Another illustration of pollsters’ samples for this year varying wildly…
In 2006, the party ID in exit polls in Virginia was 39 percent Republican, 36 percent Democrat, 26 percent Independent. That was enough to put Democrat Jim Webb over the top in the Senate race by less than one percent. If you think it’s off-base to compare a non-presidential election year turnout to a presidential election year turnout, then fine; the 2004 numbers were 39 percent Republican, 35 percent Democrat, 26 percent independent.
A couple of recent polls in Virginia:
PublicPolicyPolling: Obama ahead, 51-43; their sample is 40 percent Democrat, 35 percent Republican, 25 percent independent.
SurveyUSA: Obama ahead, 53 percent to 43 percent. Their sample is Democrats 39 percent, Republicans 30 percent, Independents 25 percent.
Suffolk: Obama ahead, 51 percent to 39 percent. Their sample is Democrats 45 percent, Republicans 31 percent, Independents 24 percent.
So if you believe that the partisan breakdown of Virginia voters is going to split from Republicans by 3 percent two years ago to Democrats by 5 percent, 9 percent, or 14 percent this November, then these polls seem quite plausible.
Maybe all of these pollsters are correct, and perhaps the voters who show up at the polls in November will self-identify as Democrats by a wide, wide margin. Here in northern Virginia, Obama ads are more ubiquitous on the television than Peyton Manning ads on a Sunday afternoon, and the Obama yard signs are pretty much required in my neighborhood of Yuppie Acres. Mark Warner is everywhere; Jim Gilmore is not even appearing on the sides of milk cartons under the caption, “HAVE YOU SEEN ME?”
But it’s a different story in other parts of the state:
Estimates of the crowd size [in Virginia Beach] varied wildly. The city police and fire marshal put it at 12,000; the McCain campaign said 25,000. When Obama spoke at the conference center in February, before winning his party’s nomination, organizers estimated the crowd at 18,000.
Palin went on to Richmond, where she was greeted by about 20,000 supporters outside Richmond International Raceway.
But a six or seven percent swing is about the most we’ve ever seen (see the post below), and a seventeen-percent swing just doesn’t seem plausible. The pollsters seem to be assuming that the morale of the GOP is significantly lower than 2006, the days of Mark Foley and the pages, the Abramoff scandal , Sherwood facing allegations of strangling his mistress, Weldon, Sweeney, Ney, and most obviously locally, the “macaca” brouhaha surrounding George Allen.