Add polling data to the growing list of things Republicans and Democrats don’t see eye to eye on.
With Barack Obama, by the reckoning of most polls, surging ahead of challenger Mitt Romney in recent weeks, many prominent Republicans have begun questioning the methodology, and the motives, of the pollsters. The skepticism has trickled down to the local level.
At Romney’s Sept. 28 rally at Valley Forge Military Academy—a state where he faces, according to election forecaster Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com, an 8.6 point deficit and has just a three percent chance of winning—each of the attendees Patch spoke with expressed the view that recent polling data isn't an accurate reflection of the state of the race.
Sharon Kanze is among the dubious. The problem, to her mind, is this: it’s a broadly accepted political truism that voters are more likely to support candidates who they perceive as doing well. So left-leaning pollsters, aided by members of the media with sympathetic views, have gamed the system to give the president a reelection nudge.
“That’s why I think they’re being manipulated in that direction,” the Romney supporter explained from her spot in line outside the academy. “The press is just so pro-Obama.”
Polly Beckham, a Romney volunteer out of Ambler, doesn’t have quite as fully-formed views as Kanze’s about the hows and whys of the polling problem, but she shares her sense that there’s a growing disconnect between how the race is being reported and the actual facts on the ground.
“I work in the Conshohocken Ryan/Romney office, and I talk to people. I’ve had people on the line who have said, for instance, a Democratic leader in Aliquippa, said ‘I’m so sick of this environment, I’m voting Republican.’”
She added, “There’s a lot going on below the surface. I think we’re about even in Pennsylvania.”
Brian Peppel, the head of the Phoenixville Republican Committee and a key player in Romney’s Chester County campaign, said, polls aside, there are other important indicators that auger well for his candidate.
Because TV ads are prohibitively expensive in Pennsylvania, both campaigns have focused on the “ground game”—old-fashioned, get out the vote efforts—and in that area the Romney team, Peppel says, is well ahead of the competition.
“The voter contacts we’ve made in Chester County have surpassed the last two elections already. And we’re leading the nation in voter contacts and get out the vote efforts,” he said.
“Pennsylvania is in play, despite what people are saying.”
Bad Intentions or Just Bad Technique?
Congressman Jim Gerlach (R-6), who spoke at the rally, told Patch he thinks the polls are off, but attributed their shortcomings more to bad methodology than ideology.
“[Pollsters] are using the wrong turnout model in their polling. If you’re using the 2008 turnout models, you’re using the wrong models, because Republicans have more voter intensity right now than Democrats. That’s the opposite of what it was four years ago,” said the congressman who is, by measure of the very polls he criticized, a heavy favorite to return to Washington for his sixth term.
Gerlach also threw cold water on the notion that the impression of a lead in a campaign necessarily becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“I’ve been in this before, it cuts both ways,” he said. “It might depress your turnout.”
Edward Kochman, a Romney supporter who has residences in King of Prussia and Florida—“Two swing states,” he noted—is similarly optimistic.
“I’m very glad that the pollsters are saying Obama has a lead,” he laughed. “I hope the Democrats will stay home hoping he doesn’t need their help again.”