Why is the election so close ?

I have been watching the trends in the election campaign thus far. I actually watched much more of both conventions than I expected to. My present question is Why is this election close ?. Powerline blog asks the same question and has a rather gloomy conclusion.

But it now appears that the election will be very close after all, and that Obama might even win it. It will require a few more days to assess the effects (if any) of the parties’ two conventions, but for now it looks as though the Democrats emerged with at least a draw, despite a convention that was in some ways a fiasco. In today’s Rasmussen survey, Obama has regained a two point lead over Romney, 46%-44%. Scott Rasmussen writes:

The president is enjoying a convention bounce that has been evident in the last two nights of tracking data. He led by two just before the Republican convention, so he has already erased the modest bounce Romney received from his party’s celebration in Tampa. Perhaps more significantly, Democratic interest in the campaign has soared. For the first time, those in the president’s party are following the campaign as closely as GOP voters.

John Hinderaker comes to the following conclusion, at least tentatively.

On paper, given Obama’s record, this election should be a cakewalk for the Republicans. Why isn’t it? I am afraid the answer may be that the country is closer to the point of no return than most of us believed. With over 100 million Americans receiving federal welfare benefits, millions more going on Social Security disability, and many millions on top of that living on entitlement programs–not to mention enormous numbers of public employees–we may have gotten to the point where the government economy is more important, in the short term, than the real economy. My father, the least cynical of men, used to quote a political philosopher to the effect that democracy will work until people figure out they can vote themselves money. I fear that time may have come.

I have several other theories that are more optimistic. The polls may be wrong for several reasons. Citizens have been deluged with accusations of racism by frantic Democrats. Those who plan to vote for Romney may simply be misleading pollsters. In California about 30 years ago, the black mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley, was ahead in the polls going into the 1982 election. In the event, he lost in spite of appearances on election day. Absentee ballots were credited with turning the result into a win for Deukmejian, his GOP rival. The racial effect is still disputed.

Two theories of the racial effect are in competition. One holds that white voters are less likely to vote for a black candidate. The fact that a number of black office holders have been elected by majority white districts, including that of retired colonel Allen West, should dispute that theory. Another is that white voters are reluctant to disclose voting preferences to pollsters, which might expose them to changes of racism. Voting against Obama is widely attributed to racism by Democrats and, especially, the progressive left.

It is not clear if either of these theories has validity. It would be very depressing to think the theory of dependency on government is valid.

This may explain some of it.

As regular readers know, our view is that the US stands at an uncomfortable transition point between eras. We are between social models. The blue model of twentieth century mass production, mass consumption society based on stable corporate oligopoly, bloc voting and government regulation in a relatively closed national economy has foundered and it cannot, so far as we can see here, be restored. But we have at best only a very dim and incomplete sense of what could replace it.

Here is some support for my theory that the polls are wrong.

Pollsters will tell you that they cannot always count on voters to level with them about which candidates they favor. For example, Gov. Scott Walker’s victory in the Wisconsin recall election several months ago was predicted by the polls, but his margin was not. It was a larger margin than the surveys had forecast. Similarly in 2004, Sen. John Kerry went to bed on election night believing he would be the next president. He woke to a surprise, as did Democrats in 1994 and, to a lesser degree, in 1980. Note, in all these elections it was the Democratic who got the unwelcome surprise.

And there is some science behind the doubts:

The response rate has gotten so low that the reported differences in popularity have become meaningless. The main source of error is almost surely no longer due to random sampling error but rather to the unknown distribution of opinion in the unsampled part of the population that declines to respond.

By comparison, it’s as if you’re getting all excited about annual temperature changes over the just the desert areas of the earth without being concerned with other land surfaces or the oceans.

I think this may explain the tie in the polls. A real difference in Romney’s favor may not be apparent until the election. The Scott Walker comparison sounds valid to me. At least I hope so.

THis cheers me up a bit. The last thing we need is to give up.

48 thoughts on “Why is the election so close ?”

  1. I think that among the people who are going to vote Democrat, a greater percentage already have made that decision, as compared to those who are going to vote Republican. This is because the Democrats are “the party of the tax-eaters”, and it’s pretty clear to most people who are tax-eaters where their interest lies. And because the Democratic party is composed of special interests allied around sustaining and increasing government spending, it really is a single party, and its members know and accept that they are going to vote Democrat – even if they might be disappointed in him for other reasons. So that’s what the polls show about Obama’s potential popular vote.

    But that’s not true of the Republicans. The Bush Republicans are not the Tea Party Republicans. Neither of them are the Libertarian Republicans. Basically, the Republican party is “the party of people who are going to vote against Obama”. There really doesn’t seem to be any other uniting common interest. You can’t say that the Republican party is against government spending, because the Bush Republicans aren’t. You can’t say that it is united around social or religious conservatism, because the Libertarians don’t go there. You can’t say that it’s united against illegal immigration, because the Bush Republicans favor it.

