Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Pollsters Need The Anecdote Factor

Sean Malestrom is looking at one of the things the pollsters are missing. The anecdote factor. Why is it important? Because polling is an art not a science. First how about leading indicators. Actual facts on the ground that can be checked.

In my second post about the election, I told you to keep an eye on Iowa for if Obama comes back here, a state he should have locked at this time, he is toast. Well, Obama is back in Iowa which means he is toast. If it is competitive in Iowa (it was very competitive in 2004), that means that McCain is running as well as Bush or better and has FL, CO, IN, NC, OH, NH, and VA all comfortable. McCain going to Maine suggests Obama is performing worse than Kerry or, rather, Obama’s support is ’soft’ among Democrats.
No surprise there. Except to the fans of Obama.

Sean discusses the nature of insanity in the Shrinking Media™.
From my perspective, it has been sheer comedy watching pundits and observers attempt to ‘rationalize’ the candidates’ visits to states the public polls say are not in play. When McCain and Palin hip hop across Pennslyvania, is it because the public polls are wrong? NO! It is because McCain is doing a ‘hail mary’ strategy to launch all efforts on Pennslyvania in order to win it as a last ditch effort to save his campaign. What about Obama visiting Pennslyvania, is it a suggestion the public polls are wrong? NO! It is because Obama is only going there to respond to McCain and clean up whatever mess he makes. What about when McCain went to New Hampshire? Could it be the polls were not the reality on the ground? NO! It is because McCain is senile. So how does this explain Palin going to Iowa which is considered a ‘lock’ to Obama by polling? Could the polls be wrong and that it may be more competitive than we thought? NO! The only possible answer is that Palin had gone completly rouge and is going to Iowa to jumpstart here 2012 presidential campaign (this ‘rationale’ was so hysterical I actually spit coffee on my monitor. The idea of the VP candidate deciding to run off to Iowa to start his/her own presidential campaign is hilarious in itself). But why is Obama going to Iowa then? Could it, possibly, be the polls in that state are more competitive than we think? NOOOO. The reason why Obama is going to Iowa is to make up for his trip to grandma, and as a pitstop before he goes trick-or-treating with his kid (I kid you not! People actually think this). When McCain goes off to Maine, they are going to run out of excuses as they have already used the ‘insane candidate’ one.
Well, it is a little late for Maine. Iowa is good enough for me. More Electoral Votes too.

So what are the analysts missing in the electorate that is making their numbers so crazy? People.
Real political analysts (meaning not hacks or unprofessional pundits), use historical trends, demagraphical data, and other ‘truths’ of past elections. Much of this cannot be translated into a chart or graph. It is a myth that analysis is done via math or graphs or computer models. The original economists, for example, used only words and essays. Political analysis is not about math. Political analysis is about people. To analyze politics, you must be able to analyze people. In other words, the poet and novelist becomes the political analyst, not the mathematician and software engineer. Politics is all about people.

It seems no one is interested in studying ‘people’ anymore. Look at the political analysis currently. There is very little analysis of the current ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’, for example, or the person from Pennslyvania or person from Iowa. In fact, there are no people. There are only numbers. Stark, lifeless, numbers. The problem with leveling political analysis to nothing more than a soup of numbers is that it cannot measure intensity. What does intensity have to do with politics? Well, everything. Intense people are those who vote.
OK. We will come back to that subject in a minute (Sean wanders).

How about a look at a poll aggregator that I have on my sidebar. Fivethirtyeighgt.com. What are they all about? Sean says: "FiveThirtyEight Is Propaganda Site Masquerading as a ‘Calculation’ Site". And then he backs up his pronouncement with some observations.
And, for another ‘neutral’ media entity that is actually a player in the Obama campaign strategy of ‘inevitable victory narrative’, is Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.

