A voter casts his ballot in the Virginia primary at the Hillsboro Old Stone School in the Old Dominion State’s 10th District on June 12. More voters now identify as independents — not a positive trend for either party, Winston writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
It’s morning again in America. You grab your first cup of coffee, click to your favorite news site and are greeted by a new poll with a huge generic ballot spike in the congressional vote. What should your reaction be? Is it time to freak out, or calm down and assume the poll is an outlier?
The answer is neither. When a particular survey suddenly shows a significant shift in one direction or the other, political and media analysts and the public need to approach the data with caution. Before assuming there was a change in voter preference, we need to ask whether party identification in the survey also changed significantly, and if so, why.