"This is as close to pollster hell as it gets." Or so wrote GOP pollster Bill Cullo last night on Crosstabs.org. While this may be an especially hellish week for Republican pollsters, Cullo makes a very valid point. "These days, any national voter survey more than 72 hours old is largely obsolete," he writes. "All indications are that the whole Foley situation has eviscerated any hint of a Republican reversal that may or may not have been underway." But what evidence do we have of that evisceration? Let's take a look.
The best evidence for the Republican "reversal" was a consistent 2-3 point improvement in the Bush job approval rating from August to September in national surveys of adults. As the table below shows, the five national surveys conducted entirely after the Foley resignation all indicate a 2-3 percentage point movement back in the opposite direction:
I usually hesitate to make too much of the often variable three-day rolling averages from automated pollster Rasmussen Reports, but one particular finding this week looks particularly ominous for the Republicans. Bush's "strongly disapprove" rating today sits at 46% after rising steadily from 39% a week ago (according to data on Rasmussen's premium site). It had averaged 39-40% during September and only registered as high as 46% on one other day this year (May 23, ten days after the all time low point on Charles Franklin's chart).
On the other hand, measurements of the generic congressional vote did not show a consistent change one way or another on the national surveys reported so far this week (including a Pew Research Center survey that happened to be in the field just at the Foley story broke):
Averaging across the four surveys shows no change. Why a small shift on the job rating but no change on the generic ballot? While the differences in population (adults vs. registered and likely voters) may have played a role, I see no obvious explanation. Still readers should note that the two biggest shifts to the Democrats occurred on the registered voter samples done entirely over the last three nights (Time & AP/IPSOS).
Cullo's point is worth remembering: The surveys above may be obsolete again by this time next week. However, given that the Foley story has focused much more directly on the Republican leadership in the House over the last few days. That turn in the story may explain the reportedly ominous internal GOP surveys discussed in this Fox News story (via Josh Marshall).
We will no doubt have more national surveys to report soon that should clarify things. Stay tuned.
Update: The Rasmussen Report update this morning showed the percentage expressing "strong disapproval" for George Bush dropping from 46% to 44%.
In his more graphical analysis of the trend in the Bush job rating, Charles Franklin ncluded one more survey I missed: The two national surveys from the Democratic aligned Democracy Corps conducted 9/17-19 and 10/1-3. They show the Bush job rating dropping one point among likely voters (from 44% to 43%). They show no change on the traditional generic House question. Democrats led on both surveys by 10 points (51% to 41%).