Friday, July 14, 2006

AP's breathless cheerleading...

So, there's another AP-Ipsos poll. And it says, now, in July, 4 months before the election, that the Democrats are leading on the generic congressional ballot question. The AP, being the fine news organization that it is, is, of course, covering this hot news story. In a calm, fair and balanced manner. As their analysis shows.
With less than four months to the midterm elections, the latest Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that Americans by an almost 3-to-1 margin hold the GOP-controlled Congress in low regard and profess a desire to see Democrats wrest control after a dozen years of Republican rule.

Now, maybe, just possibly, they did ask people whether they wanted "to see Democrats wrest control" of the congress. But the poll itself is apparently not yet publicly available, and I'm extremely skeptical. I do believe that they asked fewer than 800 registered voters, and the Democrats led on the generic congressional ballot question. An unbiased news organization would recognize that that fact doesn't come close to justifying the prose with which they began their report.

Let's touch base, briefly, with reality. The Democrats holding a lead in the generic congressional ballot question 4 months before an election is neither unprecedented nor indicative of a likely Democratic takeover of congress. In July of 2004, before the Democratic convention, the Democrats held a 9-10 point lead in the generic congressional ballot question. In November of 2004, in an election that was surely successfully "nationalized," the Republicans won 52% of the two-party vote, and 53% of the seats in the House Of Representatives. In September of 2002, the Democrats still led the Republicans by 5 points on the generic congressional ballot test, 46-41. Results? Republicans take 53% of the congressional vote and 52% of the seats. The Democrats led by 7 points in July of 2000 - the Republicans held the congress. In late August of 1998, the AP found the Democrats up by 6 in a poll of likely voters - the Republicans held the congress.

And veteran political analyst Charlie Cook, less than 2 months before those 2002 mid-term elections, was saying:
It is too early to say for sure that there is atmospheric movement in favor of Democrats, but the argument that such a movement is taking place is getting more and more convincing.

Sound familiar? The fact is, we get wishful thinking like this masquerading as analysis every year, because the generic congressional ballot question virtually always favors Democrats. This may or may not be the year that the Democrats regain control of the House and/or the Senate, but this AP piece isn't providing any particularly compelling evidence in that direction, and it certainly doesn't justify the opening paragraph.

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