We May Not See the Tsunami Until It Is Upon Us

 

In two recent posts I discussed forecasts for the November midterms, including predictions about the potential for a Blue Wave and the odds of Republicans maintaining control of the Senate. But those polling numbers, interesting as they are, may not capture an aspect of the forthcoming blue wave. That aspect was touched on recently by both Sen. Ben Sasse on the latest episode of The Remnant and Harry Enten writing at CNN: Turnout sometimes just overwhelms the polling.*

It’s important to understand how pollsters operate. They don’t just call up 1,038 random people and the chips fall where they may. Pollsters balance the sample they look at based on what they think turnout will look like on Election Day. Using dissimilar turnout models, two different pollsters, working from the same data set, could come up with different numbers. So pollsters make educated guesses as to what the turnout will be in a various elections, based on voter enthusiasm.

In wave elections, pollsters underestimate voter turnout in favor of the party benefiting from the wave.

Enten went back to 2006 and looked at polling data at this point in the cycle as compared to performance on Election Day. The party that won the national House popular vote overperformed polling at this point by about three points. So if Democrats are currently ahead in the generic congressional ballot by an average of D+8.3 then, well, you can do that math, but it looks like they’re going to have a big night.

Enten also looked at individual district polls and found that the effect is larger in district polls. In 2006, the average district poll had Dems down by 1.5 points, and they ended up winning by, on average, four points. So if you look at individual polls, add another 5.5 points.

And that’s just the average! I think it’s fair to say we are in extraordinary political times. Despite a hot economy, presidential disapproval is over 50 percent. The one issue on the ballot this November, the issue that’s driving Democratic enthusiasm, is the President. If take a look at FiveThirtyEight’s map forecasting every congressional district, there are lots of districts marked as leaning Republican that could get swept up in a big wave of Democratic turnout.

At the same time that Democrats are eager to get to the polls, Republicans may not be as motivated. A recent poll showed that a majority of Republican voters don’t think the Democrats will take control of the House, including 57 percent of those who strongly support the President. (This perception is no doubt bolstered by talk about a Red Wave.)

And maybe there will be a Red Wave. Maybe, despite historic presidential unpopularity, the historical trend for the party controlling the White House to lose seats in midterm elections, Americans’ preference for divided government, and polling data, the Republicans might keep control of the House.

But I wouldn’t bet on it. In fact, I’d bet the other way: that there will be an enormous Democratic turnout, and the predictions of modest Democratic gains will turn out to be incorrect, and that it will be a big night for the Democrats.

*That may be a direct quote or close paraphrase of Sen. Sasse. I wasn’t able to find the precise words skimming back through the podcast.

Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 44 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  1. Guruforhire Member

    I think the VA governors race is indicative. The majority of the 1.28 million missing voters between it and the presidential election were team red.

    I think anybody that won their seat by less than 3% is out.

    • #1
    • September 18, 2018, at 1:10 PM PDT
    • Like
  2. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    I think there could well be a great blue wave of Democrat voter turn out. Unfortunately for democrats they’re not spread evenly across the country. So there are a lot of districts where they normally win by 10 points, this year they’ll win by 20. But in the Reddish parts of America the incumbent republicans, I think, are largely safe.

    I have been referring to the 270 to win’s election map:

    https://www.270towin.com/2018-house-election/

    Which only shows 29 competitive house seats. its 202/204 split.

    • #2
    • September 18, 2018, at 1:14 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  3. Weeping Member

    It’ll be interesting to see what kind of effect, if any, the Kavanaugh situation will have on the polls.

    • #3
    • September 18, 2018, at 1:24 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  4. GrannyDude Member

    Weeping (View Comment):

    It’ll be interesting to see what kind of effect, if any, the Kavanaugh situation will have on the polls.

    I know. I keep hoping for a wave of normal-Democrat revulsion to sweep through…

    • #4
    • September 18, 2018, at 1:31 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  5. Stad Thatcher

    Fred Cole: It’s important to understand how pollsters operate. They don’t just call up 1,038 random people and the chips fall where they may. Pollsters balance the sample they look at based on what they think turnout will look like on Election Day.