    My guess (or maybe, my hope) is that a lot of these people haven’t yet truly accepted that in order to vote against Obama, they have to vote for a Republican candidate who, despite his selection of Ryan for VP, is a Bush Republican. Oh, they know that that’s the situation – but they aren’t ready, just yet, to commit to it. So they are lurking in the undecideds, waiting to see if Romney does anything that makes them decide to stay home.

    If I’m right about this, 75% of the undecideds will wind up voting for Romney. And that should give him a majority in the swing states he needs to win the electoral vote.

    But a friend of mine has another theory. He thinks that the polls, as part of the MSM, are tilting the polls toward Obama, where their political preference lies, in order to suppress the Republican vote by convincing potential Republican voters to stay home. But in the last few days before the election, the polls will have to get honest. If the suppression tactic works, the polls will continue to show Obama ahead. But if it doesn’t, the pollsters will start reporting the real voting preferences, in order to be able to say that they got it right if Romney wins. It will be framed as a “swing” to Romney, but in fact, it will have been there all along, just not reported accurately.

  2. The problem lies in predicting the results of an election rather than taking a snapshot in time of preferences held by people who are in the U.S. at the moment the snapshot is taken.

    The people interviewed may or not be citizens; they may or may not be legally eligible to vote; they may or may not show up to vote; and they may or may not be honest with the pollster.

    Quite often exit polls differ from actual vote counts by a large margin. If we assume the votes are counted accurately (why would anyone make a bad count?), then the voters lied to the pollsters.

    Voting is done in secret because some voters are afraid to state their opinion publicly.

  3. “When we fall, civilization goes down for the count with us.”

    Exactly wrong. With you out of the way, civilization will bloom.

    I watched large amounts of both conventions and although there are similarities, showbiz don’t ya know, the differences are profound.

    Watching Ryan do his thing, my expectations of actual policy and some details were not met in any way. Why would he go on about “making the tough decisions” when some light on those might be useful?. Any way, platitudes served up cold to a crowd who perhaps have never known much else.

    The contrast with Clinton’s speech is hard to overemphasize.

    Yeah the polls are wrong. They charge for those numbers and the amount really depends on how accurate they are. They can be wrong but I don’t think so this time.

    There was a revealing moment on Fox with Wallace going on about having some points, but he was just going to junk them, as people just wanted to watch such a beautiful family. A lot of America is “not” turned on by that kind of thing.

  4. The registered/likely appears hard to judge; so does the democrat/republican split in terms of those questioned. I’m not easy about the apparent problems in appropriate ballots for servicemen. I’m not easy about the Franken like zombie votes. I’m not easy about the excitement I saw in Obama’s speech. but if we as a country buy this crap – this zero-sum-game, this covet our neighbor’s life, this $16 trillion debt’s no problem and if it is, well, it’s
    Bush’s fault – we are a weaker, more selfish, more dependent, less willing to look life in the eye country than I thought we were. Oh, well. IowaTrades goes back up, sad voices complain, Stossel encourages all his listeners to vote for the libertarian candidate.

    But, I don’t think it’s over – nor that we are stupid and so selfish we can look at our kids and blithely ignore the fact we are screwing them.

  5. If your average homeowner treats unknown callers on his land line – those who still have them – like I do the polls are not accurate to begine with. That coupled with th fact that many organizations, like the LA Times oversampled Democrats.

    So you have oversampling both on the party and whoever is left having land lines. Those who answer the calls.

    On the other hand half of America is getting government checks.

    Then i am reminded of Carter-Reagan and how – for most of the campaign it was neck and neck or Carter just a bit ahead.

  6. Another potential reason why Gallup is less reliable.

    In that National Journal piece, Ron Brownstein wrote that the polls showing Romney leading the president had “a sample that looks much more like the electorate in 2010 than the voting population that is likely to turn out in 2012.”

    Internally, Gallup officials discussed via email how to respond Axelrod’s accusations. One suggested that it “seems like a pretty good time for a blog response,” and named a potential writer.

    In response to that suggestion, another senior Gallup official wrote — in an email chain titled “Axelrod vs. Gallup” — that the White House “has asked” a senior Gallup staffer “to come over and explain our methodology too.”

    ” A lot of America is “not” turned on by that kind of thing.”

    A few Canadian leftists are ““not” turned on by that kind of thing.”


    Let’s wait until the election before you make your final conclusion. Civilization may “bloom” if Obama wins but I suspect you have some experience with short blooming seasons.

  7. One thing about the INTRADE numbers, they have been stuck about where they are now for the last two months. What’s more, when there’s been a change, more often BO went down than up. While he’s gotten a mild bounce in the polls, BO got no bounce on INTRADE. Also, the volume on BO and Romney stock is about the same; so, some betters seem to think Romney is undervalued. If we were to express the INTRADE numbers in horse racing odds, BO is a 3 to 2 favorite, halfway between even money and 2 to 1. Every bookie in the world would love to have a plethora of suck—s, I mean, clients who think a 3 to 2 favorite is a sure thing.

  8. “Why is the election so close?”

    Because the voters who are sufficiently pissed off to force a change are in the minority, and the rest are either on the fence or on the take.

  9. If your average homeowner treats unknown callers on his land line – those who still have them – like I do the polls are not accurate to begine with.

