Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The Pundits Say "No Bounce." Maybe They Aren't Paying Attention

Viewers of shows such as "Hardball," "Meet the Press," and the array of shows on Fox News have been told that John Kerry got no bounce coming out of the Democratic National Convention.

Not the ridiculous 15-point bounce Bush flunky Matthew Dowd suggested in the e-mail heard around the world, nor the more modest 7-point bounce predicted by Pat Buchanan.

And from that starting point, the various pundits can then begin to question why the Democratic challenger failed to get a bounce. What's wrong with his message? Why isn't he registering with voters? Does Kerry's failure to get a bounce doom his chances?

It's a bunch of hooey. Polls go up, polls go down. But here's something I've noticed -- when the polls go down for Kerry, a lot of pundits start talking. And when they go up, suddenly those same pundits change the subject.

And since I haven't been hearing much about polls the past few days, it got me to thinking that maybe Kerry's numbers had actually bounced after all.

Take a look at two sets of polls of likely voters (as can be found on http://www.realclearpolitics.com), and you decide:

The first set of polls completed during or immediately after the Democratic National Convention (July 29-August 1).

Zogby: Kerry 48, Bush 43
ABC News/Washington Post: Kerry 49, Bush 48
CNN/Gallup/USA Today: Bush 51, Kerry 47

Average of those polls: Kerry 48, Bush 47.3

Now look at a second set of post-convention polls of likely voters (completed August 4-9):

Fox News: Kerry 48, Bush 43
Democracy Corps: Kerry 52, Bush 45
Rasmussen: Kerry 49, Bush 46

Average of those polls: Kerry 49.7, Bush 44.7

Now, I'm sure the conservatives will discount the Democracy Corps poll, since Democracy Corps is a partisan polling firm. Fine. Throw that one out. Kerry's lead shrinks to 48.5 to 44.5.

In other words, slightly more than a three-point bounce for Kerry.

Is that a big bounce? No. But look at the polling numbers, and you see that less than 5% of voters were undecided before the convention, and only slightly more voters were undecided afterward. How big a bounce can one expect when nearly 95 voters out of 100 polled have made up their minds.

The bounce, read differently, suggests that three Bush voters (on average) moved over to Kerry. And yes, the reverse could occur after the Republican convention, then reverse course again after the first debate, and so on.

But that's not the issue. The issue is, why is there an inverse relationship between Kerry's success in the post-conventon polls and the number of pundits discussing it?

***

For those of you who say, "The popular vote doesn't matter," check out realclearpolitics.com's state-by-state polling. If you look at the battleground states, and compare Kerry's numbers to Al Gore's in 2000, you'll find that Kerry picks up at least 25 electoral college votes. And that doesn't factor in Ohio, which has gone back and forth over the past few polls (Bush leads in the most recent poll).

In other words, tally up all the electoral votes, and Kerry wins with about 295-300 votes.

The pundits don't often discuss electoral college votes. There's a lot of math involved, and the numbers can fluctuate as new polling data is released. But still, to discuss Bush vs. Kerry without the context of the electoral college count would be like throwing up Bush-Kerry-Nader polls, even though Nader will likely only appear on the ballot in a handful of states.

But that's another story ...

David

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, I can agree here on one thing. It is the electoral votes that matter, not popular vote. And current stats, if they are to be believed, lean toward Kerry. But that said, stats are bent ten different directions. More important to decide who to vote for based on issues, not on conspiracies, theories, positions of conservative or liberal news organizations etc. As repulsive as Michael Moore's documentary is/was, it still has not been disavowed by the mainstream dems. Now this book comes out questioning the integrity of Kerry and specifically his time in 'nam and i wonder what the republican and white house response will be. they should disavow as well. You can talk about flip flops on Bushs positions ad nauseum but I find that even liberals tend to believe GWB does not flip flop much, especially compared to other politicans. They just hate his positions--fair enough. Kerry, at least from my view, is stronger on social issues and needs to play that up far more than he has. He has closed the gap remarkably on security but will fall once again unless he comes out with a strong position on iraq. i cant figure out where he stands......and i do not want to hear that he will talk to world leaders, gain their alliances, and replace our troops with theirs. That is an absurdity only to be believed by the far left. Forgeting how we got into the mess that is iraq, seems to me he has not said anything much different from gwb about what to do now. and he is short on specifics. and i also do not understand his position on the war on terror-can we move premptively or not? do we need UN permission or not? do we wait until attacked before taking action as in the past? these questions need to be answered clearly.

1:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't get David's point. How can people make the right choice for president, if the televisoni media -- msnbc, Fox, Cnn, etc. -- presents mostly news and conservative analysis? How fair is it if the tv media never report on "half-truths" from bush and Cheney?

4:33 PM  

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