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Recently I've seen at least two rec-listed diaries that allege that the Gallup Organization has deliberately distorted its survey results. The most recent one avers, "Gallup admits: it only releases likely voter results when they favor McCain!" Before that we had: "Busted!: Gallup, CBS, USA.Today, etc. Tinkers With Party ID Again." Both diaries shot up the rec list, with comments about how Gallup was abetting election fraud. These are (or should be) serious allegations, but the supporting evidence was seriously lacking. I'll explain over the jump.

The allegations

These seem to be the major points in the two diaries I linked above:

  1. Gallup and other firms "can't stop the madness and [they're] still diddling around on behalf of their media masters."

  2. Gallup's September poll, along with other media polls, was "conducted using a higher sampling of Republican voters than in July.... [T]hese polls still decided to shift in the favor of Republicans coming out of their convention, which only gives the perception of McCain really gaining steam."

  3. A former Gallup executive confirms that "pollsters don't report public opinion, they manufacture it."

  4. The Gallup/USA Today poll released on September 8 "used a sudden, unexplained, temporary shift to the likely voter model.... This was a deliberate choice by Gallup and USA Today -- to release a poll that would maximize the impression of McCain's bounce and help shape the campaign narrative in favor of McCain-Palin's favor."

  5. Gallup admits that "it believed institutionally that likely voter results were less accurate than registered voter results," but "deliberately chose to release" a poll using this "admittedly less accurate method."


A matter of ethics

First, a point that some may consider painfully naive: Gallup researchers subscribe to an ethical code, and as far as I can tell, they take it seriously. Most if not all of them belong (as I do) to AAPOR, the American Association for Public Opinion Research. The AAPOR Code of Professional Ethics & Practices says in part:

We shall not knowingly select research tools and methods of analysis that yield misleading conclusions.

We shall not knowingly make interpretations of research results that are inconsistent with the data available, nor shall we tacitly permit such interpretations.

When preparing a report for public release we shall ensure that the findings are a balanced and accurate portrayal of the survey results.

If we become aware of the appearance in public of serious inaccuracies or distortions regarding our research, we shall publicly disclose what is required to correct these inaccuracies or distortions....

Alas, AAPOR can't take away the toys of researchers that violate this code, but it can and does call them out. A classic example is AAPOR's smackdown of Frank Luntz for failing to support his claims about public support for the "Contract with America." This is not the sort of attention that the folks at Gallup would like to receive. On the contrary, George Gallup was passionately idealistic about honest public opinion research, and the organization strongly values its reputation for integrity. I think it has earned that reputation.

If the allegations I've cited are true, then Gallup's reputation should be in the dumpster. If they are unsupported, then someone should set the record straight, as I will try to do here. Point by point:

1. Media masters

I don't feel like parsing exactly what the diarist had in mind in this claim, but having read a few hundred comments, many readers take it this way: the MSM has a stake in (1) contriving a close election so that ratings go up, and/or (2) throwing the election to McCain, which can be served in part by creating confusion about who is really ahead. And so, Gallup and/or other pollsters have been commissioned to serve these ends.

At least part of the premise here is reasonable: the MSM probably does benefit if the election is exciting. Beyond that... well, let's move on.

2. "...decided to shift in the favor of Republicans..."

The allegation, as I understand it, is that Gallup either deliberately oversampled Republicans, or deliberately overweighted the Republicans in their sample (or both), so that Republicans would be overrepresented and McCain would fare better than he ought.

No evidence is presented for this allegation. To be sure, the diarist links to a Huffington Post article that documents that Gallup's tracking poll, the Gallup/USA Today poll, and a CBS poll all showed a shift toward more self-identified Republicans than in past polls. For instance, in the 9/3-5 Gallup tracking poll, equal percentages of Republicans and Democrats were surveyed, compared with a 10-point Democratic advantage two weeks earlier. (Here I'm relying on the facts in the article.)

