Polls settling: Brown still edges Coakley in the final hours; Update: Another look at turnout models

posted at 11:45 am on January 17, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

A couple of late polls in the Senate race in Massachusetts indicate that Scott Brown continues to lead Martha Coakley and is positioned for a game-changing upset in the special election.  According to a Coakley campaign internal poll, not much has changed since the beginning of the week:

I’ve been told reliably that Martha Coakley’s internal poll for Friday night showed Republican Scott Brown leading by two points, 47 to 45 percent. Her campaign’s three-night average for Friday, Thursday and Wednesday is the same — a 47 to 45 lead for Brown.

This is, obviously, not great news for the Democratic nominee. But it does suggest that Brown’s momentum — which took him from a double-digit gap to the lead in Coakley’s poll in about a week’s time — has been arrested. On Wednesday night, Coakley’s poll put her ahead by two, 46 to 44. On Thursday night, Brown surged ahead by three, 48 to 45. And on Friday, it was back to a two-point race. In other words, a nail-biter on Tuesday looks likely.

Well, it depends on the margin of error, the sampling technique, and the timing.  Steve Kornacki notes in an update that this survey took place before Coakley’s jaw-dropping assertion that Curt Schilling was a closet Yankee fan, which may not have much to do with policy but has everything to do with arrogance and being in touch with one’s constituents.  Even without that, a one-point shift in a poll does not show much of anything except a little statistical noise.  It also doesn’t make much difference to “arrest” Brown’s momentum if Brown’s still ahead with only two days left in the race.

Meanwhile, American Research Group conducted its final poll of the race and reported Brown up by three:

Republican Scott Brown leads Democrat Martha Coakley 48% to 45% in the special Massachusetts US Senate race to replace Senator Ted Kennedy in a telephone survey conducted January 12-14 among 600 likely voters in Massachusetts saying they will definitely vote in the special election on January 19.

Brown leads Coakley 94% to 1% among registered Republicans and he leads 58% to 37% among unenrolled voters. Coakley leads Brown 71% to 20% among registered Democrats. A total of 8% of Democrats and 5% of Republicans remain undecided.

If the Democrats hope to have a better time with absentee voters who cast ballots before Coakley’s collapse, the ARG survey has bad news for them there, too:

A total of 9% of likely voters say they have already voted by absentee ballot, with Brown leading Coakley 58% to 42%.

ARG provides the sampling for their likely voter survey (which we don’t have from the Coakley campaign):

Dems 263 43.8%
GOP 122 20.3%
Indys 213 35.5%

This looks like an oversample for Democrats at the expense of Republicans — and a seriously incorrect model for a special-election turnout in this election.  Pollster.com looked at this very issue in September, when Massachusetts scheduled the special election.  They concluded that a poll of MA adults gave Democrats a +17, and likely voters a +19 for next November’s gubernatorial race.  This sample gives Democrats a +23.5, almost the same gap by which Barack Obama beat John McCain in a heavy turnout election (+26).  Given the lack of voter intensity by Democrats and the escalating intensity of the Republicans and anti-incumbent independents, the actual gap for a turnout model should be significantly lower — perhaps by as much as a third.

In short, this is probably more than a three-point lead in actuality by Brown — and I’d bet the same modeling problems are in Coakley’s internal polls as well.

Update: I’ve run the numbers through a couple of permutations using the ARG survey answers.  Instead of using the +23.5 Dems survey ARG has, I’ll use the numbers from Pollster.com’s likely-voter scenario and rerun the survey percentages:

Brown Coakley
Dems 300 60 213
GOP 192 180.48 1.92
Indys 108 62.64 39.96
303.12 254.88
50.52% 42.48%

In this case, Brown wins by almost eight points, and wins a majority of the vote before the undecideds make up their minds.  Now lets look at a sample that uses the 35% independent vote and gives the Dems a +15 turnout in the election:

Dems 240 48 170.4
GOP 150 141 1.5
Indys 210 121.8 77.7
310.8 249.6
51.80% 41.60%

Now we see a ten-point lead for Brown.  The turnout model used by ARG and probably Coakley is almost certainly far too optimistic about Democratic turnout, and the race probably has more separation than either poll suggests.

