Democrats Up or Down, Depending Upon The Poll

More polls are conclusively showing only one thing–polls taken far in advance of an election are of little value (probably as most voters have not even given the election all that much thought). First there’s the polls on this year’s off year Congressional elections. Public Policy Polling finds that Barack Obama’s approval has hit a new low (as Obama continues to follow Ronald Reagan’s trajectory in the polls). The conventional wisdom is that off year elections are a referendum on the recently elected president. For this we’d expect that the Democrats would be falling behind the Republicans in the generic Congressional election. Instead the two are at a 43 percent tie.

Making matters even less clear. Gallup found that the Democrats have shot up to a six point lead over the Republicans in the generic poll. Perhaps some voters are starting to remember exactly why they voted against the Republicans in 2006 and 2008. No matter how bad the economy is, it makes no sense to vote for the party which caused this mess.

Yesterday, probably before these results were available, Nate Silver made some predictions based upon the finding that Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting at present than Democrats are. Nate looked at the odds of the Republicans taking control of the Senate:

Our latest Senate simulation has the chamber convening in 2011 with an average of 53.4 Democrats (counting Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders), 46.1 Republicans, and 0.5 Charlie Crists. This is an improvement for Republicans from our last forecast three weeks ago, which had 55.2 Democrats, 44.2 Republicans, and 0.6 Crists. The changes, however, predominantly reflect several methodological improvements we have made rather than any particular national momentum, although the dynamics of some individual contests are certainly evolving.

The model gives Republicans a 17 percent chance of taking over the Senate if Charlie Crist caucuses with them, up significantly from 6 percent three weeks ago. If Crist does not caucus with them, their chances of a takeover are 12 percent. However, the model does not account for the contingency that someone like Joe Lieberman or Ben Nelson could decide to switch parties, which makes their chances slightly better than we suggest here.

If the polls are inconclusive regarding the 2010 elections, polling on the 2012 election is even less clear.  For example, a recent PPP poll found Sarah Palin tied at 46 percent with Obama in a hypothetical 2012 match up. However a  Time Magazine Poll shows Obama leading Palin by 21 points, 55 percent to 34 percent. In other words, the polls show either a tie or landslide which might exceed Lyndon Johnson’s victory over Barry Goldwater.