The Blog

Morning Jay: Gallup's Bouncing Ball, "Wasted" GOP Votes, Jindal, Daniels, and more ...

6:30 AM, Sep 8, 2010 • By JAY COST
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

1. C'mon, you knew this would happen, right?  Gallup finds a 10-point shift in party preferences toward the Democrats in the last week, which nobody else found: 

Republicans and Democrats are tied at 46% among registered voters in Gallup's weekly tracking of congressional voting preferences, marking a shift after five consecutive weeks in which the Republicans held the advantage. 

Do we have whiplash yet?  Even TPMDC has trouble getting excited over this "shift."

Four points in response:

-Gallup is still polling registered voters, not likely voters.  The GOP lead among likely voters could be 5-10% larger.  Next week or thereabouts, Gallup should start unveiling its likely voter results.

-As I have noted several times before, Gallup is bouncy.  It's just the way the pollster is.

-The internals are still brutal for Democrats.  Gallup shows the parties splitting their own partisan vote 93-5 apiece, and the GOP winning Independents by 49-33. If you take these partisan spreads, allocate the undecideds proportionally, and apply them to the 2008 party ID breakdown, the final popular vote would have been a 50-50 split, and we might be humming Hail to the Chief to President John McCain.   

-The 2008 party ID breakdown depended upon unprecedented Democratic enthusiasm.  This year -- according to Gallup's own numbers -- there is unprecedented Republican enthusiasm. If we combine the Gallup spreads with the 2006 party ID breakdown (still a great year for Democrats), we get a 52-48 Republican advantage. 

2. Will GOP votes be "wasted"?  Carmen from New York writes with this interesting question:

While many junkies obsess over the “registered vs likely” voter phenom, I wonder whether the GOP is running up the generic ballot score by taking 74% in a bunch of “hard right” districts, but will fall short in places like suburban PA – leaving us with another House led by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

Carmen's intuitions are pointing in the right direction.  Look at the GOP share of the two-party vote versus its House seats from 1994 through 2004.

1994: 53.5% / 230 seats

1996: 49.99% / 227 seats

1998: 51.2% / 223 seats

2000: 50.2% / 222 seats

2002: 52.5% / 229 seats

2004: 51.3% / 232 seats

The GOP’s best share of the vote came in 1994, but you can see that the party “only” won 230 seats.  It won a smaller share of the vote in 1996 and 2002, but still won about the same number of seats.  In 2004, it won more seats with fewer votes.  

This speaks to Carmen's point.  Surging challenger parties can "waste" their votes, and this inefficiency is not just due to “hard right” districts that go from 64% to 74%, but “hard left” ones as well.  The GOP had an uptick from 14% to 22% in Maxine Water’s district between 1992 and 1994 -- that was all a “wasted” vote.

Even so, a GOP lead of 52% or more in the two-party vote, which would underperform the current RealClearPolitics average of the generic ballot, should still produce a Republican majority.  It would be very difficult for Democrats to hold the House while losing the popular vote by 4 points.  Not technically impossible, and not without precedent, but you would need an awfully peculiar distribution of the vote.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers