The RealClearPolitics or “RCP” average continues to show President Barack Obama with a statistically insignificant but frustratingly persistent lead over presumptive GOP nominee, Mitt Romney. A 0.2% lead to be exact. I’ve begun to ponder the accuracy of this oft-referenced amalgamation of national polling data.
RCP was certainly close in 2008. Obama won by 7.3% nationwide; RCP’s final “average” predicted a 7.6% Obama win. Not bad, right?
But what about now? This time around, there’s good reason to suspect the validity of many of the polls included in their survey.
Consider the following historical information…
In 2004, national exit polling showed a roughly even split between Democrats and Republicans voters – 37% each – participating at the polls on Election Day.
Four years later, in one of the worst cycles for Republicans in modern history, Democrats turned out in slightly yet significantly higher numbers than Republicans – 39% (DEM) to 32% (GOP). And then in 2010, when the wave turned back again Democrats, we returned again to an even split similar to 2004 – 35% (DEM) to 35% (GOP).
So why are opinion pollsters employing super high-end Democrat turnout models for their 2012 surveys?
Take the latest Ipsos/Reuters poll which shows Barack Obama leading Mitt Romney by 7-points, 49% to 42%. But look at the sample itself, Save Jerseyans, and you’ll see a pool of 1,131 adults of which 47% self-identify as Democrats and 38% as Republicans. That’s a projected 9-point Democrat advantage for 2012 or, in comparative terms, a full 9-points better than Democrats performed in 2004 when G.W. Bush was reelected and even 2-points better than Democrats did in the infamous Obama “wave” year of 2008 when all factors – economic, demographic, cyclical, etc. – seemed to be clearly in their favor.
2012 will be very different. The economy is an anchor around the Administration’s neck. Even Obama loyalists openly expect a much closer contest this time around. The President is polarized, less-popular and facing a much stronger Republican Party than the deflated ’08 GOP which was still grappling with losing Congress and thousands of down-ballot offices in 2006. For sure, Mitt Romney has some enthusiasm issues of his own. It won’t be easy to beat a well-funded incumbent. It never is.
However, there’s no denying that enthusiasm remains a very real problem for President Obama with key liberal base groups including young voters and Democrat generally – one survey even shows Democrat enthusiasm lagging by as much as 16-points from ’08!
All of this begs the question, doesn’t it: why aren’t pollsters relying on a voter political ID turnout model closer to ’04? Are they simply (1) flush with optimism for the President for completely unforeseeable reasons? Or are these Democrat-heavy surveys (2) intended to buoy their preferred candidate?
I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions, Save Jerseyans.