Tuesday, September 11, 2012

ABCNews Poll – Race Remains Tight Between Romney and Obama among Likely, Registered Voters – those removed, Romne has Lead – Reading Between the Lines


Carter and Reagan after October Debate - All Tied in Polls - images newstimes.com

The polls are receiving a good deal of national attention this week, let alone the two men who are the focus of the pollsters. First there is the implications of coercion between the Obama Campaign and Department of Justice against Gallup Polling: See Washington Times Article: “Internal e-mails: Axelrod intimidated Gallup before DOJ lawsuit surfaced against polling company”. Gist: Gallup had an employee who campaigned for President Obama in 08, also was a staffer for the Obama Campaign, who in 2009, suggested that Gallup Polling was overcharging the Federal Government for field sampling. The DOJ sat on this until – Mitt Romney was polling 5 points over the President, Axelrod, the Presidents Mentor, Campaign Manager, White House adviser, etc., got a bit hot under the collar and began to blast the polling agency, Gallup also received an invitation to come to the White House and “explain” it’s methodology. When they did not change their methodology, apparently, the DOJ became very interested in the 2009 charges by the Obama Campaign Staffer and a lawsuit ensued. The Times links to the Daily Caller, who has the emails from Gallup Staffers.

Second, there is the similarity between all pollsters besides Gallup showing a deadlocked national race, with a little movement up or down depending upon the candidate. Both candidates received a nominal “bump” in the polls after each convention, not moving up by any significant margin. Unless one counts Bill Clinton, who was a positive force at the Democrat Convention in Charlotte, and would give a boost to a rock if he were speaking at a quarry. That said, from the right and the left, there are charges that the pollsters are not playing fair – and that is the norm for political pollsters – it’s about who they sample, and with random samples, the game changes in a heartbeat. These same pollsters had Carter and Reagan “too close to call” the eve of the election in 1980, and in 1984, Mondale was leading Reagan at this point in August of 1980, during the deep recline in the U.S. economy Gallup Polling had Reagan and Carter in a tie, (Good News Archives).

One can draw the conclusions that polls can be somewhat mistaken, considering that the methodology does not change, and when one understands that Reagan did not win two elections by swings states or a narrow lead in the electoral college, but by a landslide of popular vote in the majority of states - with both Mondale (1984) and Carter (1980) holding one or a handful of states – all of the polling data to date – makes perfect sense.

In the case of the 1980 election, the economy was in tatters, and it did not improve at all prior to the election. In fact there was a third party independent candidate, John Anderson, who was factored into the polling at an usually higher % than the normal 4 to 6% - yet Reagan won in a landslide. In 1984, one can understand that the economy was rocking, Reagan was extremely popular by that point, and well, Mondale was a weak candidate – yet, polls had Mondale with a lead in August, defying reason and pollster logic.

Therefore, the ups and downs and parsing of polls, especially polls that use smaller samples, have a 50-50 chance of being right – or wrong. There are pollsters that lean right and those that lean left in political ideology – there are pollsters that over sample and there are pollsters that word surveys in order to skew the outcome in one direction or the other. The logic follows that the polls would send a message to both candidate and the public: The race is tight, therefore, get out and vote, and/or donate what you have to your favorite candidate to give them the edge.

There are polls that employ a method that uses responses from registered and unregistered voters, polls that use likely voters only, and polls that use registered and likely voters. In those cases, the title of the poll may indicate a lead or a dead heat, but when one looks at the poll internal marginals, the polls is definitely showing a trend towards one candidate or the other- and that is regardless of whether or not the poll is oversampled! This is especially true of the ABC/Washignton Post Poll which gives President Obama a national convention boost of 50 to 44% over GOP Candidate Mitt Romney, or a win for the President with a 2 percent lead outside the margin of error. However, The Marginal’s (PDF here) are titled Obama Gains a Convention Boost – But Not Among Likely Voters” suggests that when one factors in registered voters who are likely to vote, the race becomes a dead heat. The poll samples: “Thirty-two percent of registered voters in this poll identify themselves as Democrats, 26 percent as Republicans and 37 percent as independents “(ABC News).

This follows the 2008 election model. However, a poll conducted by Pew Research in 2010 suggests that the electorate had shifted slightly. , with the Democrats at a 5% advantage, in voter identification (registration): 34% of registered voters identify as Democrats and 29% as Republicans, a plus 2 for the Republicans and a minus 5 for Democrats. Moreover,” non-partisans now stands at 37%, one of the highest levels in the past 20” and those that do: 40% of independents and other non-partisan voters say they lean more to the Republican Party, with 35% leaning Democrat. This model therefore suggests that as of 2010, there would be a tie mathematically with both parties at 69% support including the base and those Independent who lean towards one party or the other. This poll was taken in August, yet, in November, there was a landslide in the U.S. Congress, with an historical Republican gaining the house, and a narrowing of the Democrat Majority in the Senate. To suggest that in 2012 voter samples for the Presidential race would be comparable to 2008 samples rather than 2010 is somewhat disingenuous, and therefore, the polls are skewed from the get-go. Would that automatically give Romney a lead in the polls, obviously no – even using Pew’s model, there was a tie in August of 2010!

Reasonably, the only accurate polls are those that will never be released: the internal campaign polls, which use a huge sample comparatively (especially in national elections), and allow a candidate and their strategists to make decisions as to how to allocate funds, or which states may already be in the “proverbial bag”, therefore, using funds elsewhere where a deficit in internals would indicate the need for more advertising.

Therefore, if a polling trend makes one nervous about their candidate, they can do two things: donate and get out and vote if they hold the belief that their candidate has done/will do a better job in the office. The results will only be known when the dust settles on the morning after the election (or the night of the election, given fast returns and a pattern reminiscent of the 1980 election – which by the way – stunned the press!!).

One can hazard to guess however, if a candidate is pulling ads (not staffers) out of a state, then that state is showing internal polls that suggest the state is “safe”, rather than the “state is lost”. In total, it is not without a bit of satisfaction when one's chosen candidate is given a "lead" in a poll, no matter if that lead is inflated! It is the psychological boost given to the base and/or the leaning independent that all is "well" with their candidate. Conversely, the base and the leaners whose candidate is not in the lead are more motivated (generally) to get out and canvas, donate and support their preferred politician.

This begs the question - are there any accurate polls? Yes and no, it is the pollster who is closest at the time of the elections, uses the most accurate sample of the most current electorate and a large enough sample who will more accurately predict the outcome - unless of course, that pollster is in court.

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