The Campaign Spot

This Morning’s Polls Project More Heavily Democratic Electorates Than in 2008

This morning, surveys from the New York Times/CBS/Quinnipiac puts Obama ahead by 10 in Ohio, up by 12 in Pennsylvania, and up by 9 in Florida.

Since the question of whether the party ID within polling samples is realistic seems to be the issue of the week, let’s take a look at how these samples stack up to the 2008 exit polls.

Ohio 2008 exits: 39 percent Democrat, 31 percent Republican, 30 percent Independent.

Ohio New York Times/Quinnipiac 2012 sample: 35 percent Democrat, 26 percent Republican, 35 percent Independent.

In this sample, the partisan split is D+9 compared to D+8 four years ago, and the GOP is five percentage points smaller than in 2008.

Over in the Weekly Standard, Jay Cost looks at recent Ohio polls and “finds Gravis, Washington Post, and Fox basically see a replay of 2008 while Rasmussen and the Purple Poll see roughly something in between 2004 and 2008.” They envision Democrat turnout being on par with last cycle or even better . . . and this surge of Democratic enthusiasm comes at the same time the president has lost considerable ground among independents. Possible? I suppose, but again, why?

Pennsylvania 2008 exits: 44 percent Democrat, 37 percent Republican, 18 percent Independent.

Pennsylvania New York Times/Quinnipiac 2012 sample: 39 percent Democrat, 28 percent Republican, 27 percent Independent.

Somehow a D+7 split has turned into D+11 split, and Republicans’ share of the electorate is nine percentage points less than they were four years ago.

Florida 2008 exits: 37 percent Democrat, 34 percent Republican, 29 percent Independent.

Florida New York Times/Quinnipiac 2012 sample: 36 percent Democrat, 27 percent Republican, 33 percent Independent.

Each party’s share only shifts a few percentage points, but the overall split goes from D+3 to D+9.

Three factors that are quasi-defenses of the current pollsters:

1) Perhaps conservative or Republican-leaning voters are more likely to flip between identifying themselves as independents or GOP. Perhaps these are Tea Party conservatives fed up with a GOP they find too “establishment,” etc. If the Democratic share of the vote were stable, it would just mean voters are shifting between these two other self-classifications.

2) Party ID solidifies as Election Day gets closer. Someone noted yesterday that a voter is more likely to self-identify with a major party just before or just after they’ve cast a vote for a major party’s candidate. The polls in late October may have higher percentages of voters identifying with the GOP, the Democrats, or both.

3) Conversely, in an extremely negative campaign environment, voters may be reluctant to identify with either party; a view of “a pox on both your houses” may make some voters prefer to identify as independents. So perhaps self-identified independents’ share of the vote is going to be higher this cycle than in 2008.

Notice that in Florida, Romney’s winning independents, 49 percent to 46 percent; in Ohio, Romney is leading independents 47 percent to 46 percent (although that’s down from a 48–41 lead in late August) and in Pennsylvania . . . well, Quinnipiac didn’t provide the breakdown of independents in the Keystone State.

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