Election 2014  
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10 Things You Should Know About the Post-Debate Polls

Answers to your imaginary polling questions!

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6. Should I Dismiss That Pew Poll Because It “Oversamples” Republicans?

No. That's making the same fundamental error as the “poll truthers” on the right. Partisan ID, unlike demographics such as age, gender or ethnicity, is highly fluid. And that's not because people switch from Democrat to Republican at the drop of a hat, or vice-versa. It's kind of a proxy for voter enthusiasm – when people feel good about a party, they're less likely to tell pollsters that they're independents. Similarly, only about 10 percent of people reached by pollsters participate in their surveys, and when people feel good about their candidate they may be less likely to hang up when that call from Gallup comes in. Good polls using industry standard methodology can and do find wide variation in party ID – leave the trutherism to the nutjobs at Fox News.

7. Can Obama Rebound?

Obviously, and the idea that he can't – that Romney landed a “knock-out punch” and the election may be over – is a bit odd. It should go without saying that if one is going to lose a debate, the first one is a lot better than the last. Obama and Romney have two more debates and Joe Biden and Paul Ryan face off in a vice-presidential debate this week. Expect Obama to be a lot more aggressive.

But here's the thing: it's unlikely that the race will rebound to the wide lead Obama was enjoying after the conventions because after Romney's performance in the first debate, we're not going to see large numbers of Republicans and Republican leaners regarding him as a disastrous, hopelessly bumbling loser. That's pretty much baked into the cake at this point.

8. What About the State Polling?

In the swing states, Romney has gotten a bump just as he has in the national polls, but it's even less clear whether it's a sustainable shift or a short-term bump. There are fewer state-level polls and more of them are conducted by pollsters with shaky track records. We need more data.

But here's an important point: it remains the case that the Electoral College map favors Obama. As the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake  put it:

For the sake of argument, say that Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia all move toward Romney — and he winds up winning them as well as all of the more reliably Republican states leaning or solidly in his camp today. He still loses the electoral vote to Obama. We’ve written extensively about this often-overlooked reality in recent months but it’s worth reiterating again: Even if Romney surges in a handful of swing states, his path to 270 electoral votes remains tough. For Romney to win at this point — assuming he can’t put Michigan, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin play — he needs to all but sweep the remaining toss-up states.

9. Did Romney Just Get a 7-Point Bump in Gallup's Tracking Poll This Morning?

No, Gallup switched to its likely voter model today, which resulted in a shift from Obama up by 5 to Romney up by 2. But there's an important caveat, as Steve Singiser notes, “Gallup's likely voter screen has a pretty chequered past.”

It crapped the bed a little bit in 2008, when it overestimated Barack Obama's margin of victory by four points. But then the likely voter screen for Gallup really took a dump in 2010, when their RV/LV gap on the generic ballot was a cartoonish eleven points. Among registered voters, Gallup saw an R+4 electorate. Among "likely voters", Gallup saw an R+15 electorate. The final outcome? R+6. So...yeah, let's say that the assumptions made in likely voter screens can be, shall we say, a little off.

 
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