    No, Fred. These days, pollsters deliver the results the ones who hire them want to the target audience. It’s all intended to sway their views, and possibly make them (Republican voters) stay home by telling them it’s hopeless. By definition, scientific sampling (or balancing, as you call it) is the primary way to get the desired outcome their employers want. Data reduction and analysis is another way.

    “What they think” the turnout is is what they want. Hence, the skewing of the results.

    There is no red wave, there is no blue wave. The only real thing is the outcome of the actual polling, which will occur in the voting booth.

    • #5
    • September 18, 2018, at 1:33 PM PDT
    • 12 likes
  6. Mike H Thatcher

    Right now nothing is getting done except for judicial appointments, and that’s a good thing. We should always wish for a government that does nothing.

    If the Republicans win this fall they will continue to do nothing, and we should all wish for that.

    • #6
    • September 18, 2018, at 1:38 PM PDT
    • 12 likes
  7. Weeping Member

    GrannyDude (View Comment):

    Weeping (View Comment):

    It’ll be interesting to see what kind of effect, if any, the Kavanaugh situation will have on the polls.

    I know. I keep hoping for a wave of normal-Democrat revulsion to sweep through…

    Me too. I’m also hoping that seeing this circus will convince a lot of Republicans and/or Independents who are tempted to stay home that they absolutely don’t want the Democrats to be in charge in the House or Senate for the next two years, so they’d better get out and vote after all.

    • #7
    • September 18, 2018, at 1:40 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  8. Done Contributor

    Fred Cole: Enten went back to 2006 and looked at polling data at this point in the cycle as compared to performance on Election Day. The party that won the national House popular vote overperformed polling at this point by about three points. So if Democrats are currently ahead in the generic congressional ballot by an average of D+8.3 then, well, you can do that math, but it looks like they’re going to have a big night.

    Back to 2006 is way too small a sample size for this analysis. I’ve seen Nate silver do this with larger data sets and he has concluded you can’t predict which way the polls will error.

    • #8
    • September 18, 2018, at 1:50 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  9. Basil Fawlty Member

    “You may not see the tsunami until it is upon you.” FIFY.

    • #9
    • September 18, 2018, at 2:02 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. DonG Coolidge

    This is feels like a unique situation. The Dems have had a fever for 2 years and cannot possibly find any more enthusiasm. They are frothing so badly, that I they are turning off some independents. There is also a question about Millennials, who Tweet with such passion, will turn out IRL at a polling station. (IRL=in real life)

    • #10
    • September 18, 2018, at 2:09 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  11. Jager Member

    Going back to 1960, the only way to spot a “wave” is after it happened. 

    Average Mid term losses, GDP, Presidential Approval rating– all are things to look at but none are actually predictive. 

    https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2018/09/17/historic_midterm_trends_tell_usnothing_138087.html

     

    • #11
    • September 18, 2018, at 2:23 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. Roderic Fabian Reagan

    DonG (View Comment):

    This is feels like a unique situation. The Dems have had a fever for 2 years and cannot possibly find any more enthusiasm. They are frothing so badly, that I they are turning off some independents. There is also a question about Millennials, who Tweet with such passion, will turn out IRL at a polling station. (IRL=in real life)

    Indeed. It’s hard to gauge what Republicans are thinking. The left has gotten to be so violent and crazed that people are afraid to express themselves for fear of being physically attacked or having their property vandalized. 

    • #12
    • September 18, 2018, at 2:29 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. Front Seat Cat Member

    Polls or no polls, if the country wants control of the House or Senate to go back to the party with no ideas, who stoop at the most despicable means to win anything, and want to return to the disastrous policies of the last administration, or at least stonewall the next two years, any further progress that our country is currently making on many fronts, then have at it. It’s a free country and people will vote how they want to vote, and the outcome should be respected – 

    • #13
    • September 18, 2018, at 2:39 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  14. Leslie Watkins Member

    click bait

    • #14
    • September 18, 2018, at 2:41 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  15. Fred Cole Member
    Fred Cole Post author

    Stad (View Comment):
    It’s all intended to sway their views, and possibly make them (Republican voters) stay home by telling them it’s hopeless.