    Telephone polls only sample that portion of the demographic which has nothing better to do than to talk to damn nosy strangers on the telephone.

  10. “Civilization may “bloom” if Obama wins but I suspect you have some experience with short blooming seasons.”

    If the first two years of Obama are any indication and with his newly won “flexibility” I don’t think we’re talking about the same civilization. The modern Greek model is not what I call civilization.

    My poll analyst of choice is Dick Morris. He focuses on the contested swing states and likely voters. This is where the electoral college will be decided. I agree with all of the comments about the issues in polling today. The issues of adjustments for ethnic and party identity as well as adjustments for likely versus registered voters could be easily corrected. The fact that they are not generally demonstrates that buzz is more important than accuracy. The consumers of their results are the main stream media and they aren’t much concerned about historical or projection accuracy. Who remembers if the polls were wrong by more then their statiscical margin of errors? A few conjectures about the “last minute swing of the undecideds” or group turn out and they are off the hook. Since the uncorrected known bias in most poll sample adjustments works to the mass media’s ideological bent, all the more reason not to change horses. Even the margin of error calculations are largely based on sampling error calculations based on universal land lines and minimal telemarketing of yesteryear with very questionable adjustments to current conditions. I think the comparison to global temperature sampling is accurate in both the challenge and the methodology. I believe the recent Walker margin in a blue state is the best indicator we have that most of the polls and the averages are systemically skewed. If the folks who actually work or ever regularly worked get energized to vote, the margin will look more like Walker than Bush 2000.

    It is Romney’s to lose, barring an October surprise (major “correction” in unemployment and growth figures, “right wing” threats/plot against Obama, Romney found to be third generation space alien, etc.). He has the money, he has a vulnerable opponent, he has a good back ground, he has good ideas and he is capable of doing well in the “debates”. Should he have a bigger margin? It is what it is because we are who we have become. It won’t be any single election result that turns us away from the flowering Greecification we are and have been heading toward at increasing velocity. We must hope and work for a result that prduces more than just puts us in cruise control. That depends very much on how the senate comes out.


  11. As Bill Brandt notes, Carter-Reagan was ‘too close to call’ right up to the 9-point victory. I was not at all surprised by the results. At the time, I was working for a small company in San Francisco doing air pollution measurement. The Carter administration was very good for that particular industry. Our boss was a big fan of Carter, our gay meteorologist was not so much pro-Carter as vehemently anti-Reagan, and I, with severe Asperger’s, was the only admitted Reagan voter. In the weeks leading up to the election, every other employee (five or six total) came up to me separately and said “Don’t tell [the boss], but I’m voting for Reagan, too.” As I said, I was not surprised when Reagan won big. (I told all this to a U. Chicago professor a few months later, and he told me he acted on his confidence that the polls were wrong, and took several hundred dollars off his colleagures betting on Reagan.)

    By the way, I’m too lazy to look this up, but wasn’t Mrs Thatcher’s election the previous year ‘too close to call’ right up to election day, and then a very solid win on the actual day? And didn’t pollsters make exactly the same mistake for Reagan’s reelection and Thatcher’s first reelection, saying things like “the incumbent’s going to win, but it won’t be a landslide”, and then it was a massive landslide?

    Obviously none of these involved a ‘Bradley effect’, that is, a racial angle, but I do think that when an less competent ‘nice guy’ is running against a supposedly nasty but apparently more competent person, the polls will be grossly biased towards the former. In fact, I wonder whether the original ‘Bradley effect’ had anything to do with race, or whether Bradley was perceived as the not-very-competent ‘nice guy’ in that particular election. (Of course, neither Carter nor Obama is actually a ‘nice guy’, or even half as ‘nice’ as Reagan and Romney, respectively, but we’re talking about perceptions, that is, press stereotypes.)

  12. I’m not sure that the Scott Walker comparison is encouraging. Before that election the press talked about the race as being too close to call. However, Intrade showed Walker as having 80% odds of winning as of a few days before the election. A historical chart of the current Obama-reelected contract on Intrade resembles the charts of the 2008 Obama contract and the 2004 Bush contract. In each case the winning candidate’s odds stayed above 50% during the last months before the election. That’s discouraging.

    The caveat is that % odds are not the same as % vote margin, and as another commenter pointed out, any such odds are the current odds rather than the odds on election day, which is when they really matter. If the Obama/Romney race is very close, a small shift in % vote margin can shift the market odds by a large amount, and the amount of this shift will increase exponentially as time until the election runs out (because time remaining until a specified date decreases exponentially). So while at the moment it seems likely that Obama will win, the situation can easily change. We can probably expect that at some point there will be a decisive move in the odds out of the current 50-60% range for Obama. However, if the outcome really is too close to call the odds may still be 50-60% for Obama within a couple of days of the election.

    It looks like Obama may win this by focusing on turnout, but so may Romney.

  13. The reason Obama is doing even as well as he appears to be (keeping in mind that the pollsters tend have their own agendas and blind spots) is simple: there’s a basic disconnect between the GOP activists and the rank-and-file. Increasingly the activists are driven by an urge for small government, eliminating the welfare state, and tend to analyze the whole situation in terms of _economics_.

