Gallup Builds The GOP Narrative
Last week, Deacon Blues noted something askew with a widely-distributed USAT/Gallup poll. In this poll, Gallup claimed that in the midst of the GOP’s far right lunge into a theocracy, both leading GOP contenders were running ahead or within a margin of error of Barack Obama, even though other polls taken during the month showed Obama opening up significant leads the more Romney and Santorum talked their nonsense. Deacon graciously pointed out that this was a well-worn area for me personally, as I had noted way back during the 2004 race that Gallup was using questionable poll samples to claim that Bush was ahead of Kerry, and to set a narrative that a Bush win was inevitable. This came in useful later when Bush allegedly beat Kerry, even though it has since been shown that the early exit polls in the 2004 race were accurate and that the turnout was much more Democratic and supportive of Kerry than the official version that was reported late that night.
I suspect the same thing is happening again in 2012. On “Hardball” and many of the other pundit shows, we’re being told every day that this race will be close, even as other pollsters including NBC’s own Marist polling and PPP are showing Obama opening up noticeable leads against both Romney and Santorum in battleground states and in national polling. Chris Matthews cites Gallup’s poll as his proof that the race will be close, as Howard Fineman and others simply nod their heads in agreement, without any of them going back to look at those Gallup polls and asking why they are an outlier with other national polls.
What’s going on here is exactly what happened in 2004, where the GOP was aided by the country’s preeminent pollster and a national media outlet to establish a narrative that despite dissatisfaction with Bush, he was ahead of Kerry and increasingly likely to win. As I’ve noted since, establishing such a narrative early during the primaries and general election is a prerequisite for justifying later why the election’s engineered end result flies in the face of the actual exit polls results. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself why Team Kerry thought they had won the election early that night, and even thought they had beaten Bush in Ohio until Ken Blackwell made sure the Ohio result went Bush’s way.
Sure, you can disagree with me on all of this, but at least note what Gallup has been doing since the release of this one poll, spread into the political discourse through the USAT. Again, remember that this poll seemingly used a sample that was 40% conservative, and had 29% of the respondents making an annual income of $75,000 or more. I doubt that either number is truly representative of the electorate at large right now, and Gallup itself admits it weighted this sample to comport to a March 2011 national demographic profile, when the country’s political environment was different in the aftermath of the Tea Party takeover of Congress. Regardless, nearly four years after a near-economic meltdown, does anyone really believe that nearly 3 in 10 of the electorate make $75,000 a year or more?
Keeping with my theory, take a look at the narrative building that Gallup has done from this one poll and others since.
Gallup tells us that congressional preference is split evenly between Democrats and the GOP at 47%, even though other polls say the Democrats have a lead.
Gallup tells us that the GOP still has an enthusiasm advantage over the Democrats, even though other pollsters say differently.
Gallup tells us that 51% of the country feels that Obama is “too liberal”, which is not surprising in a poll that used a sample made up of 40% conservatives and 29% making $75,000 a year or more.
Gallup tells us that the country is evenly split about Obama’s health care reform bill.
Gallup tells us that the country agrees slightly more with religious leaders than the Obama administration on the contraception coverage issue, including women, even though other pollsters had differing results.
Again, what’s going on here is narrative building, and the punditocracy is swallowing up the storyline peddled by Gallup of a president in electoral trouble, even though other polls specifically in battleground states that the GOP would need are now showing the GOP perilously close to going over a cliff. Such narrative building is essential to justify an end result that doesn't actually comport to real public opinion. It happened in 2004, and it’s close to happening again.