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Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See for full contents of our site

January 8, 2010


Some liberal groups are beating up on Rasmussen Reports for its polls, which is simply not fair. For example, in the 2008 primaries where we did a close analysis of poll results. Rasmussen came right in at the average (The Review's poll aggregation came in one point better).

John Fund, Wall Street Journal:
"Democrats are turning their fire on Scott Rasmussen, the prolific independent pollster whose surveys on elections, President Obama's popularity and a host of other issues are surfacing in the media with increasing frequency,'" reports Democratic pollster Mark Mellman complains that Mr. Rasmussen phrases polling 'questions in a way that supports a conservative interpretation of the world.' That's why Rasmussen's approval numbers for President Obama tend to be about five points lower than those of other pollsters, he says.

Mr. Rasmussen responds that any differences can be accounted for in large part because he screens for only those voters whom he determines are most likely to vote. This group, he says, is trending more conservative these days because they are highly motivated in opposition to Obama policies. Other firms poll adults without screening for likely voters, he told Politico, a procedure that's 'always going to yield a better result for Democrats.'

Most of us pay attention to polls because we want to know how upcoming elections are likely to play out and how the distribution of political power will change. On that score, Mr. Rasmussen seems to get solid results., a liberal Web site run by Nate Silver, found that Mr. Rasmussen had the third-highest mark for accuracy of any pollster in last year's elections. He predicted a six-point Obama victory; the final margin was seven points.

In 2009, Rasmussen did it again. His final survey in New Jersey had Republican Chris Christie beating Democrat Jon Corzine by three points, exactly the margin of Mr. Christie's victory. Says Mr. Silver: "Rasmussen's election polling has tended to be quite accurate in the past." He explains that "Rasmussen has a different model of what the 2010 election is going to look like, one which will feature a more conservative electorate. But that model isn't necessarily wrong, nor does it necessarily reflect bias."

POS - POS, with the help of data from the Gallup Organization and information from our friends at National Journal and The Cook Political Report, took a look at how presidential approval effected mid-term House losses for the President's party in every mid-term election since 1962. The results were staggering. If the President's approval rating was 60% or higher, the President's party picked up an average of 1 seat. If the approval rating was between 50 and 59%, the average loss was 12 seats. Finally, if the President's approval rating was below 50%, the average loss was 41 seats (one seat more than the 40 seats GOPers need to win back control of the House).

This is not to say that if Obama's approval rating is 48% in late October, Republicans should expect to take back the House. However, in the words of Gallup's Lydia Saad, "President Obama has been walking the public opinion tightrope represented by the 50% job approval line since about mid-November, with his rating wavering between 47 approval and 53 approval." If this tightrope walk continues, it will make for a lot (more) nervous nights for vulnerable incumbent Dems.



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