Is Rasmussen Better Than its Reputation?

Nathan L. Gonzales August 31, 2010 · 9:00 AM EDT

There isn’t a lot of consensus in Washington, D.C., but party operatives on both sides of the aisle as well as members of the media seem to be united in their distrust of polls conducted by Rasmussen Reports. But with new polling by a Democratic firm in three key states showing identical results, is it time for a re-evaluation of Rasmussen?

The most common criticism is that Rasmussen’s numbers favor Republicans. Because of the proliferation of Rasmussen’s polling, the firm’s numbers inevitably come up in discussion of any competitive statewide race in the country but are then quickly dismissed.


That might be unwise now.

An Aug. 16 Rasmussen survey in the highly competitive Senate race in Pennsylvania showed former Rep. Pat Toomey (R) ahead of Rep. Joe Sestak (D) by 8 points, 48 percent to 40 percent. A poll taken during the same time (Aug. 14-16) by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling showed Toomey with a 9-point advantage, 45 percent to 36 percent.

In June, Rasmussen had Toomey ahead of Sestak by 6 points, while PPP had the race tied.

Rasmussen and PPP also showed identical results in the Keystone State’s race for governor. Former Attorney General Tom Corbett (R) led Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato (D) by 11 points in a recent Rasmussen survey and by 13 points according to PPP.

“When we switched to likely voters we saw a very steep decline in Democrats’ interest in voting in the fall,” PPP’s Tom Jensen said. Previously, the firm polled individuals who had voted in one of the last three general elections instead of screening for likely voters.

Both Rasmussen and PPP use interactive voice response technology, which is still somewhat controversial, rather than live callers. And PPP recently began a partnership with DailyKos.com to conduct dozens of polls this fall after the leading liberal blog had a messy falling out with Research 2000.

Even though Rasmussen and PPP weren’t as far apart in Missouri and Illinois, new numbers in both states are very similar today.

In Missouri, an Aug. 10 Rasmussen survey showed Rep. Roy Blunt (R) leading Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D) by 7 points, 50 percent to 43 percent, while a couple days later, a PPP poll showed Blunt with a 7-point lead, 45 percent to 38 percent.

The two polling firms showed similar results in Illinois as well. An Aug. 14-15 PPP survey showed state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) statistically tied with Rep. Mark Kirk (R), 37 percent to 35 percent, with a 4.1-point margin of error, while an Aug. 9 Rasmussen poll had the two men tied at 40 percent.

“I’m not a Rasmussen hater,” Jensen added about pollster Scott Rasmussen and his company. “There’s a good chance he can do some gloating in the second week of November.”