The Great Polling Scandal
Those looking beyond Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Madow for political predictions turn to polls. Unfortunately, the integrity of pollsters can be as bereft as the Senate Majority Leader, the president’s Super Pac, and the Huffington Post. Let’s take the recent New York Times / CBS / Quinnipiac presidential poll of swing states as an example.
The troubling (for conservatives) polls released on August 1, show Obama ahead 51-45 in Florida, and 50 – 44 in Ohio, with the driving factor being the popularity of his “tax the rich” message. How could this be, when most other polls show the Romney “must win”states of Florida and Ohio within the statistical margin of error? True, the national Rasmussen and Gallup polls showing a dead heat may not be reflective of swing states where the Obama campaign has spent $100 million trashing Romney, but why would Rasmussen show a virtual dead heat in these states while the NYT group shows a 6 % difference? And why does the NYT poll show equal opinion on who would do better on the economy while most polls show a substantial Romney advantage on this key question? Ah, the art of sampling!
The first cut on sampling is adults versus registered voters versus likely voters. Rasmussen polls the slightly more conservative “likely voters”, as determined from past voting records and survey questions. But in this case the NYT did also.
The second cut in the pollster’s modelling is Republican voters versus Democratic voters versus Independent voters and there’s the rub.
* In Florida in 2008 voters were +3 % Democrat; in 2010 they were even; the NYT used a voting sample of +9% Democrats in 2012. (?)
* In Ohio in 2008 voters were +8% Democrat; in 2010 they were +!% Republican; the NYT used a voting sample of +8% Democrat. (?)
So, what is the right portion of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents to poll? The hard left Huffington Post recently lamented the waning enthusiasm of Democrats, with Gallup showing 51% of Republicans more enthused than in the past elections as compared to 39% of Democrats. Thus the increasingly shrill and totally unfounded claims of “tax fraud“, “felon“, and “beneficiary of Chinese prostitution rings“, “responsible for a woman’s cancer death”, and “connected to Latin American Death Squads” coming from Obama and his surrogates. Try as they might, the Obama campaign cannot seem to gin up the base near 2008 levels – but the NYT pollsters apparently think they will.
For the New York Times this polling fraud is a two step dance. In the core of a July 27 op-ed by Charles Blow, is the phrase “(t)hen, of course, there’s the widespread voter suppression mostly enacted by Republican-led legislatures,” the premise being that while the polls may show Obama leading, a number of new voter identification laws and shortened voting periods will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of poor and minorities, resulting in Obama underperforming his current polling surge. Inflate the expectation; explain the shortfall as racist voter suppression.
How to remain sane for the next three months (if your baseball team has already tanked)? I’ll pay attention to Gallup and Rasmussen for horserace data and trust Karl Rove to do something worthwhile with his $300 million. Romney is within the margin of error and he and the conservative superPACs have yet to open fire.
This week’s video is of Texas Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz – Princeton BA; magna cum laude Harvard Law; national champion debater; clerk for US Supreme Court Chief Justice Rehnquist; and a bunch of other impressive stuff.