Generic matchups vs. the real ones

A new Democracy Corps analysis gives Democrats a relatively stable five-point lead in competitive Republican districts.

Published November 6, 2006 8:36PM (EST)

We've talked a lot today about polls testing generic ballot matchups between Republican and Democratic candidates. What's happening in the not-so-generic world, the one where voters are going to have to choose between candidates who actually have names? A new Democracy Corps analysis provides some clues.

In polls conducted Thursday, Saturday and Sunday in 50 competitive districts now held by Republicans, Democracy Corps finds Democrats leading by an overall margin of five percentage points. That lead is two points smaller than the one pollsters found during the middle of last week, but it's two points bigger than what they saw a week ago.

Isn't this relatively stable result in conflict with polls showing a tightening in the generic matchups? Democracy Corps says no. Its pollsters have also seen a big drop in the Democrats' generic ballot advantage, from 10 percent a week ago to just 4.4 percent now. Their explanation: Now that voters are paying close attention, the widely fluctuating generic ballot numbers are finally falling into line with the much more stable race-by-race numbers. "The Democratic generic vote was actually stable, but the engagement and partisan polarization has led Republicans to align their generic responses with their real vote at the very end," James Carville, Stan Greenberg and Ana Iparraguirre write.

The bad news for the Democrats? The Democracy Corps' race-by-race polling shows a "slight shift of the playing field toward the Republicans at the end of last week." The good news for the Democrats? They're still up by five points overall, and the pollsters saw no sign that the shift was getting any bigger over the course of the weekend.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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