What's the Deal with a New Poll Showing Beto O'Rourke in the Lead?

click to enlarge Beto O'Rourke speaking at a town hall in downtown San Antonio. - BRYAN RINDFUSS
Bryan Rindfuss
Beto O'Rourke speaking at a town hall in downtown San Antonio.
It would be nice if the pollsters could make up their fricken minds.

First, a Quinnipiac University survey released yesterday showed Republican Sen. Ted Cruz with a nine-point lead over Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke among likely voters.

Then another poll released today — this one from Reuters/Ipsos — pegs O'Rourke up 47-45 among likely voters. That 2-point lead is a statistical dead heat, and, worthy of note, it marks the first time the El Paso congressman may have zipped into the lead.

The understandable response here is, "Dude, WTF?"

We certainly don't have enough polling savvy to offer a worthwhile answer. Luckily, Nate Silver, editor of FiveThirtyEight, took to Twitter to explain the statistical whiplash a lot of us are feeling.

"I think Texas is a tough state to poll (lots of new residents, low turnout among certain voting groups, may be hard to reach Spanish-speaking voters) and it's probably a healthy sign that we're seeing some disagreement," Silver said.

There are a couple of other things that may explain the differing results.

First, Quinnipiac's poll was based on phone interviews, while Ipsos used an online questionnaire. Often, different methodology yields different results.

Second, the Ipsos poll asked respondents to estimate the likelihood that they’d vote in the midterm elections on a sliding scale. The Democrats ranked higher there, which usually isn't the case, Ipsos Vice President Chris Jackson told the Texas Tribune.

"It demonstrates how Democrats are mobilized," he said. "This election is going to be really competitive and it's going be very hard fought."

On face value, that makes sense. But the O'Rourke camp better hope Dems statewide are more mobilized than they were in Texas Senate District 19.

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