Friday, September 28, 2012

Election 2012 – Obama vs. Romney – focus on swing states? Why are “Safe Democrat” States Polled Less than 2 Weeks Apart? Opinion Essay



Mitt Romney, former Governor of the Bay State, Candidate for President 2012

It was surprising to more than a few households in this conservative enclave in Western Massachusetts that their phones rang yesterday and they found themselves answering an automated poll! The polling, conducted by Public Policy Polling (a pre-recorded announcement) – is a bit surprising for two reasons. One, the Bay State is rarely polled, and several pointed out that they had never been polled before (and we’re quite thrilled to put in their two cents), the second reason, Public Policy Polling just polled Massachusetts on September 18th, a poll in which it shows President Obama with a substantial lead and a 52% approval rating. The question, why are they polling a second time? Perhaps it was to focus on the Warren Brown Race, (but that was only one of several questions, the majority focused on voter trend and the Presidency: who did you vote for in 2008, if the election were held today, who would you vote for, and then the demographic questions. (Age, Gender).

Perhaps they are shoring up their data, counting their electoral votes before they are hatched, or perhaps to emphasis that Obama is doing just fine – in Massachusetts?

What one has to consider in these polls, is the geographic data. When one looks at the state of Massachusetts and voting patterns, one find that, yes, there are Republican’ and Republican leaning independents in this state, but, the big but, they are spread and most of this is geographic: Therefore, if one were to call Worcester (Central MA) one would find a majority of Conservative, or for that matter several areas on the north and south shore. However, Western Massachusetts is similar to say, Cambridge, a much smaller population that the balance of the state, and home to the left of center and reliable Democrats, the actual Republican is rare, and Conservatives (part of the Unenrolled who are the majority of voters in MA), might be few and far between, and generally found in certain cities and towns and pockets. One neighbor remarked after the Brown election in 2009, that the neighborhood was crawling with Republicans! (A polite and avid Progressive, who expresses frustration over this fact fairly consistently.) That said, from the Connecticut River West and North along the eastern edge, the political ideology is more 1960’s than 1980’s, replete with tie-dye, long white hair and beards, and bongo’s – it’s referred to as quaint! There’s the urban center, such as Northampton, birthplace of Calvin Coolidge, the last Republican from Massachusetts to attain the Presidency. Northampton, home to Smith College, (Think Rachael Maddow), has the lovely town of Amherst to its left – home of UMASS, or locally referred to as the “People’s Republic of Amherst.

Now, understanding the lay of the land, one would anticipate that there would be no need to poll, considering one poll affirming the huge Obama lead was just produced by the same pollster and polls cost money. But, and here is the big but, Massachusetts has recently been redistricted, due to population loss. The entire state, when viewed on a redistricting map, has all of Western Massachusetts in one district (formally two) the 1st District cover’s half of the state – the most reliably Democrat part of the state. There was one district that was gerrymandered to include a the conservative enclaves of central Massachusetts, taking some of hoe more reliability Republican cities and towns, and pushing them away from the former 3rd district into the 4th, the fourth also lost the large urban centers of New Bedford and Fall River. This is the main reason Barney Frank retired, he had a close call in the 2010 elections, managing a 10 point lead over his challenger Sean Bielat (and that is with the dead voting). Most reasonable people would think a 10 point lead is huge, however, in Massachusetts, most Congressional Candidates enjoy a project 75% win, and that year, according to the New York Times, Barney Frank was going to sail through the election process, so was Richard Neal, the Democrat from the former 2nd District. They both had first time Republican Challengers, and the expectations we’re low. However, those that had, in the past, run minimal ads, or perhaps sent a direct mail piece – were actually campaigning and were forced to spend huge sums, call in big name party favorites – such as Bill Clinton, to help them win. The lay of the land, therefore, had changed.

Yet they still won, even if the margins were considering higher than anticipated.

Looking at this scenario, one would then wonder why, if election data from 2010 is so readily available on the Secretary of States Website, (from return of votes by city and town, drilled down by party,) why not use the most accurate data. However, if one were able to direct a poll, especially via robocalls, (which can be programmed to avoid or include specific area codes, and cities and towns) – it would make sense for a pollster, in support of a particular party, or commissioned to poll by a particular organization, to call into an area believed to be 100% Democrat.

There have been a few polls lately on the state, what with the race between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren, which makes sense, but, looking at those polls, one of which supplied geographic data, it was surprising to see a large percentage of those polled came from Western Mass, two to one, over those polled in Central Mass. Therefore the odds of polling a Democrat were greater.

