Last week, Gallup's generic-ballot tracking poll showed Republicans leading Democrats by 10, 51% to 41%. It was billed as the GOP's biggest Gallup lead in the history of humanity, and the results generated massive media attention, including a stand-alone Washington Post piece on page A2. It was iron-clad evidence, we were told, of impending Democratic doom.
I strongly recommended caution -- Gallup's generic-ballot tracking poll has been erratic and unreliable. Both parties had built up big leads in recent months, only to see them quickly disappear, for no apparent reason. I made the case that inconsistent polls with bizarre swings are necessarily suspect, but the media had its narrative -- the GOP tsunami is coming -- and couldn't be bothered to consider whether the Gallup poll had merit.
Wouldn't you know it, a week later, that massive, unprecedented, world-changing lead Republicans enjoyed is gone. The new Gallup numbers show the GOP losing five points and Dems gaining five points, leaving the parties tied at 46%. Is there any coherent rationale to explain a 10-point swing in Dems' favor over the last week? Of course not.
Just to be perfectly clear, I don't consider this evidence of a surge in Democratic support, and Dems who rejoice at this poll are making the same mistake Republicans and reporters made last week. The point is Gallup's generic-ballot tracking poll just isn't telling us anything useful, no matter which party likes the results in any given week.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
So what happened to that ten point GOP lead?