    A large percentage of the rank-and-file GOP voters are much more motivated by social and national security concerns, and are in fact sympathetic to the welfare state, _within limits_. Just because you’re against abortion doesn’t mean you want to eliminate Medicare, or vice versa. The GOP used to be a permanent minority party, it wasn’t opposition to the welfare state that broke the Roosevelt coalition, it was ‘abortion, acid, and amnesty’.

    Yet the GOP runs away from social issues, and is just as dedicated to open-borders immigration as the Dems are, for their own reasons. Thus a big swath of voters who would be motivated and are motivated against Obama are left with a choice of evils, because they simply are either indifferent to, or hostile to, libertarianism.

    Ronald Reagan used to emphasize that he was not against the New Deal, just the Great Society. Politically, that’s a vital distinction, because it reflects where much of the electorate is. It’s not FDR they’re opposed to, it’s LBJ. It’s not the 30s they want to reverse, it’s the 60s. That distinction has been tripping up the GOP ever since Reagan left office.

  14. It should also be kept in mind that not all opposition to the welfare state is the same. There is one faction that sees it as an evil by nature, and wants to downsize it or eliminate it. They might be right on the merits, but they do _not_ reflect majority opinion in America. When the average voter complains about welfare, s/he isn’t talking about Social Security and Medicare. S/he doesn’t even mentally count those programs as _being_ welfare. The objection tends to be a moral one, that is, they think the government is giving money to people who should not get it, as opposed to people who deserve it.

    That was the essence of the TEA Party complaint about Obama’s mortgagte bailout program, for ex.

    Likewise, not all the opposition to Obamacare (which is one of the few things that largely unifies the GOP at all levels except the establishment elite) is economically based. Much of it is _moral_ again, based on opposition to abortion, the suspicion of ‘death panels’, etc. The money Obama, Pelosi, Reid, etc took out of Medicare to hide the costs of Obamacare was a gift to the GOP politically, it’s enabled Romeny and Ryan to blunt some of the Dems’ demagoging, it weakens ‘Mediscare’. But it only weakens it, it doesn’t mean that entitlements may not yet cost the GOP the election, just as they cost us Senate control in 2010.

    But that isn’t new. It’s not an ‘approaching tipping point’. The public has been firmly in support of the New Deal mindset since 1933 and they haven’t changed their mnds since. That does not mean they support all new entitlements, or that no change is ever possible, but it does mean that campaigning on ‘shrink the government and eliminate the welfare state’ is no more viable in 2012 than it was in 1980, or 1950.

    Romney comes from a background in the finance industry, which the electorate viscerally distrusts, and has for well over a century. He is almost the epitome of a wealthy out-of-touch country clubber, or at least it’s easy to caricature him that way. He has a relatively recent track record of flip-flopping on the social and immigration issues that motivate much of the GOP voting ranks.

    The only reason he’s doing as well as he is is that Obama is so bad as the alternative. It’s a measure of how little enthusiasm there is for Romney that Obama is holding where he is, and a measure of how disliked Obama is that Romney is competitive.

  15. We don’t answer our land line and we have friends who do the same, just to avoid nuisance calls. For calls we want to make or recieve, we use our cell phones.

    Now ask yourself, how many of the unemployed or those underwater on their mortgages or behind on their student loans answer their land lines when they suspect that the caller is likely to be a bank or a debt collection agency?

    The worst the economy gets, the fewer people answer their land line phones.

  16. “Those who plan to vote for Romney may simply be misleading pollsters”

    As one who worked as a public pollster for about five years for a major media firm, and who has polled hundreds over that time, I can tell you, without hesitation, the type of person who responds to polls is not that shrewd nor calculating.

    If Rasmussen has Obama ahead then Romney should be worried and has work to do. Turnout will be imperative and if the Dems are energized that is huge. I fear that Mr. Hinderaker is on to something. Lest we forget the only poll that matters is taken on the first Tuesday of November.

  17. Consider the following “Non-News” that are huge GOTV factors for 2012 and not factored into these polls:

    1) The Youth vote is not coming for Obama in 2012. He isn’t “Cool” anymore.
    2) The Independent voter isn’t coming for Obama either. He is too much of a Hard Left Democratic partisan for them.
    3) The Anti-Obama Catholic Church vote, however, *is* coming.

    Number 3) above is where the lack of MSM religious reporting is going to bite the Left square in the butt. The Left won’t pay attention to it’s coming, so they are going to be blind sided by it’s effect on election day.

    The Obamacare contraception/abortion/gay hiring mandates on Catholic Religious and Healthcare institutions plus Devout Catholic owned businesses are going to be in 2012 what the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was in 1994. The Obama Administration has made a survival issue of the continuing independence of the Catholic Church in America.

    The Knights of Columbus e-mail lists, Catholic radio and cable EWTN station are all hot with out takes from the Democratic National Convention “Abortion-paloza”.

    The Obama EPA shutting down of coal fired power plants and coal mines, plus the attack on the Catholic church, gives a lot of Mid-Western white ethnic union voters a different & non-Democratic Party identity to vote with.

