The argument over driving turnout in 2014 versus convincing swing voters rages on. Young voters may be less Democratic than in past elections. And most Americans think the country has been on the right track for the last few billion years. This is HuffPollster for Wednesday, May 7, 2014.
WHITHER THE MIDTERM SWING VOTER? NOT SO FAST - In a much discussed article published in late April, political scientist Lynn Vavreck advanced the argument that "there just aren't that many swing voters" in midterm elections. Focusing on panel survey data showing relatively little switching from Obama and McCain in 2008 to opposite party Congressional candidates in 2010, Vareck prescribes a path for both parties in 2014: "Get your 2012 voters to the polls...The 2014 fight is not over swingoug voters. It’s for partisans." On Wednesday, two Democratic pollsters stood up for the importance of persuading swing voters. [NY Times]
Gourevitch: Both swing voters and mobilization targets are rare - Democratic pollster Nick Gourevitch turned to the "national voter file (a big individual-level database that campaign professionals use to tell them who votes and who does not)" in order to "learn more about the 28 percent of Obama voters and 17 percent of McCain voters in Professor Vavreck's chart who stayed home in 2010." In particular he examined voters "in the 31 states that track party registration -- using registered Democrats as a proxy for Obama voters and registered Republicans as a proxy for McCain voter." His conclusion: "[T]here are very few swing voters and it is hard to persuade them. But there are also not very many mobilization target voters -- and it is hard to activate them. The techniques to get voters to the polls are improving, but it's still hard and it's still just moving turnout rates around at the margins. And as a campaign decides how to allocate its resources, other factors also need to be considered, including the costs and conversion rates of persuasion vs. mobilization in their locale and in their race. In sum, it's not all about swing voters and it's not all about base mobilization -- it's about both." [HuffPost]
Mellman: Democrats should fight for swing voters - Democratic pollster Mark Mellman argues against a "get-out-the-vote-only posture" for his party's campaigns: "[E]ven if Democrats produced a 2.5 percentage point increase in party turnout beyond that which the Obama campaign generated in every district (a nearly impossible task, as we shall see in future columns), no more than two additional districts would be added to the Democratic column. That’s a far cry from the number needed to take control of the House. The much-discussed special election in Florida’s 13th District illustrates the point. An analysis by Yair Ghitza of Catalist reveals Democrats actually did better at turning out their voters than did Republicans. While both parties’ turnout naturally declined from the presidential election, Democratic turnout declined less than the GOP’s. But 1.4 percent of those who had voted for Alex Sink as the Democratic nominee for governor four years before did not vote for her in the congressional race this year. Keeping those voters, who have to be considered persuadable by any definition, would have won the race." [The Hill]
YOUNG VOTERS THIS YEAR MAY BE LESS DEMOCRATIC THAN IN PAST TWO ELECTIONS - Harry Enten: "Democrats are hoping to get more young people — who are less likely to vote in midterm elections – to vote in midterm elections. Yet, early polling suggests that even if Democrats are successful in 2014, the payoff would be less than it would have been in either of the past two election cycles. We know this by looking the national generic House ballot, as good an indicator as there is of the national political mood…. [Y]oung voters are less Democratic in comparison to the rest of the electorate than they were in the prior two elections. In fact, they’re about a third less Democratically inclined in comparison." 
MOST WANT TO SEE SUPREME COURT REFORM - Ryan Grim: "An overwhelming majority of voters would support sweeping reforms to the Supreme Court, as trust and confidence in the institution has eroded in recent years, according to a new survey by the Democratic-aligned firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. Wide majorities disagree with the recent 5-4 party-line rulings that have upended a century of campaign finance law and tilted the rules in favor of the extremely wealthy and major corporations. The landmark Citizens United ruling was opposed by a whopping 80-18 margin. The more recent McCutcheon decision, which lifted caps on total giving, was said by a 51 percent majority to be likely to create more corruption, while 8 percent suggested it would lead to less. By a 60-36 spread, those surveyed said that Supreme Court justices were more likely to be carrying out a personal or political agenda than working to render a fair and impartial judgment, an opinion that cut across party lines." [HuffPost]
Favorable views of the Court up from last summer - Pew Research: "Favorable views of the Supreme Court are back above 50%, having rebounded from historic lows reached in the summer of 2013. However, the court still has several major decisions pending that could impact the public’s views, including rulings on challenges to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers include contraceptive coverage in their employees’ health plans." [Pew]
CNN WOULD LIKE YOUR THOUGHTS ON TIME-TRAVELING PLANE ABDUCTORS - It's no poll about Vladimir Putin playing Hungry Hungry Hippos, but an entire CNN release is dedicated to the missing Malaysian Flight 370, including a set of speculative questions on what happened to the plane, with the admonition that "there are no right or wrong answers. We just want your best guess based on what you have read or heard about the missing plane, even if you haven't been following this story closely." Sample question: "Now here are a few groups that some people have suggested may be responsible for the disappearance of Flight 370 if an accident or mechanical failure was not the cause. As I read each one, please tell me whether you think it is very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely or not likely at all that the disappearance of Flight 370 was due to actions by that group….Space aliens, time travelers or beings from another dimension." [HuffPost]
In related news, today's poll sonnet
Whatever happened to that missing plane?
The folks at CNN won't let it go
With months of searching seemingly in vain
They asked the viewing public what they know
What caused the crash? Is anyone alive?
Where exactly did the wreckage scatter?
Should searchers keep continuing to dive?
Uninformed opinions really matter
Are "aliens" the culprits we should blame?
Or "beings from another dimension"?
The question that they didn't ask - a shame
Was "Is this getting too much attention?"
(In case you wondered, 89 percent
Say space aliens were a nonevent.)
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WEDNESDAY'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:
-Hickman Analytics (D) releases another set of Senate polls in five top Senate races for a pro-Keystone pipeline group. [Build KXL Now]
-59 percent of Americans say the government numbers understate the number of unemployed people. [YouGov]
-The Catholic share of the Latino population is declining. [Pew Research]
-Nate Cohn traces Sen. Mary Landrieu's difficult path to reelection. [NYTimes]
-David Hill (R) further ponders the challenges of measuring racism through survey questions. [The Hill]
-Ben Highton charts Republicans' electoral college difficulties for 2016. [WashPost]
-Rob Ford, Will Jennings, Mark Pickup and Chris Wlezien -- the team that was among the closest to the 2010 result -- issues their first forecast of the 2015 UK elections. [Univ. of Manchester]
-White Americans are more reluctant than blacks to force Donald Sterling to sell the Clippers...unless they follow the NBA. [Deadspin]
-Mother's Day beats Valentine's Day in number of Google searches for "flowers." [Pew Research]
-"56% Of Voters Say Country Better Off Than It Was 4 Eons Ago" [The Onion]