Obama leading Romney by 9 in Fla? No way
The latest New York Times/CBS/Quinnipiac Poll shows Barack Obama trouncing Mitt Romney by 9 percentage points - 53 percent to 44. But is there a single objective political professional in Florida who actually believes Obama is leading by 9 points? In Florida?!
Maybe I'll eat my words on Nov. 6, but I loudly echo Florida GOP Chairman Lenny Curry's sentiments on Twitter earlier today: "If you believe this mornings Fl Q poll I have swamp land to sell you. Come on man! This is Florida."
So this brings us back to a complaint we've heard constantly from Florida political consultants on both sides of the aisle: Too many polls are based on an assumed electorate that has zero chance of occuring and therefore give a flawed view of the political landscape. (Quinnipiac has addressed this concern)
A lot of pollsters, including Quinnipiac, stay away from partisan weighting - the effort to mirror or predict actual party registration or turnout - and that makes sense in many cases. But Florida happens to have some of the best and most reliable voter registration data in the country, and the state's most experienced pollsters do tend to weight their poll to reflect actual voting behavior, instead of merely asking people what party they consider themselves at any given moment.
Current voter registration in Florida is roughly 40 percent Democrat, 36 percent Republican and the rest independent or third party. In 2008 - likely a best case scenario for Democrats - the electorate was 42 percent Democrat, 39 percent Republican, and 19 percent other - a three point Democratic advantage. In 2004 - a cycle Barack Obama presumably will beat this year - the electorate was 42 percent Democrat, 41 percent Republican, and 17 percent other.
Now look at the partisan breakdown in some recent Florida polls:
Quinnipiac (Obama +9): 36 percent Democrat, 27 percent Republican, 33 percent independent/other.
PPP Poll (Obama +4): 44 percent Democrat, 36 percent Republican, 20 percent independent.
Washington Post (Obama +4): 35 percent Democrat, 25 percent Republican, 32 percent independent.
Purple Strategies (Romney +1) 37 percent Democrat, 38 percent Republican, 24 percent independent.
Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald/Mason-Dixon (Obama +1): 44 percent Democrat, 39 percent Republican, 17 percent independent.
There is nothing automatically wrong with polls without partisan weighting, but I have been persuaded by pros from both parties that, at least in Florida with its excellent voter data, the sounder approach is to try to approximate the likely electorate.
It may be instructive that Quinnipiac and the Washington Post find more Florida voters today describing themselves as independents than Republicans. But Key West will freeze over before one in three voters in November is an independent -- or that Obama wins Florida by 9 percentage points.
My guess is Obama is slighty ahead in Florida - the RealClearPolitics average has him up by 3.1 percentage points - but a blow out? Chairman Curry is right: Come on, man. This is Florida.