That Weird Newsweek Poll

October 3, 2010 7:07 p.m.

A weird Newsweek poll came out at the end of last week that either means nothing or everything and most likely something in between which is a weird volatility that is challenging pollsters’ abilities to tell us just what’s coming on November 2nd. The congressional generic shows a five point spread for the Democrats — 48%-43%. That’s a strong number for the Dems. And it shifts the TPM Poll Average to +2 GOP, the closest it’s been for months. But it’s also not that surprising in itself since the Newsweek poll historically has been a relatively friendly one for the Dems. (Back on August 26, they had the number tied when other pollsters were showing big Republican leads.)

(This graph shows the trend in the congressional generic ballot going back to January 1st. Click the TPM logo in the graph to see the full chart and data set.)

What stood out to me about this poll was what was under the topline, particularly about the voters most likely to turn out to vote.The reported poll was for registered voters. But they also applied a filter for what they called “definite voters.” Now “definite voters” isn’t a term of art pollsters usually use. But on the face of it it sounds like a really rigorous ‘likely voter’ screen. Because presumably people who are definitely going to vote are extremely likely. In any case, ‘likely voter’ screens almost always lean at least a bit Republican. That’s in every cycle. And it’s particularly the case in this cycle. But in this case, Newsweek’s ‘definite voters’ were even more Dem-leaning than the ‘registered voters.’ Among the ‘definite voters’ the spread was Dems 50% to GOP 42%.

Now, the Newsweek poll looked at ‘angry’ voters and whether voter anger is really a driving force in this year’s election; the verdict seemed to be no. As you can tell from the trend graph, there margin between the Ds and Rs has been closing for about a month, since right about the end of August. So either this Newsweek poll points to an intensification of that trend or its just an outlier from an already Dem-friendly poll. The fact that definite voters leans even more Democratic than registereds is very curious.

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