What Are the Pollsters Missing?

The most remarkable finding of the latest Wall Street Journal poll on the mid-term election is the yuuuge swing of suburban women toward the GOP since August:

The new survey shows that white women living in suburban areas, who make up 20% of the electorate, now favor Republicans for Congress by 15 percentage points, moving 27 percentage points away from Democrats since the Journal’s August poll.

That is one whopping move. As the Journal article explains, the shift isn’t just limited to congressional vote preference, but seems to be cascading down ticket. What explains this? The Journal speculates that the reaction to the Dobbs decision has worn off, and while this is possible, the longer you think about it the less persuasive it seems. What has changed since August? If anything, you’d expect the opposite: Democrats have intensified their anti-Dobbs messaging, which ought to reinforce the supposed pro-choice leanings of suburban women. Is it inflation? Inflation was just as bad in August, so this explanation is also less than fully convincing for such a large shift. Crime? Same thing.

The opinion polls all cite inflation and crime as the driving issues, but I’ve noticed some glaring omissions from the issue panels the pollsters have been using to identify the key movers of voter opinion: the COVID school closure hangover, and the cultural issues involved in public education today (especially “gender fluidity” and related enthusiasms of the cultural left). Virtually no poll asks any questions about these issues, even though they played a prominent role in the Virginia governor’s race last year.

Even though the Democrat-media-complex whipped up a fury over Gov. DeSantis’s supposed “don’t say gay” bill in Florida last year, polling showed that even a majority of Democrats supported the bill that merely prohibited sex education before the third grade. Local school board elections are suddenly hot around the country, with a growing backlash against a public education establishment that has been captured by the left. And when even San Francisco voters recall three of their woke school board members by a landslide, you’d think pollsters would start paying attention to the issue of education.

I think most pollsters are either afraid of asking—or don’t know how to ask—questions to get at public opinion on the hot button cultural issues in public education today, let alone attitudes about the mindless COVID school shutdowns. This is political malpractice of the highest order. Instead we get polls like the one from NBC News recently that absurdly found “threats to democracy” to be the top issue for voters, because this choice was presented to respondents rather than arising from an open-ended question. Education was not among the offered “top issue” choices for respondents to select.

Although it may sound sexist to say, there is plenty of empirical voting research showing that women voters pay closer attention to local issues than male voters do—especially education. I’m wondering whether these issues are driving a lot of the shift in suburban women. One test will come in Maine, where, as Tom Klingenstein explained in his article linked here yesterday, former Maine Gov. Paul LePage is making the radical and often shockingly graphic gender-denying books in school libraries and curricula a central issue in his comeback race against Democrat incumbent Janet Mills.  Gov. Mills is trying to affect a pose of neutrality on the issue, but voters by now know which party supports this kind of radical propaganda as well as the destructive COVID school shutdowns. It will be interesting to see whether the exit polls pick up on any of this next Tuesday.

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