To some of us, the fact that three different polls showed a movement toward Republican identification suggests that maybe a lot of people who have been wavering between "Republican" and "independent" wavered back to Republican immediately after the convention. And it's always possible that the polls obtained biased samples -- for instance, some of them may have sampled too many Republicans because Republicans happened to be home watching the convention. It's also logically possible that pollsters grabbed the "party identification" knob and gave it a firm twist to the right. But I have to wonder: why would they even bother? If party identification is some telltale giveaway, why not produce some other numbers instead? (Of course, for someone who believes that McCain cannot have been ahead, any numbers would be implausible.)

At any rate, I've seen no evidence whatsoever that Gallup did anything to manipulate the proportions of self-identified Democrats and Republicans in these surveys. The assertion that Gallup "decided to shift in the favor of Republicans" is mere conjecture, "supported" by many quotations that have no bearing on the matter.

By the way, citing party registration figures is simply beside the point, unless a lot of context is provided. Surveys generally ask people how they think of themselves, not how they are registered -- and plenty of registered Democrats and Republicans don't think of themselves as such.

3. David W. Moore on manipulating public opinion

Full disclosure: I haven't read David Moore's latest book yet. I did, however, take a few minutes to read the Publisher's Weekly review quoted at Moore's website:

[Moore] argues that today's polls report the whims rather than the will of the people due to an intrinsic methodological problem: poll results don't differentiate between those who express deeply held views and those who have hardly, if at all, thought about an issue. Thus, respondents are compelled to provide an ill-considered, top-of-mind response because the method does not offer the option of expressing no opinion. In Moore's view, forced-choice polls not only distort public opinion, they create a legitimacy spin cycle, which damages U.S. democracy by manufacturing a public consensus to serve those in power.

That's an interesting line of criticism, part of which dates back at least to the 1940s (when Lindsay Rogers wrote, "Instead of feeling the pulse of democracy, Dr. Gallup listens to its baby talk"). But it has nothing to do with whether Gallup games its pre-election polls.

4. The "sudden, unexplained, temporary shift"

As the second diarist rightly says, the Gallup tracking poll has used a registered voter screen -- that is, anyone who says they are registered to vote is included. (My guess is that Gallup doesn't screen in North Dakota, which doesn't have voter registration, but such details don't matter here.) It's also true that the first September USA Today poll, fielded the 5th through the 7th, reported that "McCain leads Obama by 54%-44% among those seen as most likely to vote." (This statement appears in the 8th paragraph of the story. The second paragraph reports McCain's 4-point lead among registered voters.) So, is this a "sudden, unexplained, temporary shift" from registered voters to likely voters?

No, it isn't. PollingReport.com lists ten USA Today/Gallup polls between January and August. All ten of them used a likely voter screen. Here is USA Today's writeup of the previous survey, which was fielded August 21 through 23. To quote:

Obama holds a 47%-43% edge over McCain among registered voters and a 48%-45% edge among likely voters. Both leads are within the margin of error of +/—4 percentage points.

In the USA TODAY/Gallup Poll a month ago, Obama led McCain by 3 percentage points, but McCain held a 4-point lead among likely voters.

So, a late-August (pre-convention) poll that not only used the likely voter screen, but cited a July poll that did as well. Summary: the Gallup tracker has always used a registered voter screen; the USA Today/Gallup Poll has apparently used a likely voter screen all year (and has reported both RV and LV results). However, people might have one good reason to think otherwise:

The Democratic National Convention significantly boosted Americans' views of Barack Obama as a strong leader who "shares your values" and can manage the economy and Iraq, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Saturday and Sunday [August 30-31] finds.... In the head-to-head race, Obama leads 50%-43% among registered voters. In the USA TODAY Poll taken Aug. 21-23, the Illinois senator held a 4-percentage-point lead.