I was first made aware of FiveThirtyEight when, after explaining to a friend why the probability of Obama losing Pennslyvania is very high, he laughed and said McCain’s chances of winning the election was 5%. I went, “What!? Whoever told you that?” “This website…” I went to the website and, instantly, I could tell it was a hack. Political campaigns are a very uncertain business which can change overnight for one candidate or another. No political scientist would seriously say a candidate has 5% chance to win the election. Maybe if the candidate was a social conservative running in San Francisco or a communist running in Kansas, this might be true. But for a presidential election? No. Not even Mondale was given that percentage. The ‘interviews’ with Dan Rather are raised flags because after 2004, Dan Rather lost all ‘neutral’ status after the forged memo scenario (in 2004, the retiring Dan Rather put up memos from early seventies whose fonts count only have been done in a modern word processor, an obvious forgery). I’ve met Dan Rather personally as he was raised in my area. He is a nice guy. But no network will hire him for news now for the reason of partisanship.

Here are some of the (many) problems with FiveThirtyEight:

-Nate Silver’s ‘news stories’ carefully follow Obama Campaign’s strategy, used both in the primary and now in the general campaign, of inevitable Obama victory (which no political analyst, worth their salt, believes as no election is inevitable), showing pictures of a closed McCain Campaign office and declare “It is all falling apart”, etc. etc.

-Nate Silver says he is busy with real life job and life but when the Zogby poll, that had McCain +1, came out, he responded to it ASAP (and on Halloween night of all times!). Now, I don’t trust Zogby because he was off in 2004. I also know, for a fact, Zogby is contractually obligated to weight more Democrats in his polling (and weeks ago, when the AP showed a close poll, Zogby got ‘angry’ at them). However, Zogby also publicly declared Obama’s declaration of ‘inevitable victory’ ismore about strategy. Nate Silver doesn’t bother to tell his readers why Zogby became famous in the first place. It was because Zogby was the only pollster who picked up on the Gore surge in the 2000 election. This, alone, is why people are listening to Zogby closely now. (I still don’t trust him as he has been all over the place. However, that might had been intentional). The ‘rapidity’ to deconstruct a positive McCain poll obviously should be a flag raiser. Real political scientists never rush to deconstruct or denounce anything.

-There is absolutely no questioning as to why the candidates are going to solid blue areas. In fact, there is strangely no questioning to the polls at all.

-Nate Silver, on his FAQ page, says he incorporates 2000, 2004, and 2006 election returns. What about 2002? In 2002, in a historical upset (President’s party loses seats in the off year election), Republicans performed well and made gains in both the House and Senate. In fact, exit polls were seen as ‘unreliable’ and thrown out that year with only ‘votes’ counted (which is how it should be done anyway). Only after the election did we realize the exit polls were thrown out because the analysts/media couldn’t believe the results.

-Nate Silver bans all internal polling by the reason that internal polls are used to manipulate opinion while public polls are ’scientific’. He has it totally backwards.
OK. There is more. But you get the picture.

OK. Let us get back to the people question.
One of the reasons why Democrats lost the elections of 2002, 2004, and won in 2006 so handily is the appearance (and disappearance) of the phenomenon I refer to as ‘Broken Glass Conservatives’. Conservatives are generally apathetic and have been lately about their candidates. While Bush was a Republican, he was not a conservative. He was conservative on a few things, the things that mattered most to conservatives (foreign policy, judges, taxes), but Bush has no interest in the conservative movement and doesn’t want to ‘lead’ it unlike Reagan. So conservative support for Republican candidates have been very soft (as illustrated in 2006). But if a Democrat or the legacy media (who conservatives believe are the same) insult or attack conservatives or what they believe, the result is ‘broken glass conservatives’ meaning the apathetic, soft Republican (or Democrat) conservative suddenly turns enraged and will literally walk over ‘broken glass’, if need be, to vote. ‘Broken glass conservatives’ phenomenons are all easily prevented if someone had some sense. An example of a ‘broken class conservative’ scenario would be Congressman Murtha (twice) declaring western Pennslyvania as ‘racists’. Remember, Murth’s district is mostly Democrat, and they know about Murtha’s shenanigans (the idea of ‘he’s a crook, but he is OUR crook’). But conservative Democrats took the insult personally and, out of the blue, Murtha’s safe seat suddenly becomes competitive . In 2004, the ‘broken glass conservatives’ were generated by, what conservatives felt, media bias in that veterans who served with Kerry were never had the spotlight shown (which they resorted to their own ads which became the ‘SwiftBoat Ads’) as well as Dan Rather and the forged memos.