Update II: Reader S averaged the exit-polling data from the 2006 and 2008 races — in which Dems were highly motivated and independents tilted against the GOP — and came up with a 41-18-41 split.   In that best-case turnout model, Brown leads by 4.5 points using the ARG survey responses:

2006-8 Average Model Brown Coakley
Dems 246 49.2 174.66
GOP 108 101.52 1.08
Indys 246 142.68 91.02
293.4 266.76
48.90% 44.46%

That’s high-end best-case for Coakley, and she’s still losing.


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Comments

Here he comes. He’s got the open collar thing going on again. He’s got all the gravitas of Pee Wee Herman.

kingsjester on January 17, 2010 at 4:01 PM

I saw that. You mean that wasn’t Pee Wee Herman?

petefrt on January 17, 2010 at 6:07 PM

PLEASE SEND SCOTT $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

OmahaConservative on January 17, 2010 at 6:10 PM

the BIG O is getting all “Wee Wee’d” up…It’s obvious..

AmericanPatriot70 on January 17, 2010 at 6:13 PM

I am going to break out the Coors Lite/Amaretto drink for Scott Brown, Pepperoni pizza to celebrate Nelson’s Pizza Parlor uprising last week, Scott in his military uniform right by my computer screen, and have my fingers and toes crossed for a fair fight on Tuesday night.

yoda on January 17, 2010 at 6:04 PM

Pepperoni Pizza & Dr. Pepper bombs for all!!!!! I am also wearing brown on Tuesday!!!!!!

huskerdiva on January 17, 2010 at 6:16 PM

the BIG O is getting all “Wee Wee’d” up…It’s obvious..

AmericanPatriot70 on January 17, 2010 at 6:13 PM

Thinkin about sending a giant size box of depends to white house on Tuesday…..

huskerdiva on January 17, 2010 at 6:19 PM

This one’s for Granny Dee – better go make the salad to go with dinner cause the dog is lookin pretty good right now! ttfn

huskerdiva on January 17, 2010 at 6:23 PM

I am making a huge pot of Great Northern Bean n ham soup just like mom’s. Wanted comfort food today for some reason.

OmahaConservative on January 17, 2010 at 5:35 PM

Omaha!!! No way!!! I was thinking last night to make the same thing, but have to go buy the beans.

You’ve convinced me. To the store I go tomorrow. (I’d say “manana” but that’s probably racist. With the libtards in power, I can’t keep up with what’s considered racist these days.)

GrannyDee on January 17, 2010 at 6:25 PM

If the price is right! He travels a lot, when he’s home he likes to cook, it’s his hobby…

huskerdiva on January 17, 2010 at 5:42 PM

I’m sooooooooo jealous about the cooking. The traveling? Hmmm…no comment. lol

This one’s for Granny Dee – better go make the salad to go with dinner cause the dog is lookin pretty good right now! ttfn

huskerdiva on January 17, 2010 at 6:23 PM

Timmy (the dog) got to lick the plate, and now I have to take him o-u-t. (We do a lot of spelling Timmy’s favorite words around here.)

Back later, says Timmy.

GrannyDee on January 17, 2010 at 6:32 PM

Pepperoni Pizza & Dr. Pepper bombs for all!!!!! I am also wearing brown on Tuesday!!!!!!
huskerdiva on January 17, 2010 at 6:16 PM

Maybe we’ll start something here and OC is cooking beans and cornbread…yum. Cyber Party!!!!!!

yoda on January 17, 2010 at 6:58 PM

Used a Cornbread mix I got at Aldi’s. Much better than Jiffy, not as sweet.

