The Thinker: Rich Galen


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A Poll Dump

Rich Galen

Thursday September 13, 2018

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  • Total employment is up, payrolls are up, GDP is up, the stock markets are up, independent business confidence is up

  • You name it and the data that are supposed to be up are up, the data that are supposed to be down are down to the point that you'd think fund managers would spend every lunch hour on Wall Street singing and dancing to show tunes.

  • Well, maybe they are.

  • But, with all those excellent numbers, the one number that is heading in the wrong direction is the number that most concerns Donald Trump: Donald Trump's approval rating.

  • According to, the six national polls measuring job approval that have been in the field in September all - ALL - have Trump's job approval not just under water, but they all have his disapproval over 50 percent.

  • Two polls, Rasmussen and Economisst/YouGov, have his approval rating at 45 and 44 percent respectively. But, the other four have Trump considerably lower:
    CNN - 36
    Quinnipiac - 38
    NPR/Marist - 38
    Gallup - 40

  • The CNN data are among the most current, so let's look at them.

  • One month ago, Trump's approval rating was 42 percent. A six percentage point change in a month is a lot. Let's unpack that number.

  • According to CNN:
    "Among independents, the drop has been sharper, from 47% approval last month to 31% now."

  • Trump has lost a third of his support among independents (this poll was in the field September 6-9) which probably concerns the White House, but better concern Republicans running for Mayor, State Rep., Congress, and U.S. Senate.

  • The danger I have warned you about throughout the primary season has been: Primaries (for the most part) pit Republicans against Republicans, and Democrats against Democrats. In the general election - now just 54 days away - in almost every case it is a Republican running against a Democrat.

  • In a primary, an endorsement by Donald Trump was a very powerful vote motivator. In Florida, for example, Trump's endorsement of Rep. Ron DeSantis (whose campaign ads demonstrated a level of Trump-worship that might have made even VP Mike Pence blush) pushed him to a victory over Rep. Adam Putnam by 20 percentage points.

  • But in the early polling in the general election, DeSantis trails the Mayor of Tallahassee, Andrew Gillum (a liberal Democrat) by four percentage points 47-43.

  • Let's do the math - always a problem when I've got control of the abacus. Let's take Gallup's word for it that the split among Rs, Is, and Ds is 28-43-27. These numbers bounce around month-to-month, but these are the most recent.

  • If that is true and 90+ percent of Rs will vote for the Republican in any given race, and 90+ percent of Ds will vote for the Democrat it is up to the Independents in the voting population to choose the next Mayor, State Rep., etc.

  • Few candidates, R or D, can depend solely on their party's regulars to push them over the line in a general election.

  • If Independents who might have voted for the Republican are so turned off by Trump that they either (a) vote for the Democrat or (b) don't vote at all you have a working definition of a wave.

  • Even if Trump, stumping the country between now and November 6, turns out every Republican voter, the weight of Democrats and non-Trump Independents will sink Republican campaigns.

  • There is a polling element known as the "generic vote." Pollsters ask "Are you more likely to vote for the Republican for Congress or the Democrat for Congress" (or some variant.)

  • That tends to take name ID (in the case of an incumbent running for re-election) out of the equation.

  • Quinnipiac University released the results of a poll just yesterday that showed Democrats leading Republicans by 14 percentage points - 52-38.

  • For comparison, in the 2010 midterm (Obama's first term) the RealClearPolitics generic ballot average going into election day was +9.4 for Republicans. The actual spread on election day was 6.8 percent.

  • Republicans picked up 63 seats that year.

  • The answer to your question is: In early November 2010, Obama's approval rating was 45-47 (according to Gallup). Yet his party got crushed.

  • The past, in politics, is rarely prologue. Candidates (and their genius consultants) like NFL coaches and generals typically fight the previous campaign because that's what they've studied.

  • Take all this with as much salt as you want, but remember what Damon Runyan famously wrote:
    "The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet."

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: A good summary of economic data from the Financial Times, a link to the RealClearPolitics polling page, and to the Quinnipiac University summary of its generic ballot result.

    The Mullfoto is of a very suspicious use of duct tape.

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