Don't you believe it.