The Corner

Generic Ballot Agonistes

I understand that if you live by the generic ballot you may well die from congenital heart disease or some other thing but not the generic ballot because we’re speaking figuratively. Still, a lot of people seem very invested in the generic congressional ballot. This has always bothered me a little because that’s a national poll and people vote in specific areas. A presidential candidate may be losing in the national polls but he’ll happily take that in exchange for a primary win in New Hampshire or general election win in the electoral college. Similarly, the generic ballot is partially a function of asking a lot of people who are voting in safe districts. Of course, majorities in West Texas prefer a Republican majority. Of course majorities in San Francisco want the Democrats to control congress. What really matters is what people in competitive districts want, right? For instance, here’s that much discussed tidbit from Public Opinion Strategies a couple weeks ago:

The generic ballot shows Republicans leading 44%-39%.   Besides all of the usual regional crosstabs, we also broke it out by the type of district.  We looked at the sample in the 66 Democratic INCUMBENT districts that Charlie Cook lists as either toss-up or leaning Democratic at the time of the survey.  In that key crosstab of Swing Democratic Incumbent Seats, the Republican lead grows to 49%-31% on the generic ballot.  That is a very powerful crosstab that says the wave is coming.

That may be tightening as well, but I doubt by enough to make Democrats sleep well at night.


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