Aha! so USA Today apparently chose to use RV numbers, not LV numbers, to measure Obama's bounce. Here is the catch: Mark Blumenthal reported that this survey in fact "was a two-night subset of [the] Gallup Daily tracking survey." So, if anything, there seems to have been a sudden, unexplained, temporary shift away from the likely voter screen -- although it isn't hard to explain: USA Today wanted some fresh results between its regularly scheduled polls. (Below I note another point that might have confused people about the standard practice in the USA Today polls.)

By the way, one more quotation from that presumably dreadful USA Today piece:

"The Republicans had a very successful convention and, at least initially, the selection of Sarah Palin has made a big difference," says political scientist Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia. "He's in a far better position than his people imagined he would be in at this point."

However, in an analysis of the impact of political conventions since 1960, Sabato concluded that post-convention polls signal the election's outcome only about half the time. "You could flip a coin and be about as predictive," he says. "It is really surprising how quickly convention memories fade." (emphasis added)

I guess that fits right in with the idea that the media likes to hype the closeness of the race -- but then, why bother to contrive a 10-point lead at all?

5. Gallup admits...

Here is part of the quotation from Gallup Poll editor-in-chief Frank Newport that one diarist construed as a sort of smoking gun:

Second, we are at this point reporting likely voter estimates on only an occasional basis. We feel that the trends among registered voters give us the best way to track election preferences in our daily poll, in part because many voters are not yet in a position to accurately estimate their chances of voting on Election Day. But from time to time, we do estimate (and report) likely voter results to give us a feel for the potential difference turnout could make in November. [emphasis in original]

(This statement might have given some people the impression that the USA Today/Gallup polls hadn't previously reported likely voter estimates -- although Newport is primarily talking about the daily tracking poll.)

Did Newport "admit" believing that likely voter results are "less accurate"? No. He said that registered voter trends are, or may be, the best way to track daily trends. This could be true if, at any given time, a spike in Obama supporters' or McCain supporters' enthusiasm might create a transitory spike in the topline results, which would not reliably reflect underlying trends. (I'm not splitting hairs here: the only way to tell whether the likely voter results are "less accurate" would be actually to conduct a snap election -- i.e., there actually is no way to tell.) There is some evidence for Newport's view: Erikson et al. concluded that in 2000, the likely voter results in the CNN/USA Today/Gallup tracking poll fluctuated more than the registered voter results. Probably influenced by that analysis and their own internal research, Gallup decided not to use the likely voter model in its tracker -- but USA Today decided to report both likely-voter and registered-voter results. As Newport noted in late July, earlier in the year the likely voter numbers had tended to favor Obama!

Perspective

It's reasonable to question whether these likely-voter numbers are worth reporting at all, and if so, how they should be reported. Newport wrote back in July that the likely-voter result "months before an election shows the potential that voter turnout can have on the popular vote outcome, but is not a predictor of what that turnout will look like on Election Day." I think that USA Today's report (which, again, led with the RV numbers and presented the LV numbers six paragraphs later) was in that spirit -- and, as an information hound, I'm grateful that USA Today presented both results -- but someone could reasonably think that we would have been better off without the likely voter "information."

But I can't find the reason in the specific allegations of professional misconduct lodged against Gallup, in these two diaries and many of the comments attached to them. I hope Kossacks will think twice and check facts carefully before posting or recommending diaries that impugn people's integrity. It seems like the right thing to do.

Originally posted to HudsonValleyMark on Tue Sep 16, 2008 at 02:04 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thom Hartmann today (11+ / 0-)

    A former Gallup pollster talked at length about the dynamics of the poll. It's not a "fix" or deliberately misleading, but it is certainly different than portrayed. If you ask "If the election were held today..." you get a certain type of response.

    But I've supervised many pre-election polls myself, and I know that it's very much influenced by who is at home answering the land line, how much time they have for the poll, how long the poll is, order of the questions, etc.

    Thanks for a thoughtful analysis.

