Recently I’ve discussed at length Public Policy Polling, their clients, and the partisan breakdown of their partisan polls. In many cases, I think their samples include too many Democrats to provide a reliable assessment of how the candidates stand at this point.
But I can’t say that about two of their recent polls that are giving Republicans heartburn, showing Harry Reid narrowly leading Sharron Angle in Nevada and Charlie Crist leading Marco Rubio in Florida.
We ought to cut pollsters some slack in their partisan breakdowns; they’re trying to account for constantly shifting changes in Republican enthusiasm, Democratic enthusiasm, and independent enthusiasm, while looking at history and trying to determine whether this year’s cycle will be similar to past cycles or will represent a dramatic break. But I think we can get some sense of 2010 already. Turnout will obviously trail the 2008 turnout for the presidential race; with a few exceptions, the Republican base will be enthused and the first-time Obama voters of 2008 are not a safe bet to return. I like to use the 2008 presidential-election exit polls as a rough ceiling of the Democrats’ share of the electorate; I find it hard to imagine Democrats will outperform the turnout that was driven by their members’ desire to elect the first African-American president.
In Nevada, the PPP sample splits 41 percent Democrat, 39 percent Republican, 20 percent independent. According to CNN’s exit poll, in 2008 Nevada voters split 38 percent Democrat, 32 percent Republican, 32 percent independent. While Democrats technically make up a slightly larger share of the PPP sample, the ratio to Republicans is smaller (almost 1:1), and some drop-off among independents makes sense between a presidential and a midterm election.
In Florida, their sample splits 40 percent Democrat, 40 percent Republican, 20 percent independent. CNN’s exit poll had Florida’s 2008 electorate splitting 37 percent Democrat, 34 percent Republican, 29 percent independent. Again, some drop-off among independents makes sense.
I will say that PPP’s observation that Charlie Crist is performing better among Republicans since leaving the party is pretty darn counterintuitive. But I suppose it’s a possible side effect of Crist pounding the table about an offshore-drilling moratorium, or just a quirky midsummer sample.