Monday, November 07, 2005

Reading the Cross Tabs; Survey USA Updated Tonight Prior to Bush Visit

There's an interesting picture that emerges from the cross tabs of the surveys conducted by SurveyUSA since August. Each of the polls reflects different projections about the makeup of the electorate, reports data based on widely varying numbers of likely voters (568 to 804), and estimates the margin of error differently (from a high of 4.2% down to 3.5%). The increase in the number of "likely" voters in the sample reflects the fact that as the election gets closer more registered voters called by the firm identify themselves as "likely" voters.

In August, the SurveyUSA poll projected that African American voters would make up 17% of the electorate -- a wildly optimistic assumption given the fact that only Doug Wilder has generated that kind of turnout among African American voters (he got 17% to Warner's 15%). By this past weekend's poll, the portion of the turnout projected to be made up of African Americans had fallen to 13%.

The good news for Kaine is that, from the poll conducted August 6-8 to the poll conducted November 04-06, his winning margin went up even as the projected proportion of black voters fell -- from 5 points behind in the first week in August to 9 points ahead in the calls made November 04-06. Kilgore's support among African American voters, consistent with that garnered by Gilmore and Allen -- in the range of 16-18%, remained static while Kaine's rose from a low of 70% to a high of 79%.

The bad news for Kaine in the updated SurveyUSA numbers published tonight is that the momentum seems to be moving in Kilgore's direction. Averaging calls made Saturday, Sunday and Monday, SurveyUSA now projects Kaine as having a lead of only 5%. Here's what SurveyUSA reported tonight about the polling trends over the weekend:

Interviews in the Virginia governor's race conducted by SurveyUSA tonight Monday 11/7 (but before President Bush appeared in Richmond) show a swing back towards Republican candidate Jerry Kilgore, causing SurveyUSA to now update its final projection in the Virginia Governor's Contest. This morning, based on interviews conducted Friday, Saturday and Sunday (11/4/05 through 11/6/05), SurveyUSA released data that showed Democrat Tim Kaine 9 points ahead of Kilgore. However, because of intra-day volatility in that data, SurveyUSA continued to poll throughout the afternoon and evening today Monday 11/7. When interviews from the most recent 3 days -- Saturday, Sunday and today Monday -- are averaged, Kaine's lead shrinks now to 5 points. When interviews from just the past two days -- Sunday and today Monday -- are averaged, the contest is closer yet. When interviews from Monday only are considered, the contest is tied, but the Margin of Sampling error from just the one day of interviewing is high enough, and the results aberrant enough, that SurveyUSA is uncomfortable reporting just Monday-only data. For the record, SurveyUSA goes into the clubhouse with its final projection (based on Saturday, Sunday and Monday polling): Kaine 50%, Kilgore 45%. A closer outcome still is possible.

Turnout clearly remains key, and the SurveyUSA data reveal three key issues that, in addition to the pro-Kilgore momentum, could render Kaine's projected margin illusory.

First, there appears to be a general lack of enthusiasm in the African American community for Kaine's candidacy. African American voters could make up as little as 10% of the electorate.

Second, to ensure victory, Kaine needs to get closer to the 90% of the African American vote that Warner received.

Third, much of Kaine's projected lead is reflected in the rising gender gap. In August, Kaine held a lead among women of only 3%. In the most recent poll, his lead among women had risen to 16%. But, turnout rates for women voters in Virginia are notoriously low -- 33rd out of the 50 states. It's not clear that Kaine's candidacy has the emotional torque necessary to get women to the polls tomorrow, particularly in NOVA, where multi-tasking women need a compelling reason to get them to the polls.

With Republicans using dirty tricks to depress turnout, particularly among Democratic women (e.g., calls using Kaine's voice and negative literature made to look like it came from Potts), Kaine will need the best GOTV program ever mounted by a Democratic candidate in Virginia to win tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Good piece. There is truly not enough attention paid to the black
vote, esp. considering that shifts in it can swing a close election
like this one. I'd like to talk to you about this more in the near

I always question SurveyUSA data because it tends to suffer from
oversampling. Blacks comprise 18-20% of voting-age Virginians, and at
best, tend to be 18% of the vote. You're right in that the problem is
turnout. Frankly, going in to 2001 (I was on my brief 2-year sojourn
at UNC-CH - the only time I hadn't lived in VA since birth), I thought
Earley would do better because of his tight connections to black
ministers in Tidewater and his NAACP connections. Kilgore has done
enough to get around 8-11% of the black vote, but Kaine has been
uninspiring. Part of the issue is something I referred to in my
initial Black Virginia Votes post - there is no black political
machine and black voting is localized. There are huge numbers of black
residents outside of the urban cores of Richmond and Norfolk/Hampton,
especially out in Southside. The number of blacks in NoVA is also
significant in terms of where black Virginians are. Wilder's it as far
as black political leadership because Bobby Scott and the VA LBC have
little sway outside of their own districts

-- Conaway

CG2 said...

Mike Henry did it again. No one does it better when it comes to turnout.

Congratulations to him and his team, including the coordinated campaign, on their work to ensure Tim's election.