Gingrich Downturn In National and Iowa Polls

The Gingrich surge has now clearly reversed. In my previous post on this I explained the more sensitive red line trend estimate, (nicknamed “Ready Red”), and its strengths and weaknesses. See that for the details.

Now, with more Gallup daily tracking data, the national trend has turned sharply down, both for my standard trend estimate and for the more sensitive red line.

Here I want to point to the evidence a bit more, with a small caution about the lack of recent polling other than Gallup’s daily tracker.

By Thursday this week various sources began to point to a downturn in support for Gingrich. The evidence is real though the number of new polls is more limited than I for one would like. What bolsters the evidence is the consistency of the pattern in Iowa and Nationally, while New Hampshire supports it but less strongly. Lack of polls in South Carolina and Florida means those states aren’t helping establish what is going on.

In the national data, Gallup’s daily tracker is the only new polling since 12/12. While I think highly of Gallup and its people, tracking polls with their overlapping samples are always subject to some “funny” variation. Still, there have now been three non-overlapping Gallup samples and their trend for Gingrich is 37, 33 and 28 for 12/1-5, 6-10 and 11-16 respectively. These are samples of around 1,000 respondents, so a margin of error of about 3.1 points, making this trend unlikely to just be statistical noise. Still, I’d love to see some other major polls produce national numbers to confirm this. My “Ready Red” trend believes there has been a clear downturn, as shown in the figure above, which now incorporates all of Gallup’s tracks as well as all other national polls.
More convincingly, the gray standard trend estimate, which is by design conservative and demanding of convincing evidence, has now turned down as well. As of Thursday, the gray line hadn’t been convinced. Today it is.

So the national trend is now clearly down, and substantially so. The only reason to reserve judgement is that we’ve not had any new national polls since 12/12 except for the Gallup daily tracker. The tracker trend has been quite steady, which is reassuring but I’d always feel better if we had some polls from additional sources to confirm a change in trend.

One way to find confirmation of a change in trend is to look at the state polling. Iowa has some recent polling, at least through 12/13, that lends support to the evidence for a Gingrich trend reversal.

The Iowa data come from a number of different pollsters so we have some confidence no one pollster dominates this. The last 9 polls show Gingrich at 33, 31, 27, 33, 30, 22, 27, 22, 20. The median of the first 4 is 32, while the median of the last four is 22. Quite a change, and another way to see how sharp the downturn has been. While “Ready Red” is sharply down, the gray standard estimate isn’t quite ready to turn down, though it is developing a clear bend that usually indicates it will turn down if a couple more polls confirm the shift in trend.

Finally, we can look at New Hampshire, where Gingrich has also surged. There there are fewer recent polls, the last from 12/12. The standard trend has not yet turned down, but the sensitive red estimator suggests a flattening of support at least.

With the last poll on 12/13 we really need to see some more recent data to believe the change in trend, even if “Red” thinks there may be one.

But if we combine the national, Iowa and New Hampshire data, it seems pretty clear that the Gingrich surge has at the very least stopped growing and in fact is very likely turning down. The many, sometimes brutal, attacks on him from GOP and conservative sources must take a toll on voters who imagine him a clear conservative leader but who needed to be reminded that many conservative leaders view him as unreliable at best and erratic to the point of incoherence at worst. This is a great example of how elite opinion can modify mass reaction. Gingrich can be very appealing to GOP primary voters with his rhetoric and wit and seeming erudition. But elites remember his foibles as Speaker and the many issues he has embraced and then shrugged off. Those weaknesses have been the focus of conservative commentary for three weeks now, and they have taken their toll.

To wrap up, here is the entire set of national, Iowa and New Hampshire trends, including Ready Red for all candidates. Notice how Red sometimes gets overly excited but almost always comes back to the stolid but reliable gray line.