    Look, either it’s intended to depress turnout by convincing Republicans its hopeless or it’s intended to depress turnout by making Republicans overconfident. It can’t be both. 

    • #15
    • September 18, 2018, at 2:43 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  16. Jim McConnell Member

    And those scientific pollsters were so correct in predicting the 2016 presidential results. 

    I think I’ll wait until the day after to make my prediction.

    • #16
    • September 18, 2018, at 3:02 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  17. Mike H Thatcher

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    Polls or no polls, if the country wants control of the House or Senate to go back to the party with no ideas…

    What do you mean no ideas? They’re going to institute a UBI and Medicare for all the next time there’s a recession, and we’re due for one.

    • #17
    • September 18, 2018, at 3:08 PM PDT
    • Like
  18. Henry Racette Contributor

    It remains historically improbable that the Republicans will keep the House. Whether or not we keep the House, as long as we hold the Senate business is likely to continue largely as it has: the Senate, thanks to Senate rules and our squishy interpretation of “filibuster,” has been largely deadlocked all year, and is likely to continue that way.

    If we lose both the House and the Senate, I think we will be in a high-risk situation. I think the Senate Democrats will, with the disregard for any semblance of foresight or caution that has come to typify the Party, invoke the so-called “nuclear option” and change the rules to effectively allow bills to pass by a simple majority. They will then pass legislation and forward it to the President.

    I’ve always thought that the greatest risk associated with this President, from a policy standpoint, is that he isn’t ideological. I can imagine him signing Democrat-passed legislation.

    So keeping the Senate seems very important to me. I expect to lose the House, and I can see about as many positives as negatives to that. It will hurt mostly because it will be the product of a campaign of gross distortion waged for two years by a corrupt press and various opinion-shaping elites, and losing under those circumstances is offensive.

    As for predictions…. We live in unusual times. Public opinion is shifting and volatile, the media are sensational, hyperbolic, shallow, biased, and distrusted. The economy is excellent, consumer confidence high, the nation geographically fragmented. I have no particular reason not to trust the polls, and I generally think polling has gotten pretty good. But we are experiencing a confluence of unusual — even unique — conditions, and I’m less sure about the next election than I otherwise might be.

     

    • #18
    • September 18, 2018, at 3:23 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  19. Jon1979 Lincoln

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    I’ve always thought that the greatest risk associated with this President, from a policy standpoint, is that he isn’t ideological. I can imagine him signing Democrat-passed legislation.

    That’s been the concern voiced by the less hyperbolic #NeverTrump people who’ve maintained their ties to their traditional beliefs — that Trump over the past four decades has swung back-and-forth ideologically, not as a leading indicator, but as a trailing one of where he sees the swing voters going. But his ability to garner media attention and his own love of hyperbole convinces people that he’s at the leading edge of trends, and not reacting to what he sees happening with the majority of the public.

    After the bashing he’s taken from the left the past three years, the question is would he stand firm on his current general positions were the Democrats to win both houses of Congress in November, or would he seek to pull a reverse Clinton and triangulate towards the left after a midterm debacle, the way Bill did following the 1994 midterm losses? Nobody really knows the answer right now, though it would be better for the GOP if they don’t have to find out starting on November 7th.

     

     

    • #19
    • September 18, 2018, at 3:40 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  20. Could Be Anyone Member

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    And those scientific pollsters were so correct in predicting the 2016 presidential results.

    I think I’ll wait until the day after to make my prediction.

    The national polling averages were within the margin of error on the total vote counts in 2016. It was where those votes happened that changed the outcome, roughly 77,000 in a handful of states. That is a razor thin margin of victory in an election where nearly 130 million people vote (its .06 percent of the total vote) and yet here on Ricochet and other places people act like Trump won by 10 million votes or something.

    Polling is accurate because elections are dead serious endeavors and has a considerable tradition in American politics. It’s a market and thus has all the incentives of one, which means conducting accurate polling. Disregarding polling because some polls incorrectly predicted the outcome by the slightest of measure, in an electoral college race (which is different from other elections), is a poor argument for discounting polling in congressional races.

