Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Numbers Game

More than one person has asked me why the polls are so out of whack with what they see as their reality. So what is that reality? I think a few anecdotes are in order. First from commenter Daddy at Just One Minute.

Arriving in Indy about midnight I asked the 2 female bus drivers how did the ballgame come out and they both replied they weren't listening to any ballgame they had been listening to the debate. Both were enthusiastic and pumped, and extremely complementary of Sarah's performance, especially since they had been led to believe she was going to do so poorly. The female Cab driver was very jazzed as well and said exactly the same thing. Ditto for the check-in lady in the hotel. Later at The Redeye Cafe in downtown Indy for a 2 AM Guiness and Spanish Omelette (Yumm!), the bartender girls were also oblivious of ESPN and SportsCenter on the overhead TV's behind, and both were still complementing Sarah on her performance. All these girls were Colts fans, and they were acting exactly like they do when their Colts win a playoff game. I have no idea what any of their politics were, but it seemed that Sarah's performance was somehow something they took personally, and they were proud of how she did. I never did get any opinions from any guys what they thought about the debate since apparantly women do all the work after midnight in Indianapolis, but my unscientific survey of the working girls of middle America is that Sarah made a very big and a very positive impression. Whether or not it'll turn into votes for her, who knows.
Here is one from commenter Sharen at No Quarter.
Comment by Sharen 2008-10-04 23:19:36

Yesterday I was going to The Grove in Los Angeles, I don’t know where your at but if your not familiar with the area, its basically West Hollywood, and I was SHOCKED, SHOCKED by how many McCain/Palin signs I saw, I told my Mom to stop the car and I was like OMG LOOK AT ALL THESE SIGNS, I saw 1 Obama sign and the rest was a sea of McCain/Palin signs, around here in liberal Los Angeles county seeing McCain signs is very unusual, it must have gone on for two blocks, in total, 3 Obama signs, and the rest were McCain/Palin, TWO BLOCKS, I was like damn, am I in Orange County LOL. I swear if California goes Red I will eat my shoe, I don’t see it happening but ya never know
And finally one from Porchlight at Just One Minute.

Thanks for the Indy update. I am trying to figure it out. Wildly enthusiastic audiences for Palin, RNC fundraising for September 1/3 higher than their previous record, VP debate viewership 1/3 higher than previous VP debate, etc. Why isn't this showing in the polls?
So why isn't all this showing up in the polls? There are reasons. Some good. Some not so good. And some there is no way to account for.

So how about the good? Registrations for Democrats is way up. Rush Limbaugh with his Operation Chaos plan to derail Hillary got a bunch of Republicans to register as Democrats to defeat Hillary. So the pollsters believe the Republican party has lost support.

How about the bad? The newspapers and most TV networks are so obviously in the tank for Obama this year that they aren't even making a pretense of a pretense of objectivity. So they get the polls with numbers they are happy to report and that helps their candidate by depressing the other side.

And how about the no way to account problems with polls? People lie to pollsters. Unsourced anecdote: a nice sounding black lady calls and asks who you are voting for? Are some people going to be nice and say Obama when in reality it is going to be McCain? It happens.

Now how about some analysis by people smarter even than me. Let me start with A.J. Strata's view on cooking the polls.
Voter models are the essence of political polls. You take a sample of a few hundred or a few thousand people and predict how that sample can reflect 10s-100s of millions of people. If you are off by even a small fraction in your assumptions the bottom line could be off by 5, 10 or 20% (despite an MoE claim of a few points).

We have a perfect example of this in two Colorado Polls out recently. The first poll was commented on by our Reader MerlinOS2:
PPP just released a poll in Colorado which puts Obama up +7

Now what the issue is here is that the party split was

Dem 40
Rep 36
Ind 24

However August voter registration number per the spreadsheet available from the Secretary of State show the registration breakdown is

Dem 30.6
Rep 34.8
Ind 34.5
Details on the poll in question can be found here. Just this week American Research Group (ARG) also released a poll for Colorado (which is not used in the RCP poll of polls strangely). Its voter model was Dem 32%, Rep 35% and Ind 33%, very close to the ACTUAL voter registration levels noted by MerlinOS2. The result: McCain 48%, Obama 45% - a McCain lead of +3%. (Note: this polls also shows McCain tied with women)

These polls were taken at basically the same time in the same state. But we can see how the voter model can really change the bottom line (a 10% difference).
Go to A.J.'s for the links. And A.J. has more so if you want details give him a read.

