The most accurate pollsters of 2014 (and why that title, quite frankly, doesn’t mean very much)

Graph of the volatility of House polling conducted by the polling unit at the University of New Hampshire

What these guys lacked in consistency, they made up for in accuracy on Election Eve.

Of the nearly two dozen pollsters that met the parameters for our biennial study of pollster accuracy, it might seem odd at first blush that the crown for highest score came down to a tie between a partisan pollster (GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies) and the often-maligned (around these parts, at least) University of New Hampshire polling center.

However, given what we know now, it would be at least somewhat difficult to say that this distinction carries a great deal of honor with it.

For one thing, the results of this study, which covered pollsters for the 2014 cycle, unearthed (or, at a minimum, provided reams of evidence for) a series of weaknesses with the criteria that I discussed at length a week ago.

Despite unearthing those debatable components of the criteria, in the

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The perils of trying to define ‘an accurate pollster’

Democratic Kansas gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis

If the majority of polls in 2014 were accurate, this guy would be Governor of Kansas.

Next week, you can expect to see a piece offering a review of the performances of the polling community from the 2014 cycle. It is the third time I have taken on this particular task—you can see the efforts from 2012 and 2010 by clicking on the appropriate links.

You might note that I changed the formula for the rankings between 2010 and 2012. That’s because in 2010, the focus of the study was a bit more specific (the notion of whether there was a left-leaning or right-leaning “bias” among the more prolific pollsters). In 2012, we went for a little more comprehensive rating.

The plan, for 2014, was to try to generate some continuity by employing the same formula.

That is still the plan. But … whoo boy. Not to give away the ending,

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Daily Kos Elections presents our fully interactive visualizations of the 2014 federal elections

2014 U.S. House, Overall Win Margin

Daily Kos Elections is pleased to present a comprehensive look back at the 2014 election results, illustrated with a broad range of fully interactive maps and data visualizations. The above map, for instance, shows the 2014 U.S. House results by overall winning margin between Democrats and Republicans, with Democrats in blue Republicans in red. Click on a district and you will find info about the winner of each district, the 2014 election results, and the 2012 presidential results as calculated by Daily Kos Elections. The full-screen versions of this and the House maps below also have a map legend.

Aside from uncontested seats, the largest winning margins for each party were Democrat Nydia Velázquez’s 80 point win in New York’s 7th district and Republican Mac Thornberry’s 72 point win in Texas’ 13th district. Arizona’s 2nd district was the closest race of 2014, with Republican Martha McSally defeating incumbent Democrat Ron Barber by just 0.07 percent.

The interactive scatterplot below illustrates the very strong relationship between 2012 presidential and 2014 House performance. Hover over a dot and you will find the district winner and basic result stats, utilizing the two-party-only vote. Outliers to the top and left saw Democrats overperform, while those to the bottom and right saw Republicans do so.

2014 U.S. House Democratic Vote vs. Obama 2012

The non-interactive version also provides a line of best fit. There’s very little variation around the best-fit line, as the two election outcomes were highly correlated. Presidential performance in 2012 was the single most informative predictor 2014 congressional outcomes.

Head below the fold to see more maps on the House as well as similar visualizations for the Senate.

As partisan polarization has increased, split-ticket voting has declined precipitously

The decline in a measure of split-ticket voting. Explanation below.

Last month, Steve Singiser noted the paucity of congressional seats won by a presidential candidate of one party but held by a member of the opposite party following the elections of 2014 in his post, “Is split-ticket voting dying?” As Steve relates, the consequences of this change are more detrimental to Democrats than Republicans, especially in state legislatures.
In the graph above, we can see this decline in split-ticket voting for US Representatives clearly plotted. In 2000, a Republican running for the House received a vote share that was nearly nine points off (median) from what George Bush had in that same district; by 2012, that number had fallen to a little more than three points off from the vote share of Mitt Romney.

Join me below the fold to see graphs of these results.  

Scott Walker shifts to Republican primary culture-warrior mode

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker listens to his introduction from the side of the stage at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, January 24, 2015.  REUTERS/Jim Young  (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR4MRCP

Oh, look. Social conservative Scott Walker is back. The Wisconsin governor had downplayed his far-right positions on issues like abortion and marriage equality in the run-up to the 2014 general election, but now that he’s positioning himself for the 2016 Republican primary, it’s a different story. In a private meeting with Iowa Republicans last month:

…  he highlighted his early support for a “personhood amendment,” which defines life as beginning at conception and would effectively prohibit all abortions and some methods of birth control.