    Pennsylvania is 53% Catholic.

    An 80,000 to 100,000 vote wing from Obama to Romney in Pennsylvania is on the table, with White ethnic working class Catholic voters going for Romney in 2012 at rates Hispanic voters went for Obama (AKA at 70(+)%) being on the table. Do your own the math, if you don’t like mine.

    The full extent of the Catholic Church’s intervention into American politics in 2012 won’t be clear for years, but the negative political impact of it on Obama — and Democrats in general — will be known on the second Wednesday in November 2012.

    This is the price of Democratic identity politics.

  18. I agree with Jason in LA. All this speculations about polls is just that — speculation. I believe Gallup and Rasmussen know their business. (As far as the others go, I wouldn’t give you ten cents for them.) BO has clearly gotten a bounce from the Dem convention. According to Rasmussen it’s in the 30 to 49 age group, and almost of it has been among women; so, it seems a fairly large group of early X’er and late Boomer women bought the war on women meme and the empty rhetoric of Charlotte, at least for now. To see whether this bounce in the polls indicates a real increase in support for BO, we will have to wait till early next week. If at that time BO still has the same poll numbers he has now, then, at that point, he will be the clear leader in the race, but, to use a football analogy, it would be like leading by a touchdown early in the first quarter. So no one panic. There’s still hope for a change (return) to sanity, and, even if Hinderaker is right, let’s go down fighting, knowing we did all we could.

    On a hopeful note, Rasmussen has BO and Romney tied in the swing states. So, maybe, this bounce is coming from states BO would have won anyway. One more thing: According to Gallup, after the Republican Convention in 2004, GWB led Kerry among likely voters 52 to 45, a bigger lead than BO has now. GWB maintained that lead for over three weeks, until the first debate. After Kerry’s good performance and GWB’s bad one that night in Miami, the race turned into the dogfight it remained up until election day. Yes GWB did win, but he could just as easily have lost.

  19. Traditional phone-polling methods no longer work for a variety of reasons – simple trend away from land-lines, well-poisoning by telephone marketers and push-pollers, a collapse in funding as MSM budgets go down, etc.

    Add to this the current iteration of the Tom Bradley factor due to the Democrats’ constant cries of racism motivating non-Democratic voters to fib to pollsters, as noted on RedState, and NONE of the publically available polls mean much.

    This year’s Presidential race pretty much requires use of an enormously expensive “hostile field” polling methodology. The two parties’ Presidential campaigns have the money for that. The MSM never did, and certainly doesn’t now.

  20. The election is close because the GOP choose the least charismatic, least inspiring candidate in the entire field.

    Romney hosed his turnout when the RNC screwed the TEA and RP factions with Rules 12 & 16. Who does he think mans the phone banks, does the election eve lit-drops and makes sure the marginal voters get to the polls?

    The RNC killed their grassroots. The party deserves what it gets.

  21. To Tom Holsinger: Can you explain what the “hostile field” polling methodology is? I’ve read somethings about it, and I think I understand the basic idea, but I would appreciate it if you could explain it more.

  22. A commenter on another site pointed out something buried on page 21 of the latest CNN poll. According to CNN, Dems are supporting BO 97 to 3. Reps are supporting Romney 96 to 2. Given this, and given that in the overall poll BO is leading Romney 52 to 46, one would think that Independents must be breaking big for BO, but, according to the very same poll, ROMNEY is leading among Independents 54 to 40. What gives? Well, after a bit of doing, I figured out CNN interviewed a grand total of 37 Independents in a sample size of 875, making, to my mind, their numbers on Independents meaningless. Throwing out the 37 Independents leaves a sample size of 838, of which 53% are Dems and 47% are Reps. And, guess what? That’s almost exactly how much BO is leading Romney by in the overall poll. By way of comparison, the current Rasmussen poll has similar numbers for Dems and Reps, but shows BO leading among Independents 53 to 40, which explains BO’s lead of 50 to 46 in the overall poll. (Whether BO’s lead among Independents lasts remains to be seen.) Forgive me for thinking that, with the exception of Rasmussen and Gallup, digging into the internals of other polls would reveal shenanigans similar to CNN’s.

  23. The Investor’s Business Daily/Christian Science Monitor/TIPP Poll is the only one to show the race narrowing after the Dem convention. Its authors claim this poll is the most accurate. There is even a link at the bottom of the webpage to an article that explains why they make this claim. We report you decide. Still, it seems to me that a poll aimed primarily at informing investors should be greatly motivated to be accurate.

    One more thing: It’s not true that Romney got no bounce after the Rep convention. In the Rassmussen poll, the day before the Rep convention started Romney trailed BO 45 to 47. Romney peaked the day before the Dem Convention started, leading BO 48 to 44. In other words, Romney got at net 6 point bounce. Romney is now back to where he was before the Rep Convention. So far BO has gotten a net 9 point bounce. Has he peaked, and will he soon return to his pre-conventions numbers? Well, Romney’s bounce petered out in about a week; so, let’s see what BO’s numbers are next Monday.

  24. ” A lot of America is “not” turned on by that kind of thing.”

