When you see a poll like this one from PPP, which shows Joe Sestak leading Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, you have to ask what their voter sample looks like. PPP provides this information on their top-line
In 2008, turnout was 44% D, 37% R, and 18% I. So PPP’s sample implies stronger Democratic turnout this year than in the Obama surge of 2008. In 2006, a midterm where Democrats won top-ticket landslides and picked up three House seats, turnout was 43% D, 38% R, and 19% I. In 2004, the Pennsylvania turnout was 41% D, 39% R, 20% I.
More interesting is the small drop in enthusiasm among Republicans since PPP’s August poll, which gave Toomey a 9-point lead. In that poll, Republicans made up 44 percent of PPP’s sample. Together with a modest two-point increase for Democratic responses, this accounts for most of the change between the two polls.
PPP’s Dean Debnam tells me that the firm bases its samples on whoever passes the voter screen, and that they do not weight by party identification. “It’s a shift in those who are choosing to participate in the poll,” he said, and a sign that Democrats are now more likely to vote. “Democrats are starting to pay attention.”
Has Republican enthusiasm suddenly fallen off? “They got way out in front — and I’m seeing this around the country, where Republicans got way out in front…so they locked in their core fairly early…Democrats start pulling up as more people make up their minds.”
Well, okay, but does PPP really expect Democrats to make up a larger share of the electorate than they did in 2008? “This far out, all you’re doing is taking a snapshot,” Debnam said, adding that PPP will be polling that race again the weekend before the election.
They have a good track record. If Democrats turn out in record numbers in two weeks, surpassing the Obama surge, they still will.