Polling: Focus on Likely voters, “top boxes” and Independents.

They are the best predictors…

I’m a fan of the Trafalgar Group’s polls.

Admittedly, Trafalgar leans right, but I like that:

> They screen for “likely voters’ … not the less predictable “registered voters” who may lack voting “enthusiasm”.

> They provide “top box data” … that is, data isolating highly predictive “strong” feelings

Why this is significant?

Many market researchers argue for the ”top box effect”.

That is, they think that the answers given by respondents who feel “strongly” on a question — one way or the other — have higher predictive value than the answers from respondents who may lean in a direction but don’t have particularly strong feelings.

The difference between the scores from respondents who are “strongly favorable’ and those who are “strongly unfavorable” is sometimes referred to as the “net promoter index”.

For more detail, see the HBR classic: The One Number that You Need to Grow.

> They separate responses by party affiliation … providing a way to check the “mix” of Dems, GOPs and Independents … and allows a focused look at independents who are “swing voters” and are less likely to cast party-lemming votes.


OK, so what do Trafalgar’s most recent polls say?

First, let’s dissect Biden’s overall approval numbers:

  • Overall, Biden’s total approval is 15.5 percentage points underwater … 54.8% disapprove to 39.3% approve
  • Only 54% of Biden’s total approvers feel strongly that he is doing a good job, but 92% of his disapprovers are strong disapprovers.
  • So, Biden’s “top box” favorability measure, is underwater by 29.1 percentage points … 50.2% unfavorable to 21.1% favorable



It gets more interesting when we drill down by party identification:

  • Less than half of Democrats (43.7%) strongly approve of the job that Biden is doing (Row 1, Column a)
  • 80% of Republicans disapprove strongly of the job that Biden is doing (Row 6, Column c)
  • Perhaps most important, a majority of Independents (52%) disapprove strongly of the job that Biden is doing (Row 6, Column b) … putting Biden 35.7% underwater on strong approval (Row 10, Column b)


Draw your own conclusions re: election implications.


While we’re at it …

Trafalgar has the GOP up by 5.7 percentage points on the “generic Congressional ballot” (47.2% to 42.2%).

For comparison, the left-leaning WaPo-ABC poll concludes:

In the midterm election ahead, registered voters divide 47-46 percent between the Republican and the Democratic candidate (on the generic Congressional ballot).

A likely voter model has a 51-46 percent Republican-Democratic split (5 percentage point).

So, both a left-leaning and a right-leaning poll agree that — when the metric is likely voters — the GOP lead on the generic Congressional ballot is about 5 points. 

Again, draw your own conclusions re: election implications.

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