Georgia, you may recall, is where this discussion began. Back in August, I argued that a PPP survey of Georgia was demonstrably too white (71 percent white, 24 percent black). On Twitter, PPP’s director, Tom Jensen, vigorously defended a relatively white electorate, arguing that 1) there was a black candidate on the ballot in 2010, therefore black turnout would be lower; 2) blacks were 24 percent of the electorate in 2006, the last time there wasn’t a black candidate.
But over the last two weeks, PPP released two new surveys of Georgia voters. One, conducted by PPP for Better Georgia, shows Republican Governor Nathan Deal’s lead falling into the single digits. PPP also conducted a post-shutdown survey of Georgia’s Senate race, finding Michelle Nunn locked in a dead-heat with an unnamed Republican challenger.
What’s striking is the abrupt transformation of the racial composition of the electorate. The white share of the electorate plummeted from 71 percent in August to 63 and 62 percent in the two October polls. The black share of the electorate was at 29 percent in the Better Georgia poll—nearly at 2012 levels—although just 25 percent in PPP’s newest public survey.
Nate Cohn, thanks to being more right than other pollsters in the 2012 elections, is now the supposed “gold standard” of polling, and regularly delivers himself of pronouncements from on high regarding the methods and motives of other pollsters. He regards both PPP and Rasmussen as generally “bogus,” for instance.
But one apple does not make an orchard, and I think Cohn is dancing dangerously close to hubris – or to believing his own press clippings – based on one successful election season. He might fall on his face in 2014. I don’t know that he will, but it’s possible. Baseball statistics are not political prognostications. Cohn – and everybody else – are trying to make sense of a constantly changing, moving target. Sometimes you’ll hit it, and sometimes you’ll miss. Cohn has hit once. That’s not enough to make him infallible, and I wish he’d stop pretending that he is.