Newsbusters looks at the fabrication side of polling. You know. They just make shit up. Again it is all about party weightings.
In the kitchens of the Associated Press, it's almost as if the wire service asked its chief cook -- er, pollster -- GfK Roper Public Affairs and Media, to do the following:
* Whip up a tasty, representative poll after the Republican Convention.
* Three weeks later, make the same dish, but this time adjust the mix of ingredients by radically oversampling Democrats and undersampling Republicans, thereby creating a false illusion of momentum in the campaign of Barack Obama, and of decline in John McCain's.
* Hope people don't notice the changes in the recipe.
Of course we don't know if the differences between AP-CfK's Sept. 5-10 and Sept. 27-30 results were created deliberately, but the results sure look suspicious (both polls are available at PDF links found at AP-GfK's home page).
Read the article if you want to check out the links. Me I want to look at some numbers and we do in fact have a few.
"Somehow," the sample make-up changed from 33-31 Democrat to 40-29 Democrat from the earlier to the latter poll -- a shift of nine points.

"Somehow," the Strong-Dem vs. Strong-GOP difference went from nothing to eight points.

"Somehow," the Strong-GOP vs. Moderate-GOP mix went from +3 to -3, a swing of six points.
Well Newsbusters has charts full of numbers and more text so for the numbers obsessed (hey there may be a key to winning the lottery in there) have a look. There is always more to learn.

I'd like to finish up with analyst DJ Drummond of Stolen Thunder whose motto is: A man must be accountable, else everything he does counts for nothing. Yep. Any way DJ looks at the Secret Poll
I have been working through the poll numbers for quite a while now, sorting out valid patterns from the fakes. I held off posting the true state of things for a long time, for a number of reasons, but I notice that some on the Right have begun to lose hope and make sounds of giving up. So I will tell you plainly, that

We Are Winning

and can only fall in this election if you give up. It's been a long road and the enemy has been his usual foul self, with lies and smears and everything we have learned to expect from people who put power above any moral or honorable precepts. It's close, but here's where we have been, and where we are:

August 31: McCain 41.77%, Obama 41.06%

September 7: McCain 42.45%, Obama 42.04%

September 14: McCain 45.71%, Obama 39.62%

September 21: McCain 44.48%, Obama 42.06%

September 28: McCain 42.73%, Obama 41.62%

And based on the demographic responses, once the undecideds shake out if we work as hard as we can and continue to keep faith, the final popular vote will be

McCain 51.59%

Obama 48.41%

Keys to remember:

This is not a football game or a baseball game, it's politics. Support is built up gradually and won bits at a time. Also, some of the best gains are not obvious at first, because some significant actions take time to develop. McCain and Obama both fell back a bit the last week of September, McCain because Republican support fell off a bit, Obama lost independents' support. This is a salient factor in where the candidates' opportunities and weaknesses lay.
Now I have cribbed everything DJ posted. Which is kind of like stealing. In fact it is stealing. In my defense it wasn't a long post and DJ answers some interesting questions in the comments. So do the right thing and give him a click. Plus his advice is critical: keep the faith. Do not give up. Make sure you and all your friends show up on election day.

I'm going to double down on the above comments. Here is what I say about all this. Again: Let us not give Obama the election by staying home depressed on election day. If he is going to win make him earn it. Get out and vote and make sure everyone you know gets out and votes. Make him know he was in a fight.

In other words fight the trolls on the blogs. And come election day get out the vote like your life and your country depended on it. Because it does. Even in a state like Illinois where I reside, every vote counts because it adds to the popular vote totals even if your state is going for Obama in the electoral college.

Vote Dammit

And if you want to do something about vote fraud read this, because polls aren't the only way the numbers are being cooked this year.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


Anonymous said...

this post gives me some confidence that mcain still has a shot. he also needs to get off his high horse and stop being a referee and start being the quarterback.

I didnt care a wit about politics for quite a while after my wife who was 36 years old died, I figured it just didnt matter. if americans were stupid enough to vote for a radical or a party who wanted to change america into something its not and has never been (socialist/ueroweenie, well, thats how things roll. but now that ive re-married and I have my first child who is 1 year old ive come back to the living and I dont want her to grow up in france. so ive registered here in colorado. so maybe it will make a difference when I vote.

vnjagvet said...

DJ Drummond proved very accurate in the last election penetrating some of the same sort of shenanigans we are now seeing. They are just worse this year, presumably because the usual suspects are so emotionally committed to electing the Chosen One.