One has to ask, why aren’t pollsters and that goes toward any pollster, but especially the professional firms, employing the state data, to evenly proportion a state based on geography combined with voter trends from the last federal election. This would produce a more accurate poll, the rest of the polls. Therefore, as polls are being conducted without regard to voting patterns in a state, or worse, intentionally targeting a particular section of the state that favored, say one party over another, they are –in a word-useless.

Perhaps they believe that by producing poll after poll which is fed to the media, and those pundits that sit upon their Beltway thrones, that somehow, should it appear one candidate is winning, then that candidate will eventually win, a combination of psychology that most of the “masses” will vote for the most popular candidate (the one ahead in the polls), and the fact that those supporting the underdog, will become concerned, and being to blather on about how that individuals campaign is sinking.

Will it work again? It worked swimmingly well in 2008, but there were other factors at play in 2008. John McCain was the weakest of three candidates standing as August reared, the strongest was Hillary Clinton, who, for all intents and purposes had the popular vote in the primary, and a choice between Clinton and McCain was a no-brainier. But, in the face of a Super-delegated candidate Obama, at the DNC convention, one had no choice but to vote for McCain, if one leaned Conservative at all. McCain, although a nice guy was just not in the least exciting, and also to be fair to McCain, the Republican brand had been so damaged, the ghost Ronald Reagan could not have been elected.

This election is a bit different however.

There are sides drawn and candidates are focused on swing states, the news tells us that these are the y keys to Obama’s victory. The polls tell us so. The pundits are assailing Romney for not being hard enough, or aggressive enough, or what-have-you, while the left (the press and the Obama Campaign) blast Romney for the most incredulously ridiculously inflated non-starters. They recycle old news, as if its breathtaking revelations as to how “bad” a candidate Romney is.

To someone who is, admittedly supporting Romney, but, that was not always the case - watching these polls and pundits repeating the negative mantra vis a vis Romney, it makes one believe that those who swear by these polls, are blindfolded.

Which is why one questions all of the polls, but, especially polls coming from individual States from swing to those that should be “in the bag” for Obama or any Democrat. PPP should poll the north shore of the Bay State – a recent poll commissioned by the partisan RNCC, gave the Congressional Challenger a fairly large lead over the incumbent Democrat, but more shocking and no less of import, the poll indicated that Romney and Obama were tied, and Brown was running away with the race in that district. The marginals showed the percentage of households in the state, with the results, and they were indeed skewed to favor the Republican. But, after looking at the city by city statistics and voter by party affiliation, one found the poll to be – perfect. It was based on the right percentage of voters Democrat, Republican and Unenrolled in that district.

A district Obama had won in 2008 by 20 plus points over McCain, a District that was redrawn to protect the seat of the Democrat.

If PPP has knowledge of that poll, and how it was conducted, then calling all of Western Mass makes sense, given the fact that it was withdrawn to be heavily Democrat. If PPP were a Democrat Polling firm Supporting the President. It could very well be the expense.

But it still begs the question why would they poll a State that is considered Safe Democrat, where a Republican can rarely win? The last Republican Governor was Mitt Romney, the 1st Republican Senator in decades is Scott Brown, and the last Republican to attain the White House from the Bay State was Calvin Coolidge. One would think there would be no need to poll. Maybe once, or twice, but repeatedly? Polls taken twice in the space of two weeks by the same pollster?

Unless that poll commissioned by a partisan group – somehow ended up being the most perfect poll as far as data is concerned – in recent memory, caught the eye of a campaign or pollster, instead of a “citizen” who writes opinion in a small enclave in Western Massachusetts.

In this opinion: Romney is doing everything right, and call it crazy, but his even tone, his measured response, and even his “alleged” gaffes, are ringing with those in the center, in the middle, the moderates, those unenrolled. He’s not a politician in the usual sense of the word, not the most charismatic (being charitable here), and not the most polished when it comes to off the cuff performances – but is the perfect looking, most popular guy in the class, really what the nation is looking for in a President this time?

We won’t know, we can’t know, because the polls are simply guessing games unless they are drilled down to the city by city, district by district level and that would cost too much. Therefore, what we, the consumer, are left with is anyone’s best guess, and if one feels their candidate is down in the polls, then one is most likely heading to a phone bank, plant a yard sign, or silently wait to go to the polls and show support by voting.

Those pundits who never set foot out of the heartland, or the broadcast booth, might want to trip into one of those swing states, or even the state next door to get an idea of how people are thinking, they might be surprised, that the gaffe the media considers shameless is being cheered on by the “masses”.

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