Todd Rehm, a Republican political consultant, pollster and commentator, last week challenged the validity of my column that pointed out how poorly the Republican Party appears to be performing among younger Georgians.
“… put down the Pepto-Bismol, my fellow Republican strategists,” Rehm advised his readers. “The news isn’t nearly as dire, in fact it doesn’t even really qualify as news. Because Jay Bookman’s margin of error is huge.”
Rehm goes on to make the reasonable point that it’s dangerous to draw sweeping conclusions from small sample sizes. For example, when I cite a SurveyUSA poll showing that Senate candidate Michelle Nunn has an 11-point lead among Georgians 49 and younger, Rehm waves it away as meaningless because the sample size within that age group is relatively small, which means the margin of error is pretty large.
He’s right. Or at least, he would be if that were the only poll that we had to draw upon. Fortunately for my argument, we have access to a lot of polls in addition to the SurveyUSA poll. As I pointed out in the original column — and as Rehm chose to ignore — a recent poll commissioned by the AJC produced results that closely track those produced by SurveyUSA. For example, when asked what party Georgians identity with or lean toward, we find:
18-39 40-64 65+
Democratic 57% 43 31
Republican 32% 47 59
Independent 8% 6 7
In fact, let’s take a look at the crosstabs of five different Georgia polls by five different pollsters in the race between Gov. Nathan Deal and state Sen. Jason Carter, just to see what we find (Rasmussen also conducted a poll in the last month, but its crosstabs aren’t publicly available):
- In the AJC poll cited above, Carter had a lead of 55 percent to 26 percent among Georgians under 40, a 29-point advantage.
- In the SurveyUSA poll cited above, Carter had a 10-point lead among Georgians younger than 50, an advantage that was offset by Deal’s seven-point lead among those older than 50.
- An InsiderAdvantage poll taken Sept. 9-10 gave Deal a five-point lead over Carter. However, among Georgians aged 18-29, Carter was up 45 percent to 27 percent, an 18-point margin.
- A YouGov poll taken Aug.18 to Sept. 2 showed Deal up by seven points, but Carter enjoyed a 28-point margin among voters 18-29 and a 13-point margin among voters aged 30 to 44. Deal’s overall lead in that poll was attributable to the massive 38-point margin he enjoyed among those 65 and older.
- A Landmark poll taken Sept. 9-11 showed Carter with a slight advantage among the 18-39 demographic and a 10-point margin among those aged 40-64. But in that poll, Deal was able to keep the race tight thanks to a large, 12-point advantage among those 65 and older.
Clearly, the subgroup numbers among those five polls vary quite a bit, as you would expect with smaller sample sizes, different polling methods and different breakouts by age group. Yet from poll to poll, the larger story that they tell remains consistent: The Democratic Party and its candidates are doing disproportionately well among younger Georgians, while the Republican Party’s overall advantage is attributable to its own disproportionate popularity among Georgians 65 and older.
If Georgia Republicans prefer to read the numbers some other way, I guess that’s fine with me.