Professor Pundits: Things That Go Bump…Or Not

As political convention season comes to a close, presidential debate season begins. So, did either candidate get a “bump” from the conventions? In their newest installment, professor pundits Matt Dickinson and Bert Johnson say the whole idea of a bounce in the polls from the conventions may be a thing of the past. According to the pundits, several factors, including fragmented media coverage, are responsible for this trend. See what Matt and Bert have to say in the video below, and please send any presidential election-related questions to pundits@middlebury.edu.

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  1. Don’t you think that the calculation of “bumps” has become almost comic?

    First, the pundits set the bar, and then they compare changes after conventions to what they predicted in order to measure the “bump”. It is an exercise in manipulation.

    Take the Republican Convention “bump” for instance; arguably, it really began when Romney named Paul Ryan. So, how do you separate out the changes from that event and the changes after the convention? I can’t.

    Personally, I think it is all overrated. If there are any measurable changes, they usually occur after the debates. But then again, since the targeted states group continues to change, how do you separate out the country wide polls from the swing

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    states, and even within the small group, each swing state is different.

    There is one phenomenon I have noticed recently; the swing states category has actually enlarged, with Wisconsin and Michigan joining the undecided ranks. This change provides a different path for Romney/Ryan to win the 270 votes needed possibly without Ohio.

    Personally, as I predicted some time ago, I think it will be neck and neck up to the vote, and that Romney/Ryan will have a huge sweep, somewhat akin to 1994. I base this mostly on voter apathy for the Democratic policy. Just too many broken promises to too many different constituencies.

    One of the things that distinguishes Republicans from Democrats is the reliable tendency to come out and vote, no matter what. This will one factor will play a big role in the election of 2012.

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  2. Sheldon,

    I don’t know if I would characterize the discussion of convention-induced bumps as “comic”, but consistent with what I said in the video, I do think they are getting smaller. I also agree with you that it is hard to separate out the independent impact of a convention bounce from a polling boost due to other factors, as with the Ryan pick in Romney’s case. Nonetheless, even a small convention boost can matter in a very close election – assuming, of course, that the boost is durable.

  3. Yes, Professor, “Comic”! Take a look at this part of the ABC-WaPo Poll, virutally ignored by the mainstream media in the description of “Obama’s new lead”:

    “WaPo-ABC Presidential Poll Showing Virtual Dead Heat Among Likely Voters Samples 33% Dems, 27% GOP
    Poll cooking season is officially in full swing. The headline today at the Washington Post reads: “Among likely voters, Obama-Romney close.” Dan Balz and Jon Cohen report that in a September 7-9 poll, “the (presidential) race remains close among likely voters, with Obama at 49 percent and Romney at 48 percent, virtually unchanged from a poll taken just before the conventions.” Ah, but Obama supposedly has a six-point lead among registered voters.

    Based on pair’s report, the easy choices on

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    how to interpret the results are these: Either President Obama really didn’t come out of the Democratic Convention with a polling bounce, or, if he did have a bounce, it disappeared after last Friday’s dreadful employment news. There’s a third and far more likely choice, which only becomes apparent once one sees the mix of respondents in the poll’s final listed question.
    Here is that question:
    Well, no wonder it’s close. The poll’s mix of registered voters was 32-26 Democrat-GOP, while its likely voters were 33-27. There is no evidence that the pollsters adjusted the results to reflect a more accurate breakdown of the electorate. If they come back and say that they did, the obvious response is “Well, you should have said so in the first place.”
    Because of the poll’s all too predictable skewing towards Democrats, it’s likely that Romney is ahead among likely voters and barely behind among registered voters.
    The most recent Rasmussion party-ID poll showed a breakdown of 37.6% Republicans and 33.3% Democrats. The most recent such attempt by Gallup shows 31% of Americans identifying as Democrats and 28% as Republicans.
    The WaPo-ABC poll shows Democrats favoring Obama by 94-5 and 91-5 among likely and registered voters, respectively, and Republicans favoring Romney by 91-6 and 89-6. From there, it’s relatively easy to estimate that if the pollsters had instead sampled equal percentages of Democrats and Republicans in both instances, Romney would have a four-point lead among likely voters of being a point behind, and would only be behind by one point instead of six with registered voters.”

    Comic, indeed. Me, I’d rather lead amongst the likely voters than the registered. How about you?

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  4. Bumps in favorable ratings for each party may be a function of the convention’s dominance in news coverage. Since there is far less televsion coverage than in the past with far more options for viewers to view something else, the impact is probably becoming less. Still, people do tune in and follow some of what is going on and the political parties stage conventions as a showplaces for causes and issue along with showcasing persons who just might interest the electorate or portions of it. A manifestation of this effect is the bump.

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We hope to create a lively discussion on MiddMag.com and invite you to add your voice. Please keep comments civil and relevant to the news item at hand. MiddMag.com may remove comments that do not follow these guidelines.

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