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    About those polls

    About those polls

    Jay Cost doesn’t see malevolent intent, just a history of oversampling Democrats consistently across a variety of polling organizations:

    The clear answer is: they skew Democratic. In fact, every recent registered voter poll with party spreads I could identify had a Democratic advantage that exceeded the quarter-century trend. And the average of all these polls together is 35 percent Democratic to 29.5 percent Republican, or D +5.5

    Importantly, these polls show Obama with an average lead over Mitt Romney of 3.5 points. But if they have a 2.5-point Democratic oversample, then what we are really talking about is perhaps a 1-point Obama lead.

    Incidentally, this puts these polls much more in line with the Rasmussen poll, which has consistently found a toss-up race. Right now, Rasmussen – a poll of likely voters – sees an R+1.4 advantage in party identification. That is entirely defensible, in my opinion, given the weakness in the economy….

    Here’s my bottom line. It is very difficult to model the turnout for a presidential election this far away from November. There are a lot of tough choices that pollsters must make, and it is not fair to single any pollster out for the decisions it ultimately goes with. Nevertheless, we can and should still be smart consumers of political polling. We need to keep the historical spread between the two sides in mind, and be cautious of polls that show a relatively wide Democratic advantage over the GOP. They are probably underestimating the GOP’s electoral strength.

    I’ve never seen anyone analyze the “hang up” effect, namely, that Republicans (particularly conservatives) hang up on pollsters more than Democrats (particularly liberals).  If anyone has a link to a study of this phenomenon, even if debunking it, please post in the comments.

    In the meantime, don’t get overly pessimistic about the polls.  We have enough problems with Operation Demoralize without getting apoplectic.

    Update:  Reader Charles forwards this analysis by Nate Silver:

    Over the past six presidential election cycles, likely voter polls have been 0.7 points to 2.5 points more favorable to the Republican candidate than registered voter polls….

    For the time being, our model is giving Mr. Romney credit for a 1.6-point shift when it sees a registered voter poll and has him just a tiny bit behind Mr. Obama despite this. Needless to say, if the gap comes in toward the higher end of the historical range — or at something higher still, like a three-point difference in his favor — Mr. Romney’s chances of winning the election will improve.


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    Trent Telenko | July 21, 2012 at 11:21 am

    You’ve undoubtedly seen Dick Morris’s analytics that the undecideds breaking for the challenger NOT the incumbent.

    According to the academic I mentioned above, that is a date dependent statement.

    Overall, undecided tend to break against the incumbent. This is why the 50% approval number for incumbents is so important for them.

    However, _When_ they break in a Presidential race is hugely important, almost as important as by how much.

    Undecideds that break before early September overwhelmingly break for the challenger.

    Those who break after early September break for the incumbent.

    In so many words, challenger party leaning partisans and aligned independents commit early to their guy.

    Incumbent leaning loose partisans and aligned independents break for their guy in October.

    True independents at the last few days before the election are generally incumbent leaning voters who cannot resolve their distaste between the incumbent and the challenger.

    Good years for the incumbent see them hold their nose and vote.

    Bad years for the incumbentsee them stay home in large numbers or vote for the incumbent, usually the former.

    This is why you see the Democratic tradition of the “October surprise” against incumbent Republican Presidents and why Clinton in in 1996 and Obama now spend huge wads of cash early in swing states.

    Obama’s “failure” in his recent heavy campaign spending in swing states against Romney should be judged on that basis.

    Obama’s team is doing damned well to stay afloat with their partisans in this economy.

    Searcher | July 21, 2012 at 11:49 am

    The political poll is readily manipulated by the poller and the polled. Responding to one simply encourages fraud.
    Political polling is a social disease.

    Viator | July 21, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    I am a likely Romney voter. My phone system is Ooma (VoI) which allows you to block an infinite number of calls from any phone numbers, which I do frequently.

    The newer Panasonic cordless phones also allow to to call block up to thirty numbers.

    Needless to say my preferences will never appear in polling.

    New technology is allowing people to effortlessly pre-screen phone calls.

    Over the past six presidential election cycles, likely voter polls have been 0.7 points to 2.5 points more favorable to the Republican candidate than registered voter polls….

    *dryly* Did they check places with clean voter roles vs those with vote-by-mail that don’t clean their registries?

    Washington is HORRIBLE– My folks got a ballot for me several years after I moved.

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