Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Charlie Cook's Poll Analysis

Political polling guru Charlie Cook provides this reality check:

After five months of a remarkably stable and static presidential campaign, it's clear that President Bush has broken out of the pattern, though the magnitude of the bounce is not yet clear. The first two polls to come out post-convention indicate an 11-point Bush advantage, the next one seven points, yet there is plenty of arguing that these numbers might be suspect. The Time poll, conducted Wednesday and Thursday nights, was conducted either entirely or almost entirely before Bush even delivered his acceptance speech Thursday night. The Newsweek poll waited, but their Thursday- and Friday-evening survey started before the president spoke, and was completed on the Friday night of the three-day Labor Day weekend -- not the best time to seek a representative sample.

A Friday though Sunday CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll released Sunday afternoon pegged Bush's lead at seven points among likely voters, 52 percent to 45 percent, with Bush up two points from their last, August 23-25 poll, and Sen. John Kerry (D) down two points from that last poll. This would suggest a four point "bounce," from 50-47 to 52-45. Among registered voters, the president's lead was just one point, 49 percent to 48 percent. Even with this survey, to be dependent upon getting a representative sample over a holiday weekend is enough to make any
pollster wince. Polling conducted this week, after people are back from Labor Day and had a chance to digest the Republican Convention, will be a far better test.

But two consecutive surveys showing a lead for President Bush of 11 points and a third at seven points (if you prefer likely voter screens) strongly suggest that he's not just a point or two ahead as he was going in, and that something really did happen. Several long-time political pros, including some on the Republican side, suggest the true bounce will result in a Bush lead of five or six points, which is still a very respectable boost and larger than what Kerry got from his convention. The next question is how sustainable will it be. After all, then-Vice President Al Gore had a lead bigger than this coming out of Labor Day weekend in 2000, only to see it dissipate after his first debate (the one where he seemed to do an imitation of "Leave it to Beaver"'s Eddie Haskell).


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