Whenever I hear an operative complain about public polling, I have just one thing to say: Put up or shut up. Release your own numbers that show the race in a different place than the public polling, or let the public polling stand. This is especially true in House races, where public polling is limited and there’s a real chance to shape the conventional wisdom.
Perhaps, it’s not surprising then that when one party puts out a lot more internal polls than normal, it is good for their side. Parties tend to release good polling when they have it. Since 2004, there has been a near perfect correlation (+0.96 on a scale from -1 to +1) between the share of partisan polls released by the Democrats and the November results.
View Trump and Biden head-to-head polling
Right now, Democrats and liberal groups are releasing a lot more surveys than Republicans, which suggests the public polling showing Democrats doing well is backed up by what the parties are seeing in their own numbers.
Democratic and liberal aligned groups have put out 17 House polls taken in April or later. Republican aligned groups have put out 0. That’s a very bad ratio for Republicans.
Interestingly, Republicans were the ones dominating the polling landscape in the first quarter of the year. From January through March, Republican and conservative groups released 10 polls compared with the Democrats’ 2.
The April turning point lines up well with when the coronavirus pandemic became the headline story of the year. It’s when President Donald Trump’s approval rating started an almost continuous decline that remains unabated.
In other words, it makes a lot of sense that Democrats started to dominate the House polling landscape in the past few months. They had a lot of good news for their side that they wanted out in the public. Republicans, meanwhile, were likely seeing numbers that wouldn’t make them look good.
Now, you might be wondering whether statewide internal polling is showing the same thing. Presidential elections are mostly won on the state level, after all. Unfortunately, the presidential campaigns aren’t putting out their own data, and partisan statewide polls have less of a chance to shape the narrative because there are so many public polls. Still, there are some outside groups that are releasing data, and we’re largely seeing the same picture as the district data portrays.
Since April, Democratic or liberal groups have released 30 statewide polls in the presidential race. Republicans have put out a mere 13. That means the Democratic share of statewide internal polls has been 70%.
View 2020 presidential election polling
All but four of the nine conservative or Republican sponsored polls have been from monthly Restoration PAC releases. And if anything, the polls that this group sponsors have been some of the worst for Trump recently.
This reminds me a lot of what happened just two years ago. Almost universally, Democrats were the ones publishing their House polls publicly. They went on to have a net gain of 40 seats in the House. Democrats also won the House popular vote by 9 points.
Indeed, the 2018 example speaks to a larger pattern going back since 2004. Although Democrats tend to publish more internal polls publically, they do very well when that advantage is overwhelming.
When Democrats put out 70% or more of the internal House polls, there is a big swing in their direction in terms of the popular vote. Since 2004, Republicans have never published 70% or more of the internal House polls. The only time there was anything close to this on the their (2010), they picked up more House seats than in any election in the last 70 years.
When Democrats put out around 60% of the internal House polls, the national environment is usually fairly unchanged from the prior election.
Anything less and Republicans are likely going to do well, such as the aforementioned 2010 election when Democrats share of the internal House polls released publicly was a mere 35%.
Democrats would definitely take a political environment that is mostly the same as it was in 2018. The numbers out recently suggest it could be even better for them. They point to a national political environment in which they’re favored by double digits.
For Republicans, something needs to change or they’re going to get blown out come November.