Gallup’s “wildly improbable” poll results

These numbers claiming that the GOP is suddenly on fire, and likely to sweep into power on Election Day, are a trifle dubious, to say the least–as Prof. Alben W. Barkley, a political scientist at Emory, observes below.

Of course, it’s possible that a very large majority of likely voters are so fed up that they’ve decided to help Tea-Baggers take over Congress. What’s really likely, though, is that those polls numbers are based on the usual drastic over-sampling of Republicans (a problem that Nate Silver et al. so far won’t discuss).

At this point, though, it’s something of an academic question, since these goofy numbers will have a convenient psychological effect for the Republicans, by making it much easier for them to “win” whether they’ve really won or not. Thus, although they may make little sense as poll results, they’re clearly functioning as excellent pre-propaganda.


Gallup’s Implausible Likely Voter Results
Alan Abramowitz
Alben W. Barkley Professor of Political Science, Emory University

It’s a shocking result. According to the Gallup Poll, a generic Republican candidate currently leads a generic Democratic candidate by 17 points among likely voters in a hypothetical House matchup. A margin of that magnitude on Election Day would almost certainly result in a Republican gain of at least 80 seats in the House of Representatives and the largest GOP majority since the 1920’s. But how plausible are Gallup’s results?

An examination of some of the internals from the latest Gallup survey of likely voters leads to the conclusion
that these results are wildly implausible. First, Gallup shows a much larger percentage of Republicans (55% Republican identifiers and leaners vs. 40% Democratic identifiers and leaners) and conservatives (51% conservative vs. 28% moderates and 18% liberals) than we’ve ever seen in a modern election. They also show a smaller percentage of voters under the age of 30 (7%) and a larger percentage of voters over the age of 65 (27%) than we’ve seen in any modern election. But that’s not all. The candidate preference results for some subgroups of voters are just wildly implausible.

Gallup’s latest likely voter survey shows a generic Republican leading a generic Democrat by a whopping 28 points among whites, 62% to 34%. To put those numbers in perspective, in 1994, according to national exit
poll data, Republicans only won the white vote by 16 points, 58% to 42%, and that was their best showing
since the advent of exit polling. Gallup is telling us that right now the Republican lead among whites who are likely to vote is 12 points larger than the GOP margin among whites in 1994.

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