Why the polls could be wrong

25 Sep

If you strongly support one presidential candidate over the other, you probably don’t pay much attention to the polls.

That’s a good thing – because you shouldn’t.

Politics 101 is open for business.

This is a bit complex, but follow us to the end.
It’ll make sense.

All of the polling out there uses some variant of the 2008 election turnout as its model for weighting respondents.

This overstates the Democratic vote by a huge margin.

Here’s what happens: When you do a poll you ask people if they are likely to vote.

But any telephone survey always has too few blacks, Latinos, and young people and too many elderly in its sample.

That’s because some don’t have landlines or are rarely at home or don’t speak English well enough to be interviewed or don’t have time to talk.

Elderly get overstated because they tend to be home and to have time to talk.

So you need to increase the “weight” given to interviews with young people, blacks and Latinos and count those with seniors a bit less.

Usually, this is not difficult.

Over the years, the black, Latino, young, and elderly proportion of voters has been fairly constant from election to election.

Yes, there’s been a gradual increase in the Hispanic vote, so you adjust there.

The bottom line – you look back at the last election to weight your polling numbers for this one.

Here’s the key – 2008 was no ordinary election.

Blacks, for example, usually cast only 11% of the vote, but, in 2008, they made up 14% of the vote.

Latinos increased their share of the vote by 1.5% and college kids almost doubled their vote share.

Almost all pollsters are using the 2008 turnout models in weighting their samples.

Rasmussen, differently, uses a mixture of 2008 and 2004 turnouts in determining its sample and that data usually is better for Romney.

There’s something to keep in mind…

The current polling shows a widespread lack of enthusiasm among Obama’s core support due to high unemployment, and disappointment with his policies and performance.

Add to this the lack of novelty in voting for a black candidate now that he has already served as president.

If you adjust virtually any of the published polls to reflect the 2004 vote, not the 2008 vote, they show the race either tied or Romney ahead, a view that may be much closer to reality.

Looking at almost all of the published polls will show Obama getting less than 50% of the vote and less than 50% job approval.

A majority of the voters either support Romney or are undecided.

Here’s an important fact: The undecided vote always goes against the incumbent.

For example – in 1980, the last time an incumbent Democrat was beaten, the Gallup Poll of October 27th had Carter ahead by 45-39.

Its survey a week later showed Reagan catching up and leading by three points.

In the actual voting, the Republican won by nine.

The undecided vote went to the challenger.

It’s important to understand an undecided voter has really decided not to back the incumbent.

He or she isn’t going to won’t focus on the race until later in the game.

So, when a poll shows Obama ahead by, say, 48-45, it may be he’s really losing by 52-48.

Add everything together and the polls that are out there now could be misleading.

As they say, the only poll that counts is the one on election day.

Class dismissed.

2 Responses to “Why the polls could be wrong”

  1. Anonymous September 26, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    This was pointless.

    • Honolulu Notes September 26, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

      No, it was just over your head.

      Honolulu Notes

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