The Power Line Show, Ep. 84: Blue Wave or Red Tide?

Is the November election going to bring a (Democratic) blue wave or a (Republican) red tide? If you go by the polls, the answer is Yes. Pre-election polls seem more volatile than ever, and on any given day I can find a poll showing either Democrats or Republicans are doing great. For example, the polling director for CBS News, Anthony Salvanto, who along with everyone else got the 2016 presidential race wrong, is now saying he thinks there won’t be a “blue wave.” Money paragraphs:

Salvanto’s polling currently indicates that few House seats will change hands in November — and that the GOP could very well hold its majority in the House. “In this era, a district’s voting patterns from the past tend to stay that way,” Salvanto said. “Not as many partisans today are willing to cross party lines.” Of the nation’s 435 House districts, fully 85 percent will almost certainly stick with its current party affiliation come November, Salvanto projects. . .

“Even though Republicans have not fared well in special elections so far this cycle, it does look like they will be turning out for the midterms,” Salvanto said. “So far we do not see a large number of Republicans saying they will flip and vote for a Democrat.”

GOP voters in the past have been much more likely than Democrats to turn up and cast ballots in midterm elections, regardless of each party’s enthusiasm level ahead of Election Day.

Beyond the horse-race aspect, there are lots of problems with opinion polling in the age of cell phones and the internet. Polls show (heh) that Americans increasingly distrust pollsters almost as much as they distrust the media, and for many of the same reasons (most suspected bias). After all, the pollsters blew the 2016 election didn’t they? So for this episode of the Power Line podcast I sat down with Karlyn Bowman, public opinion specialist at AEI and author of recent article on “Is Polling Broken?” in National Affairs, to talk about the condition of opinion polling today. Bottom line: polling may not be completely broken, but there are a lot of loose pieces that need reassembling.

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