    A few Canadian leftists are ““not” turned on by that kind of thing.”


    Let’s wait until the election before you make your final conclusion. Civilization may “bloom” if Obama wins but I suspect you have some experience with short blooming seasons.

    Very many Americans are suffering from the depression and the “beautiful family” is really not going to get a good response. There is some evidence that the RNC produced a negative bump.

    “When we fall, civilization goes down for the count with us.” Was a quote from your linked material and, I believe referred to the fall of America as the predominate power in the world. That is what my response was to, at any rate.

  25. What exactly is the choice here? The Party that wants to go bankrupt as fast as it can vs the Party that wants to slow down bankruptcy?

    Ryan is to the Left of Reagan, Ryan wants to make the Great Society solvent.

    If Obama wasn’t such a spoiled child he would have embraced Ryan’s plan.

    It’s correct to point out half the country is getting a check, they are well represented by BOTH parties.

    So the principal question is do you want the checks to keep coming for generations to come or do you wish to spend it now and not risk the next check or any part of it?

    There’s no representation for those who don’t believe in the Great and Good Government Society. Certainly no candidate for November.

    It’s the Party of GET IT NOW vs the Party of theoretically “Keep Welfare as our Posterity for Future Generations.”

  26. There’s something to be said for GET IT NOW while the getting’s good BTW. Certainly this can’t go on..so if you’re getting a check from the Govt, vote for the Party that will keep it coming without any hiccups, save the last.

  27. A major reason the polls are suspect is the easily manipulated weighting for likely voter proportions. Here is a quote about the ABC poll showing Obama with a big lead, but only one point in lead in likely voters:

    “Thirty-two percent of registered voters in this poll identify themselves as Democrats, 26 percent as Republicans and 37 percent as independents, continuing a record four-year preponderance of independents in partisan preferences. The split is almost identical among likely voters, 33-27-36 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents. Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 7 points in the 2008 election.”

    Does anybody believe that democrats show up to vote in the same proportion as Republicans? In 2008 they did, but not in 2000, 2004 or 2010. Independent surveys show that young, blacks and latinos will return to their previous participation levels this year. That does not match ABC’s likely voter results participation percents. As you can see they are using 2008 participation weights for likelihood of voting.

    Something seems suspicious when the participation rates are within 1% and the result changes by 4-5%. Obama even has more enthusiasm among his supporters among the registered voters, but more of Romney voters are actually likely to vote with the same proportion of these groups voting? Hmm. I’m no polling expert, but that does not make sense to me.


  28. Scotus,

    Go here:

    and look for the long post by Trent Telenko.

    Hostile field polling is what dictatorships use to find out what their people really think, because the people answering the questions are afraid to tell the truth. Pollsters in such situations have to ask very indirect questions, use huge sample sizes and take multiple polls. It is impossibly expensive for news organizations.

    “Typically for a sample size big enough to cover 67 stratifications (the current [2008] minimum number you need to adequately cover the American public — you’d need more to do it state by state, maybe as much as 3x as many) you need around 1200 respondents.

    To do a good ‘hostiles protocol’ you need about 15 stand in questions for the one that you think they’re lying about (if you think they’re lying about more than one, you can overlap some questions, but obviously that produces a spurious correlation in the results. Or at least that’s obvious to me and the people who know what they’re doing; I’ve seen a lot of researchers screw that one up).

    The 15 stand in questions all need to correlate with each other at about 60% or better.

    And now you see why no network even tried it this time (2008).

    To get those 15 questions you probably would need to test around 100 good ideas, in about 25 nationwide surveys (since they won’t all start out in the same survey and you have to see how they interact, so you’d test say 7 surveys in your first round … maybe 3/4 of questions would look promising in the second round, so you’d test 5 …. then 3 … then start doing mix-and-matches that would easily use up another 10 surveys).

    You’d have to pay for 25 polls to make your polls be accurate again.”

  29. SCOTUS,

    Tom Holsinger beat me to it, I see.

    To expand a bit on what Tom posted, a big problem in professional polling is getting good interviewers and not earnest college students. This is a hugely important factor in “Hostile Field Polling”, because you need a stable, solid and well trained team of interviewers for all the 25 polls.

    This is a comment from the same 2008 conversation I had with a professional pollster, who replied specifically to Tom Holsinger’s point about telemarketer well poisoning:

    I’m sure there’s some of that going on. But straight up, used to be if I hired 10 college kids to do interviewing, trained them properly, etc. they’d get a hangup rate of maybe 15% and a useful result rate of about 30% (that’s with a well-designed poll that would make someone feel good about answering, which after all is the whole idea).

    Nowadays (Note – 2008) with the best trained kids and the beat designed poll in the world, you’re lucky to keep hangups under 40% and the useful rate is more like 10%. (Things that are not useful and are not hangups are, e.g., people who are not quite all there mentally (a surprising number, until you ask yourself “Who’s home all the time?”), super-hostiles (those numbers have ballooned — people who don’t hang up because they’re too busy ranting; various others).

    This is of course for commercial stuff, which is what I do; but my colleagues over in political work tell me it’s this way cubed and squared over there.

