Last week Landmark Communications, Inc. published a public opinion survey regarding Georgia’s upcoming elections for Governor and Senate.
I’ve been asked some questions regarding what we are finding in our polls, and want to put the those findings in context.
Some of the reaction to our poll showing slight leads for the Democratic candidates for Governor and Senator has been amusing. Many political activists read polls just to self-validate their existing beliefs. So some people got upset when they saw our poll and disagreed with it. It’s human.
But that is not the purpose of a legitimate poll.
So I’m providing this memo to give context as why our poll concludes results different than others.
The difference between our poll and the others is due to demographic weighting: we believe that the model for our poll more accurately matches the demographics of a Georgia general election.
We believe that other firms are aware of the issue and that they will ultimately modify their weighting to account for it.
#1. DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGES Georgia is facing changing demographics faster than most states in the nation.
Since 2010, there have been 925,000 newly registered voters (net) in Georgia. Based on voting behavior by all demographic groups, this registration has added approximately 200,000 net new behaviorally Democratic voters to Georgia’s voting rolls. This means approximately 50,000 net registered voters added each year to the voting rolls in Georgia since the 2010 election.
Female voters now make up more than 55% of all voters registered in Georgia. This has happened in part because African American voters are disproportionately female.
I have raised these demographic changes countless times to political parties and to civic organizations. Arguably this topic has been raised and discussed more frequently by me than any other pollster/political consultant in Georgia.
#2. WHAT HAPPENS IN A GEORGIA GENERAL ELECTION TODAY IF ONE RELIES ON A MODEL BASED UPON 2010 TURNOUT PERCENTAGES?
In 2010 the percentage of the general election voters that was African-American was approximately 28.5% (though it must be taken into context that voters who haven’t provided their ethnicity on voter registration applications are also disproportionately minority voters, meaning that the ‘real’ minority vote would have been about 30%).
In fact, if the 2010 election were held today using today’s voter registration numbers, and if the demographic turnout for white, black, and non-black minority voters were the same percentages as the 2010 election, then about 30% of voters would be African American: about a 1.5% higher than 2010’s general election black turnout.
#3. WE BELIEVE THAT THE LANDMARK POLL MORE ACCURATELY REFLECTS LIKELY DEMOGRAPHIC TURNOUT OF A GEORGIA GENERAL ELECTION IN A GUBERNATORIAL YEAR.
It’s easy for folks who don’t watch demographics in Georgia, whether they are political operatives out of state pollsters, to miss the changing demographics in Georgia. Many people who read polls are looking to simply confirm their own world view.
Many other polling firms have projected a 26% “black vote” turnout in November.
…But the percentage of the black vote in Georgia hasn’t been 26% of the electorate since 2006—more than three elections ago. We do not agree with this model.
The Landmark poll projects a 29% ‘black vote.’ Frankly, anywhere from 28% to 30% would be reasonable, but we believe 26% is too low and has caused other polls to incorrectly display higher support for Republican candidates at this stage of the election.
Approximately 95% of black voters ultimately have voted for Democratic candidates in Georgia elections. This means other polling companies have understated the Democratic vote by a net-three percent just based on this issue alone.
Furthermore, SurveyUSA, which I do like and respect, is projecting gender differently than Landmark. Their poll projects a 52% male turnout, yet 56% of active voters in Georgia are female (as defined as having voted since January 2012). Furthermore, females make up 53-55% of Georgia general elections. Because females are currently choosing Democratic candidates by a double-digit margin, this is quite relevant. This is a separate methodological difference between our polls, and we believe our projection is more line with a Georgia general election.
#4. SHOOTING STRAIGHT. FOR A LONG DAWGONE TIME.
For nearly 25 years we have been the company to turn to for clients who want straight talk. We don’t do fluff and we don’t do work for clients where we have a conflict of interest. We are analytical and numbers-based in our work.
We believe content matters…not just smiling pictures.
–In 2002 Landmark was the only polling operation that I am aware of which projected that Sonny Perdue would win against Governor Roy Barnes.
–In 2010 we released a poll in the Republican runoff showing that Nathan Deal led Karen Handel by one percent (we had no client in the election, and were funding the polls ourselves for research).
Handel initially led Deal in the runoff by 9%, but Deal aggressively attacked Handel in the runoff while the Handel campaign didn’t counterpunch as hard. In our final poll, released the day before before the runoff election, Deal led by 2%. Deal then won by 2%. See below:
–We polled regularly during the 2010 general election and were among the most accurate polling firms anywhere to gauge Deal and Barnes support.
On October 26, 2010, we released a poll showing Deal leading Barnes by 49-42%:
–Then on General Election Day in a CBS on-air TV interview, I stated our projection that based on our polling Nathan Deal would win approximately 52% of the vote over Roy Barnes. Deal, of course, ultimately carried 53%– a very accurate projection by any account. This final projection was based on our final poll, conducted the Sunday prior to the election, which concluded Deal leading 47-41%:
–In the 2010 general election we publicly released a final poll in the congressional election between Austin Scott and former Congressman Jim Marshall showing Scott leading with 53%. Scott won 53%.
–In May 2014 we released a poll showing Barry Loudermilk finishing first in the 11thCongressional District primary over former Congressman Bob Barr in a field of good candidates. We then projected a runoff between the two.
–Also in May 2014 we identified Rick Allen as leading with a majority of the decided vote in the 12th Congressional District and likely to win the Republican nomination outright:
Not every survey will always be correct. Along with every other polling firm that I am aware of, we concluded that Jack Kingston led David Perdue in the GOP runoff for Senate. To the best of my knowledge, all polling firms showed Kingston ahead, not just Landmark.
However, turnout in rural areas where Kingston was stronger collapsed on Runoff Election Day and Perdue won. Not every survey will be correct, especially in low turnout elections.
But in the full picture, Landmark’s record is in unmatched in Georgia.
#5. A POLL IN AUGUST IS JUST A SNAPSHOT, NOT A PROJECTION OF AN ELECTION.
Finally, a poll is just a snapshot in time. While we have found that the Democratic candidates have a small lead at this time, which runs contrary to other polling firms, it does not mean a projection of victory or defeat two months from now.
Frankly, if anything it’s entirely possible that Georgia may face yet another General Election runoff: it happened in 1992 (Coverdell vs. Fowler) and again in 2008 (Chambliss vs. Martin). No candidate for Senate or Governor currently holds a majority of the vote.
Polls will bounce around as the election nears.
In summary, we will not “norm” our polls to the results of other polling companies just to please someone. We don’t do that, but there are plenty of political outfits out there that will, cashing their clients’ checks while providing inadequate political advice and polls that just please some third party.
Our clients depend on us for real numbers, quality analysis, a record of straight shooting over a long period of time, and our honest assessment of the playing field. It’s what makes us different in the industry.
Regardless of the cries to norm our polls to simply match the field and go silent, we won’t. You don’t deserve it, and neither do we.
President, Landmark Communications, Inc.