    • #20
    • September 18, 2018, at 3:48 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  21. Could Be Anyone Member

    Mike H (View Comment):

    Right now nothing is getting done except for judicial appointments, and that’s a good thing. We should always wish for a government that does nothing.

    If the Republicans win this fall they will continue to do nothing, and we should all wish for that.

    You mean the government is not doing anything new aside from those judicial appointments. The government is conducting plenty of inefficient, misguided and extra-constitutional programs to the cost of trillions of dollars. What I wish for is for the federal government to eliminate all mandatory spending—preferably in 5-10 years—but that is an actual wish (its so unlikely it might as well be fiction).

    • #21
    • September 18, 2018, at 3:51 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  22. Fake John/Jane Galt Thatcher

    How can we not see the “Blue Wave”, you NeverTrump and Democrats types talk about it with your every waking breath. It is like a life vest on the Titanic for you guys. You talk about almost nothing else but how Trump is destroying the party, the country and the fabled “Blue Wave” of proof of how terrible Trump is.

    • #22
    • September 18, 2018, at 3:57 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  23. Hoyacon Member

    How “modest” are the modest Democratic gains that are being predicted?

    The present standard is the 63 House seats lost by the Democrats in Obama’s first off-year. People keep trying to tell me that was because of Obamacare (questionable), but Trump is at least, and likely more, controversial than a piece of legislation from a popular President.

    • #23
    • September 18, 2018, at 4:05 PM PDT
    • Like
  24. E. Kent Golding Member

    I have no idea who is going to win nationwide. Republicans are going to lose big in Michigan. I am going to vote straight ticket republican; not because I like the republicans, but because I want to vote for the alternative to Evil.

    • #24
    • September 18, 2018, at 4:08 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  25. E. Kent Golding Member

    Currently, Women hate republicans because republicans are the daddy party and democrats are the mommy party. And more women vote than men.

    • #25
    • September 18, 2018, at 4:10 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  26. Mike H Thatcher

    Could Be Anyone (View Comment):

    Mike H (View Comment):

    Right now nothing is getting done except for judicial appointments, and that’s a good thing. We should always wish for a government that does nothing.

    If the Republicans win this fall they will continue to do nothing, and we should all wish for that.

    You mean the government is not doing anything new aside from those judicial appointments. The government is conducting plenty of inefficient, misguided and extra-constitutional programs to the cost of trillions of dollars. What I wish for is for the federal government to eliminate all mandatory spending—preferably in 5-10 years—but that is an actual wish (its so unlikely it might as well be fiction).

    Well, sure, I’d like to see the government disappear, but I’ve learned to develop insanely low expectations as long as we have a government, so I look on with mild amusement at things like Trump and whatever horor will be the counterbalance to him.

    • #26
    • September 18, 2018, at 5:04 PM PDT
    • Like
  27. Kozak Member

    Or not.

    • #27
    • September 18, 2018, at 5:30 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  28. Kozak Member

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    How can we not see the “Blue Wave”, you NeverTrump and Democrats types talk about it with your every waking breath. It is like a life vest on the Titanic for you guys. You talk about almost nothing else but how Trump is destroying the party, the country and the fabled “Blue Wave” of proof of how terrible Trump is.

    If there’s a blue wave it’s because of the t##ds in the bowl like Flake and Kasich doing everything they can to alienate the voters.

    • #28
    • September 18, 2018, at 5:32 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  29. Fake John/Jane Galt Thatcher

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    How can we not see the “Blue Wave”, you NeverTrump and Democrats types talk about it with your every waking breath. It is like a life vest on the Titanic for you guys. You talk about almost nothing else but how Trump is destroying the party, the country and the fabled “Blue Wave” of proof of how terrible Trump is.

    If there’s a blue wave it’s because of the t##ds in the bowl like Flake and Kasich doing everything they can to alienate the voters.

    More than just those guys. I notice that Obamacare is still going strong. Don’t see much of a wall either. The GOP is big on talk and when they get a chance they like to drop the ball and blame others.

    • #29
    • September 18, 2018, at 5:54 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  30. blood thirsty neocon Inactive

    Great, so take me up on the wager I proposed.

    • #30
    • September 18, 2018, at 7:26 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  1. 1
  2. 2