Gingrich downturn begins, maybe

National polling has produced a little evidence that the Gingrich surge may be leveling off or perhaps subsiding a shade. The change of trend does not show up in our standard PollsAndVotes trend estimate yet, however. Our trend is designed to demand a fair bit of evidence for a change in direction, and all the more so after a very rapid rise, as in Gingrich’s case. However, we also estimate a more sensitive trend (nicknamed “Ready Red”) which is able to pick up changes in direction much more quickly. “Red” can easily be fooled by a few outliers into thinking the trend has changed, which is why we don’t use it as the standard trend estimate. But that said, Red will spot changes sooner, and is often right despite making some mistakes.

Looking at the Gingrich data, the more sensitive trend thinks the peak has passed and that support has come down by about 3 points.The standard estimator has begun to show signs of bending, but it hasn’t done so yet.

Despite the excitement, we’ve not had a large number of polls since Gingrich’s rise and since criticism of him has mounted. Much of the evidence of decline in fact rests on Gallup’s daily tracking poll, which is very valuable but subject to all the worries about tracking polls. The most important is that daily tracking polls overlap so they don’t represent independent sampling of public opinion. The non-overlapping segments of Gallup do, however, suggest a downturn for Gingrich, which is somewhat convincing evidence. Gallup’s 12/4-8 track put Newt at 37, while their 12/9-13 has him at 31. Other non-overlapping comparisons suggest a 4 point drop.

One perpetual danger is the mixing of polls from different pollsters. It is possible the recent differences result from methodological differences across organizations more than from changes in real opinion. That is why we like to wait for a number of organizations to be represented before being very confident that a “real” change in trajectory has set in.

But Ready Red casts such caution to the wind and thinks there is a new direction to the Gingrich surge. Down.