Sen. Harry Reid’s re-election campaign is not taking the brutal polls out of Nevada lying down. The campaign is fighting back against two recent Las Vegas Review-Journal surveys by claiming their methods aren’t up to code.
The Review-Journal released two polls by Mason-Dixon this week, showing Reid (D-NV) trailing one possible Republican challenger by eight to 10 points in November.
When the first poll came out, the Reid campaign argued that the results weren’t accurate because the poll only tested on a Reid vs. Lowden ticket, when the actual ballot in November will have nine options. Those options will include third party candidates and “none of the above.”The campaign claimed that voters who already plan to vote against Reid are increasingly disillusioned with Republicans, citing low approval numbers for the GOP. Ergo, lots of anti-Reid voters are going to vote for third parties, or no one, siphoning votes away from the Republican candidate.
In response, the Review-Journal released a second poll today that tested on the full ballot. The numbers? Still bad for Reid, showing him now trailing Lowden by a full 10 points. (The TPM Poll Average shows Lowden leading Reid 52.1% to 38.2%.)
Reid’s campaign pushed back again, telling the paper the poll is “flawed” because it used random dialing of all of Nevada’s population, instead of calling those on a likely voter list. The paper shot back that random dialing is an accepted way to poll.
Indeed, polling expert Charles Franklin tells TPMDC that Reid’s argument is “absurd.”
“It’s a complete inversion of the truth,” said Franklin, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Random digit dialing is the standard method of doing polls — hardly an exception, let alone a disadvantage.”
“There are good campaign polls done on listed samples of registered voters. But by far the more more common and the more scientifically sound method of sample is random digit dialing,” he said, “because that gives every phone number in the state a known probability of being represented in the sample, which is what you need for a representative sample.”
“I’m not vouching for this particular poll being right either way,” he added. “But I’m saying that the track record of Mason-Dixon is a perfectly decent track record.”
Asked for comment, Reid’s folks tell TPMDC that, while random dialing is normally acceptable, Nevada is a special case because it has such low voter turnout.
“It’s especially problematic in NV where less than half the voting age population cast ballots in the 2008 Presidential election,” a spokesman emails. “In 2006 (the last off year election), just 31% of voting age Nevadans turned out. With turnout so low, the gap between the number who claim to be voters in response to a public poll and the numbers who actually vote is likely to be substantial.”
Reid’s campaign has also pointed out that the Review-Journal’s editorials are consistently anti-Reid.
Additional reporting by Eric Kleefeld