In 2008, there are more phenomenons of the ‘Broken Glass Conservatives’ than I have ever seen…

-Conservatives believe the media has been outrageously fawning over Obama and doing everything it can to protect him. This has enraged them even more than in 2004.

-Obama’s comment of people in rural areas were nothing more than ‘bitter clingers’ who cling to guns and religion have caused lingering outrage at him. This comment, alone, is one reason why Pennslyvania turned on him.

-The Bail-Out Bill enraged many and was when conservatives finally abandoned Bush. But Bush is not on the ticket anymore so that doesn’t matter. Rather, the enragement is aimed at Pelosi and Reid, the leaders of the House and Senate.

-Media treatment of Sarah Palin generated many ‘Broken Glass Conservatives’ and even overlapped to the Hillary Clinton supporters.
Of course Sean being thorough has more points. One of them is that Nate has undecideds splitting 50/50. What are the odds of that?

And then comes the Palin factor. The Palin factor is cultural and if you understood America (which the elites currently do not) you would instantly get this.
Palin is representative of something within the American mythos that many outside America may not get. There is a mythos of America of the frontiersmen and women, living in log cabins, going through harsh winters, hunting, surviving through the elements. When Palin was introduced, the photos and her history left many jaws dropped. She grew up in a log cabin, hunted, survived the harsh Alaskan winters, had a large family, and generally appear as if she walked out of a history book on America’s frontier. Palin’s life history matches many American’s grandmothers and great grandmothers. (Camille Paglia, ardent feminist and Obama supporter, admitted as much). Much of the appeal Palin holds is that she is representative of the mythos of the American frontierswoman. I think this is why she keeps being compared to Reagan because Reagan draped his speeches and actions in the American mythos. But she has more in common with the mannerisms and personality of Truman than Reagan.

Anyone who knows anything about analyzing this election knows the reports of Palin ‘dragging down’ the McCain ticket are laughable. It is pretty clear she saved the ticket. The base would not be mobilized or passionate if Palin was not there. When Palin was announced, McCain Campaign could not keep up with the donations coming in. McCain knows he needs her in order for his ticket to win. He knows she pulls largers crowds than he does.
Sean then goes on to discuss the civil war in the Republican Party and what the election of McCain/Palin will mean in terms of winners and losers in that war.

And now let me close with one of the most under reported factors in the race. The PUMA factor.
This election has been the strangest one I have ever seen. It started off with conservatives fearing and despising Hillary Clinton (they’ve always hated her) as she made her climb for the White House. Yet, now, conservatives and Hillary Clinton voters are campaigning side by side. Gay activists for Clinton are campaigning side by side with fundamentalist conservatives against Obama. In Pennslyvania, as I’ve said before, the phone banks and people in McCain offices are democrats. While it is usual to hear the fringe of one party to describe the opposing candidate as evil incarnate, the PUMAs have the strongest language for Obama beyond the most right wing conservative. “He is a proto-nazi!” they say. “Do you really believe that?” I ask them. “Yes. We do.”

There are some new political symbols appearing. The PUMAs have adopted the cougar or bobcat as their symbol. The Palin conservatives have adopted the moose (could this eventually replace the elephant?)

Election night will be very long because pundits will be stunned at what is going on. They think this is already over and election night is just a coronation. All these electoral map projections and polls, yet votes weren’t cast yet.

Consider Obama toast, guys. He will join Dukakis, Dole, Gore, and Kerry in the ashbin of history.
Did you get that? Gay activists for Clinton are campaigning side by side with fundamentalist conservatives against Obama. That is not supposed to be possible. It is like the lion lying down with the lamb. Historical. A change of Biblical proportions even.

You know, this may be the beginning of a political re-alignment. Or at least the beginning of respect.

In any case there is much more I haven't covered. You should read it all.

And for those of you who want to follow along here are some interactive electoral maps:

CNN electoral map

Not a CNN electoral map

Cross Posted at Classical Values

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