From Politico, we have the latest in scientific polling that sounds too good to be true but also aligns with our natural expectations. Herschel Walker can’t beat Warnock. Masters can’t beat Kelly. And Oz can’t beat anybody. That is obvious. But not so fast:
The current 2022 polling is wildly favorable for Democrats. FiveThirtyEight’s “lite” prediction model, which is based solely on the latest polling data, says Democrats have a 79 percent chance to retain control of the Senate. That probability clashes with the expectations of both parties and most independent handicappers, who consider the battle for the chamber to be closer to a coin flip.
Deep in your progressive bones, that “feels” all too true. The reason it’s true is that it’s happened in the past, in 2016:
After 2016, pollsters said the problem was their samples included too few voters without college degrees. The polls were better for the 2018 midterms, though they were still too Democratic on balance. Then came 2020 — which was worse than 2016, and for which pollsters have yet to settle on a definitive explanation of what precisely went wrong. As a result, an easy fix has proven elusive.
One could responsibly speculate that most Democratic votes come from large cities and the suburbs, whereas rural America tends to be blood red. A pollster asks one person from each scenario, and both insist they are voting in the coming election. Democrats can be committed to voting, just like their rural counterpart. On election day, the rural voter finds voting very easy, with small crowds and lots of voting booths. The Democrat sets out to vote and sees a line that is four to five hours long, and she has to be at work in four hours. She waits two hours hoping it’ll go faster, but it never does. She leaves furious. If this impacts 4% of Democratic voters, the poll was off by four points, more than enough to swing elections.
We know that this happens because Republicans go nuts whenever there is a suggestion to make voting easier. Whether it was “Souls to the Polls,” or vote by mail, the GOP got rid of them as much as possible. The easier it is to vote, the better Dems perform.
Of course, there is still a significant percentage that is embarrassed to admit to supporting Trump, and it seeps down into non-presidential elections:
Franklin, the Wisconsin pollster, said he’s made “moderate or marginal adjustments” to the Marquette Law School poll’s methodology, including increasing the percentage of respondents contacted by cell phone. He’s also paying close attention to the response rate for his polls in Wisconsin counties that went more heavily for Trump in the last election — but thus far, voters there aren’t participating in lower numbers.
It is likely smart to be skeptical that the polls show a huge Democratic lead in the Senate (Some people think the Dems can easily pick up three to four seats, especially post-Dobbs.) States like Florida, among others (but especially Florida), often seem to poll neck and neck or a 1% Democratic lead, only come Election Day, the Democrat loses by four to five points. Florida has a lot of urban voters and a lot of rural and elderly voters (think The Villages), it aligns perfectly with the speculation set out above.
But polling is a science, and the great Democratic hope is that the major pollers have learned from past mistakes. It is possible. It can be frustrating.
@JasonMiciak believes a day without learning is a day not lived. He is a political writer, features writer, author, and attorney. He is a Canadian-born dual citizen who spent his teen and college years in the Pacific Northwest and has since lived in seven states. He now enjoys life as a single dad of a young girl, writing from the beaches of the Gulf Coast. He loves crafting his flower pots, cooking, and currently studies philosophy of science, religion, and non-math principles behind quantum mechanics and cosmology. Please feel free to contact with any concerns.