The Campaign Spot

Dissecting These New Wisconsin Polls…

It’s entirely possible that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s efforts to control his state’s spending, and end collective bargaining on non-wage matters by public sector unions is not winning the battle of public opinion. If this sort of thing were easy and popular, it would have been done a long time ago.

But the circumstances for Walker may not be as dire as two recent polls suggest. Over at Hot Air, Allahpundit and Ed Morrissey dissect the national poll from the New York Times. In particular, Ed notes:

First, the partisan split in the sample gave a ten-point advantage to Democrats.  Their sample for this poll had a D/R/I split of 36/26/31, an absurd sample for political polling.  In December, Rasmussen’s general-population survey put Republicans ahead, 36.0% to 34.7% for Democrats.  A recent poll by Gallup showserosion in Democratic affiliation all through 2010.  In 2008, Barack Obama won the popular vote by seven points nationwide, and the NYT/CBS poll assumes that the electorate has grown more Democratic in 2011.

Next, 20% of the poll’s respondents claim to come from union households.  However, only 11.9% of American workers belong to a union, according to a report published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics last month and noted by none other than the Times itself.  Union membership fell to a 70-year low as a percentage of the workforce, which in itself is a rather damning statement about the view of collective bargaining by the vast majority of American workers.  How exactly did the survey manage to comprise itself of almost twice as many union-household respondents for a poll on union policies as union members in the workforce?  Interesting.

I would note that the new poll out from Public Policy Polling has a few features that look odd as well. The sample looks okay in partisan breakdown (although perhaps the percentage of independents is a bit high) but has an interesting skew on gender: 54 percent women, 46 percent men.

In 2008, the exit polls in Wisconsin – you know, the actual people who voted, not a pollster’s assessment of who is a likely voter – was 51 percent women, 49 percent men. In the 2010 midterms, it was 50/50.

At Legal Insurrection, William Jacobson notices that the PPP sample has the same portion of folks who voted for Democrat Tom Barrett last year (47 percent) but either they have fewer Scott Walker supporters (from 52.3 percent to 47 percent), or a chunk of Scott Walker supporters have developed amnesia. He also notes the PPP sample is 32 percent union households, but the 2010 exit poll data indicated only 26 percent of Wisconsin households include a union member.

This is not an overwhelming skew to the sample, but it is there, and when the headline is that “Walker would lose rematch with Barrett in Wisconsin,” that narrow margin in favor of defeated Democrat Tom Barrett may be largely attributed to a sample that includes more women and is more heavily union members than any future Wisconsin electorate.


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