Polling bias against Republicans goes back a long way

| October 6 2012
Christopher Cook

We’ve been talking about it for a while now (see the links appended below): Polls, especially those contracted by mainstream media, are using unrealistic samples of Democrats and Republicans, thus producing results dramatically skewed against Mitt Romney and Republicans.

It’s arguably more egregious during this election cycle—certainly the media’s naked, agenda-driven bias is—but in fact, bad polling that underestimates Republican strength has a long pedigree. If you haven’t yet seen this article by Karl Rove, you should. It is both instructive and, in a way, heartening. It begins . . .

I’ve seen a movie like this one before. I was in my 20s and director of the Texas Victory Committee for Reagan-Bush. Our headquarters was in an old mortuary in Austin. That seemed an appropriate venue when, on Oct. 8, 1980, the New York Times released its poll on the presidential race in Texas, one of 10 battlegrounds. (Yes, the Lone Star State was then a battleground.)

According to the Times, the contest was “a virtual dead heat,” with President Jimmy Carter ahead despite earlier surveys showing Ronald Reagan winning. A large Hispanic turnout for Mr. Carter—and the fact that Texas was “far more Democratic than the nation” (only 16% of Texans identified themselves as Republicans then)—meant that Mr. Reagan “must do better among independents” to carry the state. Our hurriedly called strategy session at the mortuary had more than the normal complement of hand-wringers.

Then came more hard punches. On Oct. 13, Gallup put the race nationally at Carter 44%, Reagan 40%. The bottom appeared to fall out two weeks later when a new national Gallup poll had Carter 47%, Reagan 39%.

That produced more than a few empty chairs in phone banks across Texas. But most volunteers, grim and stoic, hung on, determined to stay until the bitter end. Only Election Day was not so bitter. Reagan carried all 10 of the Times’ battleground states and defeated Mr. Carter by nearly 10 points.

Of course, this does not occur in a vacuum—it has an impact on the morale of Republican voters and volunteers. Arguably, it is intended to do just that—to create more “empty chairs in phone banks.” They’ve been doing this for decades.

The whole article is a must-read (it’s not that long). It is called Can We Believe the Presidential Polls?, and when you’re done reading it, you’ll probably come to the following conclusion: Take the Republican’s topline number and increase it by three. Take the Democrat’s topline number and decrease it by three.

THEN you can believe the poll.

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