New Democratic poll paints premature fight for the House

Nathan L. Gonzales March 23, 2011 · 10:35 AM EDT

“The Republican-Obama Seats Put Republican Majority in Jeopardy” declared a recent press release and accompanying poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (D) for Democracy Corps.

Maybe. But maybe not. And if you read the full release, you can tell that the authors of the memo know that they are drawing a conclusion that has no business being drawn at this point in the cycle.

The release began, “A new survey by Democracy Corps in 50 of the most competitive battleground Congressional districts - nearly all of which gave a majority to Obama in the last presidential election -shows the new Republican majority very much in play in 2012.*”

The key is the asterisk, which leads readers to the last sentence of the ninth, and final, paragraph of the release.

“Obviously, redistricting will impact the congressional battleground substantially, but these districts give a snapshot of the districts, and voters, who have swung between the two parties over the last two years.”

That’s a large caveat, considering many of the districts that were polled are likely to change dramatically (and in a few cases could be eliminated altogether) during redistricting.

The entire release appears to be more agenda-driven rather than driven by data.

For example, the polling memo is careful not to make specific accusations of vulnerability since a mere 20 interviews were likely conducted in each district (1000 total divided by 50 districts) but Democracy Corps also sent a corresponding link with the 50 districts surveyed, leading people to conclude which specific Members are vulnerable.

Some of the conclusions in the survey are not unreasonable but don’t necessarily lead to the Republican majority being in-play.

The memo points out that Republican incumbents hold a narrow lead of “just 2 points,” 46 percent to 44 percent in the ballot test against a generic Democratic challenger. That generic ballot is not dramatically different from last fall.

An October 16-18 Democracy Corps survey of likely voters nationwide showed Republicans ahead of Democrats on the generic ballot by just five points, two weeks before the GOP gained 63 seats in the House.

Republicans shouldn’t disregard the Democracy Corps numbers completely and the GOP incumbents polled may end up being extremely weak and vulnerable. But without congressional district lines and knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the Democratic challenger, it’s simply too early to make bold predictions. This survey is more about setting a narrative than helping to handicap the 2012 elections.