    Whether it was people selling timeshare condos, celebutards making fun of them, or just a different climate, I don’t have evidence for. Probably all of that and many more I haven’t thought of.

    But nowadays regular people sure don’t like pollsters, and online surveys are more or less begging to be lied to and screwed over.

    The reason Bill Clinton was so good, and one of the reasons Hillary got blind sided by Obama, is that Bill Clinton kept the same polling team from two years before he was president through his entire presidency.

    Hillary’s Senate campaign was deeded that polling team by Bill. She got rid of that team for money reasons before she started her Presidential run. That was why she was always a day late and a dollar short with Obama. Her replacement polling team was no where near as good, even if it was cheaper.

  30. The reason the polls are so close is because the polls are not honest. This cycle [polling companies can develop new bias’ from cycle to cycle] the only fairly reasonable polling companies are Gallup and Rasmussen. And Gallup may be changing its model based on being threatened by the Attorney General, functionally for Lèse-majesté.

    Polls other than Gallup and Rasmussen are finally moving to the “Likely Voter” [most accurate, but with margin of error] screen finally. Polls up to now have been mostly “All Adults” [D +10 points by history plus MOE] and “Registered Voters” [D +5 points by history plus MOE]. And even then they are close, which is not good for Obama; even discounting other factors.

    The second bias in polls has been and is partisan affiliation choices. If you want accuracy, the pool has to reasonably reflect the electorate. The best measurement starting point is the last General Election, in this case 2010. Partisan breakdown will vary by state and region, but to be statistically valid they should use the breakdown from the last general election as a base point. They may have reasons to move from there, but they should be willing and able to lay out those reasons.

    That means, with the local variations cited above; it should be D-low 30’s/R-mid 30’s/I-the rest. If they are using any figures with D>R, at best they have to be using the 2008 election, and the country has changed by one depression and one conservative wave election since then. Look at the internals. They are deliberately skewing the polls.

    Remember the Golden Rule. “He who has the Gold, makes the Rules.” Our major media organizations, and most of the polling companies, have known political bias’ to the Left. The media pays for the polls. They are not going to pay for anything that contradicts their bias’.

    ALWAYS look at the internals. If they will not give the partisan breakdown that they use, toss it out. If the breakdown varies wildly from the 2010 base point, adjust to a midpoint between the skews to guesstimate reality. And account for the fact that Independents seem to be going for Romney

    This last weekend there were a couple of polls showing Obama moving barely ahead. They were 50D/45R/5I. And even then Obama was barely ahead. They were Maskirova.

    Only after you correct the basic polls to approximate reality do you then apply factors such as enthusiasm, turnout, “Bradley Effect”, etc.

    I go with deliberate manipulation as an explanation. And that says something about the validity of averages of those polls.

    Subotai Bahadur

  31. Trent & Subotai,

    Consider that newspaper and television ad revenues are way, way down for all the expected and other reasons, and that the MSM must pay for current polls with its much reduced revenue. They just don’t have the money to pay for even the old methodology polls.

    But fake polls are much cheaper.

  32. “Trent Telenko Says:
    Consider the following “Non-News” that are huge GOTV factors for 2012 and not factored into these polls:
    1) The Youth vote is not coming for Obama in 2012. He isn’t “Cool” anymore.
    2) The Independent voter isn’t coming for Obama either. He is too much of a Hard Left Democratic partisan for them.
    3) The Anti-Obama Catholic Church vote, however, *is* coming.”

    1. The youth vote was mostly hype even in 2008. It’s a great myth, part of the Obama myth machine, that young people swung the election for him. They didn’t, their actual effect on the outcome was not much different than most elections. This has been repeated so often that even some of Obama’s own PR machine believe it.

    2. The Independent vote, likewise, tends to be overstated, because most self-identified independents tend, in practice, to almost always vote for one party. They may consider themselves political swingers, but they behave rather monogamously. The sliver of the electorate that are true, genuine swing voters is narrow. Turnout matters much more than the PR machines on each side want us to think.

    3. This one may be be on target. It’ll be a very interesting thing to see.

  33. @Tom – and fake polls are reported with the same authority as real polls!

    I think, too, sometimes groups like CNN and the LA Times structure their polls to get the desired results.

  34. Living in Texas, talking to Nebraska relatives in Nebraska, the Iowatrades seems crazy, but I’m beginning to wonder if I live in a Pauline Kael bubble. At least it is a hell of a lot bigger than Manhatten.

  35. No one has posted on this thread for a while, but I thought I would post here to make an observation about INTRADE. First, a question, I’m not sure exactly how INTRADE calculates the probability of events. I know, of course, it’s based upon what shares are being bought and what shares are being sold. Still, I’m not sure exactly what formula INTRADE uses to change the raw buy/sell data into a numerical probability.

