Monday, March 15, 2021


Headline of a Washington Post opinion piece:
Democrats have Republicans on the back foot. Now they must keep pushing.
I know, right? The COVID relief bill is popular! President Biden is popular! We're winning! The Republican Party is in deep trouble!

Except that, based on the limited polling I've been able to find, the Republican Party isn't in deep trouble.

* In a St. Anselm's poll of a possible 2022 Senate matchup, Democratic senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire trails the state's Republican governor, Chris Sununu, 47%-41%. In a University of New Hampshire survey released late last month, Sununu led Hassan 48%-46%.

* In a Mason-Dixon poll of Florida, Republican governor Ron DeSantis has a 53% job approval rating (42% disapprove). In potential 2022 matchups, DeSantis leads former governor Charlie Crist, now a Democrat, 52%-41%, and leads Democratic state agricultural commissioner Nikki Fried 51%-42%.

* In an EPIC-MRA poll of the 2022 Michigan governor's race, incumbent Democrat Gretchen Whitmer leads Candice Miller, a Republican ex-congresswoman, by only one point, 46%-45%.

* And in a survey from the right-leaning Trafalgar Group and Insider Advantage, Herschel Walker, the ex-football star who's being touted as a possible Republican challenger for the Georgia Senate seat now held by Raphael Warnock, beats Warnock 47.7%-45.5%. (Warnock beats former congressman Doug Collins by 1 and former senator Kelly Loeffler by 5.)

None of this suggests that Republicans are in disfavor, at least in swing states, or that Democrats are wildly popular. (President Biden's approval numbers are 50%-49% in the St Anselm's poll of New Hampshire and 49%-45% in the EPIC-MRA poll of Michigan.)

Stan Greenberg of the liberal-leaning Democracy Corps decided to change his polling methods to reflect what's happened in recent elections here and in other countries.
I was invited by the Jewish community in Vienna to help Mayor Michael Haupl and the ruling Social Democratic Party fight off a challenge from the Freedom Party led by Jorg Haider that had won an unimaginable and surprising 27.9 percent of the vote five years earlier....

We were able to drive down [Haider's] party’s vote by a third, but you cannot forget that one in five voters in one of the most culturally liberal cities in the world voted for the anti-Semite. So, in all my subsequent polls in Austria, I asked people how they voted in the breakthrough election for the Freedom Party and weighted it up to make sure it was over 21 percent....

During my entire career polling for the Israeli Labor Party, I watched Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing bloc prove the newspaper polls wrong.... Going into the last weekend in 2015, Likud was losing, but Netanyahu declared there will never be a Palestinian state and warned buses are bringing Arabs to create a “left” government. Likud won by five seats.

At every point, I made changes to my polling that favored the right and most important, just locking in the proportion that identified with the “right,” over 60 percent for Jewish voters at last count.
Greenberg has done similar weighting of the U.S. electorate. He writes about his current poll:
... this adjusted survey gives you more modulate[d] positive perceptions of Biden. This poll shows Biden’s approval as 3 points lower than that reported in Real Clear Politics and 538. Biden’s approval at 51 percent is a majority of the country — but just that and no higher than his vote in 2020. (Obviously, this may improve with the passage of his rescue package, but don’t believe those giving him ratings of 60 percent.

... Trump war against Blacks, immigrants, crime, and cancel culture gives him a firm hold on about 43 percent of voters.... Biden is 12 points above water and Democrats have 4-point lead in the generic congressional and larger in the blue wall states (+7) and 2022 Senate and Governors battleground (+11).
So Democratic numbers in Greenberg's survey are good, but they're not spectacular. And pollsters in other states, whether or not they've adjusted their methods, aren't detecting a collapse of the Republican Party -- far from it.

I'll continue to say that things might be different if Democrats hammered home the message that Democrats stand for popular stuff (COVID relief, raising the minimum wage, respecting democracy) while Republicans stand for unpopular stuff. Every Republican in America should feel at risk any time national Republicans do unpopular things, whether it's voting against relief or trying to overturn an election result. For now, though, those bad things aren't linked with the GOP in much of the public's mind. As a result, individual Republicans are doing just fine.

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