November 1, 2006


Generic ballot poll results misleading (David Hill, 11/01/06, The Hill)

Consider the results of a congressional district poll done by our shop in the past seven days in an industrial Midwestern state. The generic ballot showed the Republican ahead by just 7 points, 42 percent to 35 percent. But later in the poll, when the actual names were read along with their partisan affiliation, the results were starkly different. This time the Republican won by a whopping 39-point margin, besting the Democrat 64 percent to 25 percent. Note that the actual Democrat received 10 fewer percentage points of support than his generic counterpart. Perhaps it would be best that Democrats petition to have their candidates’ real names replaced with “Generic Democrat.”

But the media polls keep pushing generic ballot results as a guide to control of Congress. That Democrats seem to be widely winning the generic contest makes the storyline irresistible to some, but it’s likely to disappoint Nov. 7.

A key reason that the generic doesn’t predict to real results is that there isn’t any face of the generic Republican anymore. Ironically, the weak and lackadaisical leadership of Congressional Republicans has meant that there is no particular Republican to be mad at. There’s no Newt Gingrich or Tom DeLay to demonize as you choose between party nominees in your district. In fact, the rapid resignation of former Rep. DeLay (R-Texas) may, in retrospect, be the essential ingredient in Republican survival. Otherwise, he would have been the lightning rod that Tom Foley became during the 1994 election. Perhaps sensing that he could become another Foley, rejected by his own district and reviled in hundreds of others, DeLay bailed. Good call.

Look at the real Congressional Republican leaders and you see that there’s no one there to hate. According to CNN polling in early October, Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) both had unfavorable ratings of just 36 percent nationwide. Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) is so “under the radar” that I couldn’t find a single nationwide poll that even measured his negatives.

The only folks who even know who Hastert is, nevermind are angered by him, are the real whackos on the Left and Right. Of course, that's twice as many as have heard of Congressman Foley.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 1, 2006 11:13 AM

It's good to know that I'm now a "whacko of the left and right."

At least I'm ambidextrous.

Posted by: Bruno at November 1, 2006 12:11 PM

The whackos include OJ.

The whackos are those who follow politics....


Posted by: Sandy P at November 1, 2006 12:33 PM

Perhaps. But the main point of the article is true - put actual names on these polls and the GOP do much better.

Posted by: AWW at November 1, 2006 12:53 PM

"Perhaps sensing that he could become another Foley [...] DeLay bailed."

Not to quibble, but Delay "bailed" in June, and the Foley story broke in late September.

Does this mean that the crazy Democrats are right? That the Republican leadership knew about Foley long before anyone else?

Or is Mr. Hill just being dumb?

Posted by: H.D. Miller at November 1, 2006 2:20 PM

Tom Foley, not friendly guy Foley.

Posted by: oj at November 1, 2006 2:26 PM

Ah, my bad. Apologies to David Hill. I was the one being dumb.

Posted by: H.D. Miller at November 1, 2006 3:18 PM

That's Sir Tom Foley and he was a far greater menace to our nation than the little jerk in Florida.

Posted by: erp at November 2, 2006 7:23 AM