    Now the observation, as far as I understand, the way INTRADE counts an either/or prediction as accurate is this: The event happens and the final INTRADE probability for it was above 50%. So, if BO is reelected (Heaven forbid!) by even one electoral vote and the final INTRADE probability for his reelection was, say, 68% then the INTRADE prediction was accurate. This strikes me as strange. Surely, if BO is reelected by only one electoral vote, then the “real” probability (which, I know, only God can really know) of his reelection had to have been much lower than than 2 to 1. INTRADE may have gotten the prediction right, but its pre-event calculation of the event’s probablity had to have been way off. Thus, I’m not really sure how helpful the INTRADE numbers are in measuring the probablity of an event before it happens.

    As I pointed out in another comment, INTRADE has been spectacularly wrong in its predictions of close elections. Take now, for instance, the current INTRADE prediction for the Republicans taking control of the Senate. It’s 3 to 1 against. Now, I’m willing to concede, especially because of brain-dead Todd Akin, the odds of the Repbulicans taking the Senate are less than 50/50. I may even concede it’s worse than 60/40 against. Does anyone, however, right now believe the Republican chances are as bad as INTRADE says they are?

    Again, if one looks only at the final result, INTRADE seems fairly accurate, but, as I’ve said before, it’s easy to be right, when it’s easy to be right. I suspect, if someone did a real study of INTRADE’s accuracy in close elections (especially of their estimates of the probabilities) INTRADE’s record would not be so impressive, surely not better than the good polls, such as Rasmussen and Gallup.

  36. Scotus,

    Intrade does not try to generate some number that will correspond to the final electoral margin. Intrade does not try to generate some probability of events. Intrade is a market. The numbers you see are purely a report of what is going on in the market.

    If, in the week before the election, every poll in existence all showed Candidate X with 60%, then it is highly likely that the Intrade market on that election will show Candidate X at about 98%. That is not a fault in the system – it is not predicting that Candidate X will get 98% of the votes, it merely is reporting that 98% of the money is betting on the guy that seems obviously about to win.

    The value of Intrade, in at least the arguments for it that are common in political discussions, is that it represents the “power of markets” in that it is comprised of people who are betting actual money on their opinions, and thus are highly likely to have all done a lot of research, looking at all the polls – and the resulting Intrade number is the consensus of all this research that is driven by the profit motive.

    As opposed to looking at individual polls – all of whom have sampling margins, along with sampling biases, and a whole host of other factors that might skew their results.

    “Take now, for instance, the current INTRADE prediction for the Republicans taking control of the Senate. It’s 3 to 1 against. Now, I’m willing to concede, especially because of brain-dead Todd Akin, the odds of the Repbulicans taking the Senate are less than 50/50. I may even concede it’s worse than 60/40 against. Does anyone, however, right now believe the Republican chances are as bad as INTRADE says they are?”

    Given your assessment, that the odds of a GOP takeover are less than 50%, if you were to actually participate in the Intrade market, you would buy a Democratic retention. Does that mean that you believe the odds are 100% that the Dems will hold? No, of course not. The 3:1 ration you see now is merely a report that 3 times more money is betting on the Dems than the GOP. It is not intended as an assessment of probabilities.

  37. Scotus,

    Intrade is a pure market. The price of each contract is set by the interaction of buyers and sellers. If you buy a to-win contract for a candidate at a price of 68 you pay 68. If the candidate wins the contract expires at a price of 100 and you make a profit of 32. If the candidate loses the contract expires at a price of zero and you lose 68. The inverse would be true if you had bet against the candidate by selling the contract at 68. (Of course you can liquidate your contract before it expires if you want to cut your loss or take an early profit.)

    Intrade has a good predictive record as compared to publicly available poll results, in my experience. However, it is not perfect. In a close race it may be that none of the prediction methods is reliable, not only because of the limitations of opinion measurement but also because voters may change their opinions.

  38. Thanks, Jonathan, and you too, Joe C. Your answer here proves that, when you want you, you can make good sense. Actually, I would buy Republican. The price is low and I think the odds are not too long. I would also buy Romney for the same reason.

  39. Jonathan, on the issue of INTRADE vs. the polls, in 2010 both INTRADE and Rasmussen predicted the Republicans would gain eight seats. They actually gained six. INTRADE and Rasmussen got the same two races wrong — Nevada and Colorado. INTRADE had a rather high level of confidence in Republican victories in both races, with over 70% of the money on the Republican candidates in both states. Rasmussen was less confident, as both Republican candidates, though leading, were under 50%. Most pollsters will tell you, anytime one candidate doesn’t have at least 50%, the race is a toss up. Bottom line, in the close elections in 2010 INTRADE was no better than Rasmussen in predicting the actual outcome and INTRADE seems to have had more confidence in its wrong predictions that Rasmussen did. Right now, Rasmussen shows the Presidential race a toss up, while INTRADE indicates a rather high degree of confidence in a BO victory (68% of the money on BO). If the two remain divergent, we’ll see who turns out to be more accurate this year.

  40. One last point to add some perspective here…

    ” Does anyone, however, right now believe the Republican chances are as bad as INTRADE says they are? (3:1 for a Dem Senate hold)”

    Actually, Nate Silver, the stats geek who does polling analysis for the NYT has a very complex algorithm that attempts to actually assign probabilities to outcomes, and he has just upgraded the prob of a Democratic hold of the Senate to 79%.

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