About that Gallup poll

It looks good for Democrats, but the "experts" took their analyses too far

I’ve got some news, and I am absolutely thrilled to share: I got my first full-time job in journalism. I’ve been working to get my foot into the door for years now, and I am so grateful for this opprotunity.

I can’t share where I’ll be working quite yet, but I’m going to be joining the editorial team of a new-ish political magazine/newsletter. I hope to carve out time each week and continue publishing here every Friday. I will give more details next week, after I’ve had a few days on the job.

I’ll also be sharing the news on Twitter in the next few days, so give me a follow there if you want to hear the news first.

Thank you for all your support and, for now, enjoy today’s edition of Infinite Monkeys. 

— Seth


Above the Fold

The “experts” are at it again. A single Gallup poll is apparently enough for CNN, The Daily Beast, and US News, among others, to claim that Republicans are evacuating the party en-mass. 

Here’s what happened: Gallup released a poll this week that shows a drop in Republican affiliation among Americans. According to the study, 49% of Americans consider themselves a Democrat or lean towards Democratic Party, while 40% say they are Republican or lean towards the Republican Party. A 9% gap seems like a big deal. And it might be! But I’m skeptical, and I think this tells us less about electoral prospects than mainstream outlet click-bait makes it seem.

First things first: The poll certainly looks good for Democrats. A 9% gap is the largest they have held since 2012. But party lean is not everything, particularly when it comes to winning elections. What matters is who shows up to vote, and though Democrats pretty much always lead in the party lean, they have a harder time getting their supporters to the polls. Democrats led in party lean in 2012 when they lost 8 House seats and in 2016 when they lost the presidency. Republicans just barely led in party lean in their gangbusters 2010 midterms when they flipped 63 House seats. 

So, yes, this data point is important, but it doesn’t tell us too much about electoral prospects, especially 19 months before the midterms. A much better measure to forecast election results is the generic ballot, in which pollsters ask respondents to choose between a nameless Republican and Democrat for Congress. I’ve written about this for Sabato’s Crystal Ball if you’re interested. 

Also, I’m honestly not too inclined to trust polling like this right now. Electoral polls have been pretty bad recently. And with polls like this that are non-falsifiable (unlike elections, in which pollsters will be proven right or wrong), I’m even more skeptical.

I’m no data scientist. And I’m certainly no statistics expert. But when I read Pew’s (excellent) soul-searching article on polling limitations and see G. Elliot Morris, a data-journalist for the Economist, questioning the poll, I’m not inclined to make sweeping pronouncements about Republican doom. 

Apparently, this prudence is not widespread.

CNN absolutely blew it with this headline: “This is a *major* warning sign for Republicans.” The article, written by the oft-ridiculed Chris Cillizza, is of similar quality to the headline. And other articles (like this one from Newsweek: “Republican Voters Shed Party Colors Following Capitol Attack, Coronavirus Chaos”) drawing broad, unproven implications and throughlines are irresponsible at best. 

This isn’t to say that I completely disregard the poll. Overall, I would rather have the Democratic numbers than the Republican ones. And it does look like there has been some shifting since the start of 2020. But the shift is relatively subtle (even within the margin of error, according to Morris) and something that we’ve seen before. Republicans had no problem coming back from their 10+ point deficit in 2008 to give Democrats a thumping two years later.

Read more: Gallup

The Front Page

Justice Democrats endorsed their first candidate of the 2022 cycle. The progressive group, which helped elect some of the most famous left-wing Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman, endorsed Odessa Kelly this week. Kelly is running to primary Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper who represents Tennessee’s Fifth District, which includes Nashville and votes overwhelmingly Democratic. Justice Democrats want to replace Cooper, who they see as too conservative and out of step with his district. 

The endorsement is a sign that the rift within the party remains. Progressive’s want to reshape the party, and they plan to do so by knocking out moderate Democrats in safely blue districts. Alexandra Rojas, the group’s executive director, said in a statement that “our grassroots movement has shocked the nation in two cycles and we are prepared to do it again. It’s time to usher in a new generation of progressive leadership into the Democratic Party.” Read more: Politico

Mike Pence launched Advancing American Freedom, his first big move since he left the White House. The new organization’s stated goal is to “promotes and defends the successful policies of recent years,” but really, this is a way for Pence to keep himself on the radar for 2024. 

According to CBS, “The new group will enable Pence to maintain his political profile and serve as his vehicle to help defend Trump-era policies. A senior aide said the former vice president is likely to focus especially on the Biden administration's evolving immigration and border security policies and the current president's proposal to raise corporate tax rates to pay for a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure plan.” The unnamed senior aid continued that the organization would "merge traditional conservative values with the Make America Great agenda,” which gives some insight into how Pence will try to run his close to inevitable campaign in 2024. Read more: CBS

U.S. Representative Alcee Hastings, who represented Florida’s 23rd Congressional District since 1993, died on Tuesday of pancreatic cancer. Hastings was 83 and the most senior member of the Florida House delegation. Flordia law doesn’t have a deadline for special elections, so Democrats are waiting for the state’s governor, Ron Desantis, to schedule a date. Biden carried the district with a massive 55% margin, so the battle here will be in the Democratic primary. Hastings’ death opens a sixth vacancy in the House; Democrats now hold 218 seats to Republicans’ 211. Politico ran down a few Democrats who are eyeing the seat, a list composed mostly of local state and county elected officials. Read more: Politico

The Classifieds

Party Primaries Must Go in The Atlantic

Why the Republican Party Isn’t Rebranding in FiveThirtyEight

It's A No: Amazon Warehouse Workers Vote Against Unionizing In Historic Election in NPR

(Dis)Like what you read?

Have any criticisms, disagreements, compliments, or comments about this article? I want to hear them.

Just respond to this email and let me know your thoughts. More brains is better than one, so send any advice or suggestions you have my way.

— Seth