05/04/2009 02:20 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Pollster Smackdown: Greenberg Critiques Resurgent Republic

Well, that didn't take long.

Last week, we told you about a new Republican polling alliance, Resurgent Republic, modeled explicitly on the Democratic effort known as Democracy Corps, that debuted with a national survey and accompanying powerpoint presentation and strategy memo. Resurgent Republic is led by former Republican party chair Ed Gillespie and pollster Whit Ayres. Today, Stan Greenberg, the Democratic pollster that leads Democracy Corps, responds with a memo of his own offering both "congratulations" to the new group a sharp critique of their first survey.

First, Greenberg pointedly raises an issue some Pollster readers have flagged:

I am perplexed that your first poll would be so outside the mainstream on partisanship. Your poll gives the Democrats just a 2-point party identification advantage in the country, but other public polls in this period fell between +7 and +16 points - giving the Democrats an average advantage of 11 points. Virtually all your issue debates in the survey would have tilted quite differently had the poll been 9 points more Democratic.


If the Resurgent Republic poll is to be an outlier on partisanship, then I urge you to explain what about your methodology produces it - or simply to note the difference in your public release.

Next Greenberg hits what he describes as "self-deluding bias in question wording that might well contribute to Republicans digging themselves deeper and deeper into a hole." He provides some specific examples, but I will not try to summarize them all here -- go read the whole thing for the details. We can safely assume, however, that we will hear more from Resurgent Republic soon.

This dialogue underscores a point I tried to make last week. Both Democracy Corps and, now, Resurgent Republic aim to take public the sort of message testing that campaign pollsters do on internal surveys. Both are trying to provide ongoing open guidance to candidates and activists in their own parties. But also we have to keep in mind that they also serve as propaganda vehicles with the explicit aim of helping "shape the debate" over politics.

As such, the sort of pollster crossfire we are about to witness is not a bad thing. Having two mirror partisan polling groups on opposite sides ready to counter and respond to each others'  work on an ongoing basis will help keep both sides on their toes, and maybe, a little more honest.

PS:  As long as Greenberg is calling on Glllespie/Ayres to explain their methodology with respect to party identification, I'd like to broaden that request a little.  Could the pollsters on both sides of this argument disclose (a) whether they weight their results by party identification or anything like it and (b), if so, how those weights are determined?

We have tentatively included the Democracy Corps surveys on our new party identification chart, because when I last asked they did not weight by party.  However, as should be apparent in the chart below, since January their percentages for Republican and Democrat have been mighty consistent:  

Update:  Whit Ayres responds to TPM's Eric Kleefeld.