This week, political news site Politico released a poll showing that Democrats are at a seven-point disadvantage against Republicans in the upcoming midterm elections. The poll is supposed to reflect voter sentiments in the most competitive House and Senate races this year. For the House races, the poll shows that Democrats trail Republicans by 9 points, 39% -30%. As for the Senate, Republicans hold a seven-point advantage, 43% -36%. This poll seems to predict a gloomy outcome for the Democrats in November. It is certainly possible that Republicans can gain control of the Senate and retain their majority on the House. However, this poll is a total crock.
It is always important to look into the methodology used by a poll to see how credible it is. In this instance, the poll was tilted heavily in Republicans’ favor from the outset, creating the results that we see. The claim of the poll is to show ‘competitive’ House and Senate races, so the interviewees were only from those areas. Yet, the poll shows that 39% of the respondents are Republicans. 34% stated that they’re Democrats. Only 26% identified as independents. Compare this with the country at large, where 31% identify are registered with the Democratic Party, 25% identify as Republican and 42% claim to be independent.
Of course, this is supposed to reflect the ‘competitive’ races only, so we have to give some leeway here. It is quite possible that the districts and state with tight races have much a higher combined saturation of Republicans than the country as a whole. However, it also seems like additional methods were applied in this poll to get a more conservative favoring result. 49% of the respondents are 55 or older. In the last election, less than 42% of the voters were in that age bracket. Now, perhaps it is possible that in these districts and states, there is just a larger percentage of older voters than in the country as a whole.
Along racial demographics, this poll’s respondents are mostly white. While less than 64% of this country now identifies as being non-Hispanic white, 77% of those interviewed by Politico’s polling firm are white. Only 7% of those polled are Hispanic, despite Hispanics making up over 16% of the population now. Even when going based on likely voter percentages, it still provides a skewed total. Non-Hispanic whites represented less than 74% of the actual voters in the last election and 73% of the registered voters. Considering the efforts to get more Hispanics registered and engaged, it would seem like they are underrepresented in this poll. But, once again, it could just be the districts and states.
There’s another piece of data that strains the credibility of this poll. While we’ve already pointed out how the poll is skewed to represent old, white Republicans, it is possible that this is just what the data provides in these competitive races. However, when it is broken down by region, we see that 31% of the respondents are from the South Atlantic. However, this region represents only three of the 16 Senate races this poll is supposed to cover (Georgia, West Virginia, North Carolina) as well as eleven (four in Florida, one in Georgia, one in North Carolina, three in West Virginia, two in Virginia) of sixty House races. So, even though the South Atlantic only accounts for 18.75% of the competitive Senate races and 18.33% of the House races, Southern voters make up nearly one-third of the poll’s respondents.
Now, it could be that the combined population of the districts and states for the South Atlantic is greater than that of the other races they are polling, leading to the preponderance of Southern voters in this poll. However, when you combine all of these little outliers we see in this poll together, you get a very Republican-friendly result. Basically, you have a bunch of old, white, Southern voters who are still angry about Obamacare, despite the fact that the rest of the country has moved on (60% of respondents stated that we should still be debating the health care law, which is pretty much the opposite of what we’ve seen in recent nationwide polls.)
This poll’s greatest value is as a talking point for Republicans to try to discourage Democrats from voting in this year’s election. We saw a bit of that take place on Monday morning’s edition of Morning Joe:
Now, Democrats should not feel overly confident heading into the midterms this year. There is a real possibility that they can lose the Senate this year. Turnout is going to be key and Democrats need to energize voters so they come out in November. Having said that, they shouldn’t worry too much about a poll from a political website that seems like it was made in order to grab clicks and get pundits talking rather than for the purpose of legitimate data gathering.