The Biden gap and the partisan poll flood: Breaking down the latest Senate polls

The Biden gap and the partisan poll flood: Breaking down the latest Senate polls

The new polls released so far this week represent some of the first independent polls in days — and they interrupted a steady stream of publicly released polls from Republican outlets, most of which contained results more favorable to the GOP.

Together, the new polls suggest that no party has a commanding advantage in the battle for the chamber. Republicans need one seat to regain control of the Senate — and while POLITICO’s Election Forecast currently ranks five seats as “Toss Ups,” two are currently held by Republicans.

That’s it five From the most recent polling data:

Democrats lead in Arizona and Pennsylvania

Among Democrats, the best news in the New York Times/Siena College polls came for Sen. Mark Kellywhich has seen his run in Arizona tighten considerably in recent weeks.

Not only does Kelly lead the Republican Blake Masters by 6 points in the poll, he is at 51 percent, just outside the important majority mark for an incumbent to feel safer. And he has a massive 22-point lead among registered independents, 58 percent to 36 percent.

But one poll doesn’t mean Kelly is suddenly safe. A second survey on Monday, from the state firm OH Predictive Insightsgave the Democrat a negligible, 2 point lead.

Meanwhile, Fetterman also posted a 6-point lead in the New York Times/Siena College poll. But his position is more precarious.

Most of the poll’s interviews were conducted before last Tuesday’s debate. And although the Times didn’t publish exact numbers, its story noted that Fetterman’s promotion declined in interviews conducted last Wednesday, the day after the Fetterman-Oz debate.

A Georgia runoff is looming

Monday also brought two new polls in Georgia, both of which indicated the possibility — or likelihood — of a December runoff.

Democratic Senator. Raphael Warnock he led Republican Herschel Walker in the New York Times/Siena College poll, 49 percent to 46 percent. That puts Warnock just shy of the majority needed to win outright.

But the The final Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll it showed Walker one point ahead of Warnock, 46 percent to 45 percent, with both men well below 50 percent.

Notably, the Journal-Constitution poll included Libertarian Chase Oliver as a named option for respondents. He had 5 percent support in the survey — a vote share that could easily keep the leader below 50 percent in a tight race.

But the New York Times poll didn’t mention Oliver — the respondents had to volunteer that they voted for him. That led to Oliver capturing just 1 percent of the vote in that survey, which helped Warnock close to a majority.

Both approaches have their virtues. Oliver is really on the ballot. But, historically, polls have overestimated support for third-party candidates when they’ve been called options.

However, given the close race between Warnock and Walker, Oliver’s eventual share of the vote could drag the race into extra time.

The Nevada tie

Nevada is knotted.

Democratic Senator. Catherine Cortez Masto and Republican Adam Laxalt were tied in the New York Times/Siena College poll, 47 percent to 47 percent. Another new survey on Monday, an OH Predictive Insights survey conducted for the nonprofit Nevada Independent showed Cortez Masto just ahead of Laxalt, 43 percent to 41 percent.

Again, although both polls indicate a close race, the differences in the vote share can be explained by different methodological choices. The Independent’s poll included all three third-party candidates, plus Nevada’s unique “none of these candidates” voting option.

But the Times poll asked respondents to volunteer the names of third-party candidates, and “none of these candidates,” likely leading to a higher vote share for the two major-party hopefuls.

Defying political gravity

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Democrats’ strong numbers in the New York Times/Siena College polls is how far ahead of President Joe Biden’s approval rating they are.

Biden’s approval rating in Arizona, according to the poll, is only 36 percent – a full 15 points behind Kelly’s vote share. Warnock is 10 points ahead of Biden in Georgia, Cortez Masto is 9 points in Nevada and Fetterman’s share is 7 points ahead of Biden in Pennsylvania.

For most of the year, both parties have been waiting for the share of the vote of the Democratic candidates and the approval rating of Biden to converge. That’s more likely to happen in House races, where the environment plays a bigger role and the less-funded candidates themselves have less impact.

If Kelly and Warnock survive next week, it will likely be a product of the durable profiles they have built, supported by their extravagant fundraising. What if they lose? It will be because the political gravity, and the drag of the low approval ratings of Biden, have been caught.

They support Pollapalooza

The flood of independent, nonpartisan ballots on Monday prompted a popular question from some Democrats: What took so long?

For the past week or so, polling outlets like RealClearPolitics and FiveThirtyEight have seen a steady stream of polls from Republicans (or Republican firms). This has led to a social media debate about whether the GOP’s rise in the polls is real — or if it’s an artifact of who the polls include those averages for.

How much influence do Republican polls have? In New Hampshire, four of the last seven polls in the FiveThirtyEight media are from Republican firms. In Pennsylvania, they are the three most recent polls, and six of the last nine. In Georgia, five of the last seven.

Some Democrats have worried that Republican companies have deliberately flooded the area for the purpose of affecting those polling averages — and the subsequent news coverage that comes with apparent momentum. Simon Rosenberg, a strategist who POLITICO West Wing Playbook called “the most optimistic Dem online“This summer, it appeared on MSNBC on Monday night to call the polls “effectively Republican propaganda” because the GOP is playing them.

There is no evidence, however, that it is a deliberate strategy to boost Republican chances in next week’s election.

But there is another side to the influx of Republican polls – the lack of independent public polls.

Many of the news responsible for large volumes of midterm voting four years ago are sitting on this cycle. NBC News commissioned 16 polls from Marist College from September to November in 2018; this year, NBC did not conduct any midterm polls.

The Times conducted about 100 polls, mostly in House races, in 2018. This year, they did four House races and five in the state.

In its newsletter accompanying the results of the new survey, the Times’ Nate Cohn wrote that “there is little doubt that the Democrats would have a more comfortable lead in the Senate if the polls that dominated the average in the past were a larger part of the average this year.”

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