    •  This argues that polls are subject to error. True (0+ / 0-)

      This is always true. Bad questions yield unreliable answers. Poor sampling skews results away from a valid representation of the population over which the results purport to generalize. And then there is "random error": Are people telling pollsters what they really believe? Do they understand the question? Are they pissed at getting another phone call, and decide to sabotage the poll? And many other "individual differences" can make poll numbers subject to error, and thus less that reliable or valid as indicators of what is being measured. And people do change their minds over time. The very fact that they were polled may result in people seeking out information OR planting their feet in psychological cement. We don't know the relative contribution of any of these sorts of factors in any individual poll. But statistics tell us that multiple polls will better approximate the true conditions being measured. If we can rule out malfeasance by the pollsters, the best answer we have is the composit of all the polls.

      The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings. -- Julius Caesar, I.ii.

      by semiot on Tue Sep 16, 2008 at 03:00:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Facts are facts, we can't deny them or we wind up (8+ / 0-)

    like the right.  As a member of American Association for Public Opinion Research, I would value your opinion on whether any of the polls have a handle on turnout this time around.  I have a hard time believing that they can say with any degree of certainty that they have figured out who all these new voters are and which ones will turn up on polling day.  Thoughts?

  •  I appreciate this level of detail (5+ / 0-)

    ..most people probably won't appreciate the last line in your diary (my experience here is that the vast majority of users here do remarkable research on their topics) but it's great to see your expertise in this area & get a better understanding of the industry.

  •  Not what we want to hear (4+ / 0-)

    but you are persuasive and well-informed.  Fortunately, pre-debate polls are poor predictors of actual election results, so let's all take a deep breath.

    I received zero McCain points for this post.

    by stunzeed on Tue Sep 16, 2008 at 02:09:27 PM PDT

  •  Thanks For Doing This.... (5+ / 0-)

    I am sure, as the McCain bounce abates, the pollsters won't be "cheating" as much as they used to...

    I understand that people are invested in this race, and that people are antsy. But, good grief, every bit of bad news is NOT the result of an anti-Obama conspiracy.

    "You share your young with the wolves of the nation...
    Theres nothing left til you pray for salvation"
    Black Rebel Motorcycle Club "American X"

    by Steve Singiser on Tue Sep 16, 2008 at 02:09:28 PM PDT

  •  Lots of commentators took issue with (7+ / 0-)

    those diaries as well, at least in the more recent of the two, in which I briefly participated.  But, voices of caution are generally drowned out by jump-on-the-bandwagon-ism.  

    Just because reality DOES have a well-known liberal bias ... doesn't mean liberals always stay grounded in reality.

    It's difficult for humans to operate with bias, even those trained and committed towards doing so.  I doubt Gallup is perfect and that's why we don't take any one poll as definitive.  But your fair-minded defense is well-taken.

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Tue Sep 16, 2008 at 02:09:40 PM PDT

  •  Polls are like magic (7+ / 0-)

    Nobody understands how they work, or almost nobody. So people attribute all kinds of crazy behavior to pollsters with next to no evidence whatsoever.

    "No one can rightly deny the fundamental correctness of our economic system." --- Herbert Hoover, 1928

    by Shelbyville Manhattan on Tue Sep 16, 2008 at 02:09:59 PM PDT

    •  People understand how they work (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      IMind, Shahryar

      when the pollsters release their internals and methodologies. Gallup relies on their reputation and a "trust us" mentality.

      •  no, they really don't (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Larry Bailey, Mr X, Daaaaave

        Gallup has been very forthcoming about how their likely voter models work. See the diary link to Newport from July, and a couple of pollster.com articles.... In general, Gallup seems to answer questions.

        •  Do you happen to know (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          costello7

          the internals for their tracker then? I'm less concerned with their differences between RV and LV, which everyone understands already, than with items like party ID, changes to their make up and justifications as to why changes were made.

          Explaining the difference between a registered voter and a likely voter is not satisfactory when it comes to reporting the vast differences, not just between the relative numbers, but within their own trend lines. The takeaway is Newport's answer that "Gallup has spent decades developing our system" but what that system is and what is entails is left to our imagination.

