CBS Political Analyst Criticizes Recent Washington Post-ABC News Poll

In my first piece about this surprising Washington Post/ABC News poll published on Sunday indicating that the Republicans have been picking up ground on the Democrats in the past two weeks, I said that it would be interesting to see how this survey got reported. As compared to what ABC’s “This Week” did Sunday morning (i.e. beginning the program discussing it), CBS’s response was much more predictable. However, what was peculiar is the person CBS used to discredit the data given his pedigree and bona fides. 

With that in mind, Bob Schieffer invited CBS political analyst Stuart Rothenberg on Sunday’s “Face the Nation.” Rothenberg made it clear that he sees a big Democrat victory in the House on Tuesday (up to 40 seats), and the Democrats picking up four to seven seats in the Senate (video here). As the discussion moved to who will actually turn out to vote, Rothenberg questioned the methodology of the Washington Post/ABC News poll:

There was a recent poll out just today that suggested the Republicans were closing, that the gap was narrowing. And, it might well be narrowing. But, uh, you also have to look at the polling as to who they’re surveying. And, in the ABC poll today, the Washington Post poll, instead of a huge, uh, uh, number of Independents and a Democratic advantage, there were more Republicans in the survey. 

First off, let me make it clear that Stuart Rothenberg is a highly respected political analyst by folks on both sides of the aisle. However, it was peculiar to see him this morning questioning the methodology of a poll done by one of CBS’s competitors, especially given the details.

For instance, the poll in question surveyed 33 percent Democrats, 34 percent Republicans, and 30 percent Independents. Compare this with the turnout in November 2004 as reported by CNN: 37 percent Democrats, 37 percent Republicans, 26 percent Independents. As such, this Washington Post/ABC News poll questioned a combined 64 percent Democrats and Independents as compared to 63 percent of such that voted in 2004. And, it actually surveyed less Republicans and more Independents than turned out two years ago.

Is this an unfair or unreasonable skewing as far as Rothenberg is concerned? Or, is this a demonstration of why the polls for so many months have been so negative towards Republicans, as many conservatives including myself have been asserting that these surveys have been typically over-sampling Democrats versus the true percentage in the electorate? Also, if a fairly similar sample to what voted in 2004 is unacceptable to Rothenberg, what sample is he using to forecast the huge Democrat victory he’s predicting for Tuesday?

Finally, if all the other pollsters that have been over-sampling Democrats end up being once again wrong about turnout, and the participating electorate on Tuesday mimics that of two years ago, might the recent Washington Post/ABC News poll end up more in line with reality?

As Ed Hart used to say, we will know in the fullness of time.

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Noel Sheppard's picture