OmahaConservative on January 17, 2010 at 7:10 PM

Much better than Jiffy, not as sweet.
OmahaConservative on January 17, 2010 at 7:10 PM

If this Tuesday night dream comes true we will have a good reason to party. Thanks to you, many here donated OC. Tips hat.

yoda on January 17, 2010 at 7:42 PM

yoda on January 17, 2010 at 7:42 PM

This is (IMO) the most important election of our lives and our very way of life may depend on it. I am just trying to be a patriot here, that’s all

OmahaConservative on January 17, 2010 at 8:04 PM

Whatever the turnout model, it looks like this is going to be Acorn-proof, which is what we need. No lawsuits.

PattyJ on January 17, 2010 at 8:06 PM

PLEASE SEND SCOTT $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

OmahaConservative on January 17, 2010 at 6:10 PM

And the award for most requests for donations to Brown goes to OmahaConservative.

Mark Boabaca on January 17, 2010 at 8:07 PM

And the award for most requests for donations to Brown goes to OmahaConservative.

Mark Boabaca on January 17, 2010 at 8:07 PM

ya think? /

CWforFreedom on January 17, 2010 at 8:14 PM

I’m starting to get spooked by the polls… I’ll relax when the votes are counted – and Brown is declared the winner.

Remember, though Minnesota is also a Bluey screwy state – after Coleman had won the election – it was within 36 hours that the democrats had found hundreds of “uncounted” ballots. Then, Soros’s Secretary of State in Minnesota helped guide the neverending recounts. Next thing we know – the dumba$$ clown was named the 60th Democrat senator.

Several years ago – didn’t a Republican win the race for Governor of the state of Washington? Again, after numerous shady recounts – go figure – the Democratic candidate won.

Let’s not get overconfident in believing the polls. In Philadelphia – some dude was interviewed on CNN as having voted several times – with the CNN reporter just nervously giggling. Not a new idea for them – as Ed Shultz has said. With the SEIU and Acorn mobilized in MA – we need to remember that one has yet to match the Democrats with the ability to steal elections.

We need to be the way the Saints and Vikings were this weekend – relentless, and merciless, and keep piling it on.

Danny on January 17, 2010 at 9:56 PM

Needed: video of a bus convoy, haulin’ down the hiway — we can PS the SEIU logos on later .. and an appropriate “Mission Acomplished”-type banner — under the wheels.

/.

CaveatEmpty on January 17, 2010 at 10:06 PM

If Croakley’s numbers keep plummeting not even a crooked judge may be able to save her.

viking01 on January 17, 2010 at 10:08 PM

from Campaign Spot

Public Policy Polling appears to be likely to release a poll tonight showing Massachusetts neck-and-neck.

The electorate is becoming more Democratic. Last weekend we found it at Obama +16 and now we see it at Obama +20. So all the efforts to get the party base more engaged in the election are paying off. Balancing that out to some extent though is that we’re now seeing Brown win about 19% of the Obama vote, in comparison to 15% on our poll last week.

This line is intriguing:

Even though the race is too close to call overall, 58% of voters think Brown has made a strong case for why he should be elected while only 41% say the same of Coakley.

windansea on January 17, 2010 at 10:10 PM

What would happen if turnout followed partisan registration in Massachusetts: 37% D, 13% R, 50% I? Using the ARG results, this would result in Brown 48.6, Coakley 44.9.

The key here is Brown winning big among Independents (half the electorate), and peeling away a significant fraction of Democrats (20% of them is enough to swing the election, if Brown doesn’t lose Republicans).

A Dem +24% sample in a poll is not necessarily wrong in Massachusetts, but the ARG sample over-polled both Democrats and Republicans at the expense of Independents, relative to voter registration.

Most recent polls of this race show Brown winning big among Independents. In order to overcome the Democrats’ registration advantage, Brown will need a large Independent turnout and a large margin among them, and/or a significant (15%+) “crossover” vote from Democrats.

Steve Z on January 18, 2010 at 12:08 PM