It seems to me there are two kinds of things you can ask for in a pre-midterm poll. One is a predictive gauge of how people are likely to vote, and one is an interpretative gauge of what their overall view is. And on the predictive point the latest NYT poll is loud and clear that the GOP is positioned to win big. But in interpretive terms, I’m struck by how little weight journalists keep giving to the numbers on overall attitudes toward the parties, because the result—they prefer Democrats—is pretty consistent:
You can give this a number of interpretations. One would cite it as evidence of irrationality. Another would be to cite it as evidence that even though voters prefer Democrats all things considered, they don’t love Democrats so they like the idea of restraining Barack Obama’s ambitions. Either way, it doesn’t change the fact that the odds strongly favor big Republican gains. But in terms of looking further forward at the future it re-enforces my point about the banality of tea—if hard-right conservative politics were suddenly poised for a comeback, the Democratic Party wouldn’t be the more popular of the two major parties. Similarly, President Obama himself at 45-47 is in a vulnerable posture but considerably more popular than the opposition party. At a minimum, anyone who thinks such a comeback is around the corner owes the world an explanation of these anomalous polling results.