Kerry's Convention Bounce
Confusion in the Polls
In the aftermath of the Democratic convention, much has been made about Kerry's convention bounce, or lack thereof. Gallup came out with a poll showing Kerry actually lost ground in the horse race, going from a 49-47 lead to a 47-50 deficit among likely voters. Conservatives have emphasized this poll. Meanwhile, several other polls showed a positive, though modest, bounce.
Gallup's analysis of its poll notes that the intensity of this year's election makes it incomparable to years past:
the average convention bounce calculated for previous conventions might not apply this year. Voters appear unusually intense this election compared with previous elections, with the number of persuadable voters only about half the total in 2000. In addition, it appears that more voters are paying closer attention to the campaign this year than in previous years, so that relatively few voters would find the convention presenting information they had not already heard.Kenneth Baer, writing in the American Prospect, builds on this explanation, noting that Kerry received his "bounce" when he solidified the Democratic nomination, and that his early performance in the polls is a sign of strength, rather than weakness. Other explanations for Kerry's lack of a significant bounce in the horse race are that he announced the Edwards selection too early; his speech was too long, too rushed, and otherwise poor; the more voters see Kerry the less they like him; the lack of news coverage from the networks and the lowish cable news viewership; poor control polling (the bounce has to be measured against previous polls - an uptick in Bush support prior to the convention would reduce the apparent size of a bounce when old polls are used as controls); and politicized national security operations, including Pakistan's capture of a terrorist on the day of Kerry's speech and a questionable elevation of the terrorist threat levels.
Will Saletan notes that Kerry's support in polls strengthened after the convention; it became more reliable even if it didn't increase considerably. Moreover, internals like "favorability/unfavorability" improved dramatically for Kerry. Ruy Texeira has an excellent analysis of Kerry's improvement in polling internals, with positive movement across the board. Bloomberg's analysis confirms that voters that may have previously been "ABB" were now Kerry voters. Bradford Plummer made many of the ssame points in Mother Jones. The outlier Gallup poll shows little increase in favorability, but is otherwise strong for Democrats.
While all this horse-race speculation is fun, it is completely irrelevant. If, as I suspect, the convention increased Kerry's support in battleground states, but reduced it in strong-Bush states, then he has moved toward Nov. 2 victory with a bounce in his step.
Consider the Zogby battleground poll. Between 7/26 and 8/2, Kerry's standing in the polls increased by 1.3% in Arkansas, 2.9% in Florida, 2% in Iowa, 1.7% in Minnesota, 4.3% in New Hampshire, 1.5% in Pennsylvania, and 7.3% in West Virginia. it dropped by 1.2% in Nevada, 1.2% in Michigan, 3.7% in Ohio, a whopping 8.3% in NM, and 5.2% in Oregon. Kerry now leads in West Virginia and Florida, but now trails in Nevada. Zogby polled during the convention, rather than after it.
Kerry experienced a 7% bounce in New Jersey, but stayed steady in Arizona. Strategic Vision (a Republican polling firm) gave Kerry a 2% bounce in MN, a 3% bounce in MI, a 1% bounce in Iowa, no bounce in Ohio, and a 2% bounce in GA.
We will have to wait on more polls to determine if he bounced in the battlegrounds, but the evidence is definitely pointing in that direction.