In speeches and statements, he has similarly emphasized his social conservative identity. It’s not a Mitt Romney-style flip-flop—Walker has consistently said he was against abortion, and certainly his actions as governor have reflected that—but when he’s in a general election campaign, Walker dramatically shifts his emphasis. For instance:

A few weeks before the November election, in an interview with The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the governor sidestepped questions about his earlier opposition to abortion, and declined four times to answer directly when asked if abortion should be prohibited after 20 weeks — a position he had previously embraced. He also declined to restate his earlier opposition to abortion in cases of rape and incest. […]
Asked about same-sex marriage, he told The Hill, a Washington publication, “I don’t talk about it at all.” As for defunding Planned Parenthood, he dismissed the issue as something that “gets some activists worked up, but taxpayers say, ‘What’s the big deal there?’ ”

Needless to say, this is not going to fly in Iowa and South Carolina for a Republican primary, as his early campaigning makes clear. This may end up being where Walker runs into trouble. It’s one thing to deflect and downplay as a state-level candidate, but as a Republican presidential primary candidate, he is likely to have to say enough extreme things in public that it will be very difficult for him to slip out of should he end up as his party’s presidential nominee. Walker has shown time and time again that he’s a slippery little sucker, but he’s looking at a new level of difficulty over the next 20 months.

Two states reveal the realities of the 2014 election ‘enthusiasm gap’

Senator Mark Udall joined Sandy Gutierrez (to his left), the president and CEO of the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Pueblo, at a Senate Democratic Hispanic Task Force meeting in Washington, D.C., to talk about innovative ways to encourage job growth acros

There is some evidence to suggest Mark Udall’s defeat can be chalked up, in part, to a far bigger dip in midterm turnout for Colorado Democrats when compared with the GOP.

As the holiday season moved along, election officials nationwide completed the process of declaring official the results of the 2014 midterm election cycle. On the whole, of course, said cycle was a tremendous disappointment for Democrats, who saw control of the United States Senate wrested from their grasp, as well as reduced numbers in the U.S. House.

At the state level, a disappointing evening in the battle over the three dozen governorships (Democrats had long been favored to hold serve, if not pick off one to three seats) culminated in the fewest number of Democratic governors in over a decade. Meanwhile, the blue team also took a substantial hit at the state legislative level, where several chambers were flipped in the direction of the GOP and the GOP made at least nominal gains in all but a handful of legislatures.

In the postmortem, one of the articles of faith among those trying to divine what went wrong for the Democrats was that flagging base turnout bore at least some of the blame for the outcome. As we now have more data to peruse (with, surely, more to come), the numbers provide some fairly compelling evidence for that thesis.

Even in states with comparably decent turnout, Democratic turnout seems to have tanked in comparison to their GOP foes. In states where turnout flagged, that characteristic was positively glaring. Head beyond the fold to look at two representative states (Colorado and Nevada), and a look at the D/R voting chasm that took place two short months ago.

Louisiana shows, once gain, the ineffectiveness of political ads

Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu speaking at the Port of New Orleans Container Terminal.

Sen, Mary Landrieu

Louisiana Senate race, 2014, General election

Landrieu (D) 42.08
Cassidy (R) 40.97
Maness (R) 13.76
Clements (R) 0.96

Louisiana Senate race, 2014, runoff

Cassidy (R) 55.94
Landrieu (D) 44.06

Defeated incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu barely hit 42 percent in the general election, but in the even lower turnout runoff election last week, she actually improved her standing with the electorate, ultimately losing by 12 points. Had you asked me the day before, I would’ve guesses she was going to lose by 20.

But here’s my point: In the month between the general and the runoff election, this is what the advertising picture looked like in Louisiana:

In total, outside groups supporting Landrieu aired about 100 TV ads, compared to more than 6,000 commercials from anti-Landrieu groups.

The RNC spent $1 million in runoff ads, as did the NRA, Freedom Partners and American Crossroads each. The RNC also spent $2.9 million on field. Another conservative group, Ending Spending, spent another $1.7 million. The only outside group to help Landrieu in the runoff, the American Humane Society, spent $123,000.
And despite all those millions and all those ads, with virtually nothing happening on the Democratic side, Landrieu still narrowed her gap in the second round.

Another $10 million against her wouldn’t have made a difference. Another $10 million on her behalf wouldn’t have made a difference. In our highly polarized political environment, no one’s mind is being changed. There are no “persuadables” waiting to make up their mind after careful examination of television messaging.

There are people who could be Republican. There are people who could be Democrat. Whoever gets more of their supporters and favorable demographic populations to the polls wins. And you don’t do that by blasting the airwaves with stupid ads.