Introducing The Senate Breakers Report

Senate RCP 9 25 14

Today I’m introducing a quick-and-dirty metric for examining the state of play in the Senate races: the Senate Breakers Report.

As I explained eleven days ago, the history of the last six Senate election cycles shows that the final results can and do differ from where the polls stand in mid-September, and the strong tendency has been for the final results to move in the direction of the “wave” party, i.e., the same party that is doing well in the generic House ballot polls and the presidential approval rating polls. Sean Trende’s latest analysis builds on that (“candidates who have led by five points (rounded) or less have won only 15 of the 33 races in which they have been involved”) and develops the theory that he has been examining for much of the year: that the Democrats’ performance in Senate races would ultimately converge around President Obama’s approval rating in those states, which of course is dismal in all but the bluest states. At this writing, Obama is 12 points underwater nationally (41.4 to 53.5) and Republicans – driven in part by more pollsters switching from registered to likely voter screens – have taken off in the generic ballot, pulling ahead to a 4-point lead (46.5 to 42.5).

RCP Generic Ballot 9 26 14

Trende’s specific thesis has been that the reason the results diverge from the polls in the final four to six weeks in an election of this nature – i.e., a midterm where the President is unpopular – is that the Democrats have consolidated the voters who approve of President Obama, leaving them with a pool of anywhere from 10-20% of the electorate that is undecided in the Senate race but overwhelmingly consists of voters who disapprove of the president and are therefore likely (to the extent they vote at all) to vote for the opposition party. We don’t know if this will happen, but it’s the recent-historic trend. And if you drill into the polling, you can see some signs of it – consider PPP’s polling in Alaska in August and September:

PPP Aug Sept Begich Polls

Mark Begich’s positive job approval numbers sank between those two polls – to converge in the direction of Obama’s deep unpopularity in Alaska. Just to take PPP as an example, its latest polls had Obama’s approval …read more    

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