When we put out our Virginia poll yesterday with a party breakdown of 37% Democrats, 29% Republicans, and 34% independents people who wanted to discredit its results were quick to jump to the 'the sample is biased!' cry.
First off, for the umpteenth time, we don't weight for party. So we didn't 'create' those figures, the likely voters in Virginia did.
Let's dig a little deeper.
Our final Virginia Presidential poll last year was right on the mark. We said Barack Obama would take the state 52-46 and that's what happened. The party breakdown of the poll was 40% Democrats, 35% Republicans, and 25% independents.
Let's compare that to this week's poll: a 9% increase in independents since then with a 3% decline in Democrats and a 6% decline in Republicans.
Now let's take a bit of a deeper look at those independents. We found Barack Obama winning them 49/47 last year. Now his approval with them is a dreadful 35/56 and Creigh Deeds trails Bob McDonnell 53-37 with them as well.
A significant decrease in Republicans and a sudden significant rightward turn in the independent ranks? Pretty clear those two things are correlated. Those Republican voters from last year are still there. They're just not identifying as Republicans any more. But whether they identify themselves as Republicans or independents they're certainly still conservatives, and that's reflected in their appraisals of the President and who they plan to vote for this fall.
The spread between Democrats and Republicans in the party id breakdown becomes a lot less consequential when the independent ranks are so skewed in one direction.