          Secondly, Newport explains "Second, we are at this point reporting likely voter estimates on only an occasional basis. We feel that the trends among registered voters give us the best way to track election preferences in our daily poll, in part because many voters are not yet in a position to accurately estimate their chances of voting on Election Day. But from time to time, we do estimate (and report) likely voter results to give us a feel for the potential difference turnout could make in November. So far this summer, there have been occasions when -- as was the case this past weekend after the GOP convention -- likely voters were decidedly more Republican." as you quote above. What you do not address however is that this is an admission that Gallup chooses when to publish their likely voter estimates. So there is some sort of editorial decision to publish the results when McCain takes a 10-point lead and to not report the results when the margin is much closer. As I'm sure you know that selective reporting like this both skews the nature of the polls and becomes an easily repeatable talking point, Gallup was deliberately inserting itself into the election conversation by choosing that particular likely voter result to report.

          "Developing our system" is not an adequate answer, in my opinion. This is not to say that they're "cooking the books", as some have suggested, but that I find their opacity when it comes to how and why they choose their respondants unhelpful and why I am grateful for Hotline and R2K/Kos for revealing the wizard behind the curtain, so to speak.

          •  they post some internals occasionally (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Daaaaave

            I don't have access to anything you don't. But I have no reason to believe that Gallup controls "changes to [the] makeup" of party ID at all. I suspect that Mark B. at Pollster has posted exactly what Gallup does weight to in the tracker, but I don't have an authoritative answer right now.

            The system that Newport describes is the system for screening likely voters, so I'm not sure what you're saying is left to our imagination.

            So there is some sort of editorial decision to publish the results when McCain takes a 10-point lead and to not report the results when the margin is much closer.

            Not as far as I know. I think USA Today has consistently published both results whether the differences were small or large. (That wasn't Gallup's call at all, although they could second-guess it if they thought it was egregious.)

            •  Thanks for the responses (0+ / 0-)

              And just to clarify, I am primarily talking about their tracker and not the USA Today/Gallup poll. The tracker is the one tracked and updated daily everywhere from RCP to the top of Politico's home page. The trends in the tracker seem to drive daily pronouncements from Chuck Todd and the rest of the number crunchers. That's the one that, to me, seems to be the more important between it and the USA Today poll, which I see as more or less interchangable with the NBC/WSJ, ABC/WaPo, Newsweek and others.

              •  OK, so to make sure we're both being clear (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Daaaaave

                I had to go back to the USA Today poll because you referenced it (10-point LV lead). That doesn't apply to the tracker.

                Yes, the tracker gets lots of attention. The number crunchers really ought to understand that the tracker can only provide so much information, which is not very much. (Releasing the internals would of course provide more information, although I shudder to imagine what some people would do with it -- not intended as an argument against releasing it.)

          •  I should add... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Daaaaave

            while personally, I've never felt that releasing internals is a touchstone of transparency, more is always better. I don't know that it reveals the wizard, but it reveals something, at least.

        •  Gallop is what I always went by (0+ / 0-)

           I would like to believe the Kos poll but I dont know anything about it.Whats the background of the people doing the KOS poll?

  •  Great work... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mr X, Steve Singiser, soms

    but conspiracies are so much more fun!

    "We're all working for the Pharaoh" - Richard Thompson

    by mayan on Tue Sep 16, 2008 at 02:10:31 PM PDT

  •  whatevahhhh. its more fun to say they're lying. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slinkerwink

    cause we luvs the drama.

    :)

    Nice diary - good research and analysis.

  •  It wasn't gallup (4+ / 0-)

    it was the press pushing a narrative in order to have a compelling story.  They overstated the importance of that poll in order to help the excitement around the Palin pick.  Whether they're doing that to help the GOPers or just to sell the soap depends on which outlet you're talking about.

    Unfortunately they don't take oaths like the pollsters.  That narrative amped up the fear around here and people were anxious to latch onto the idea that the fix was in.  

    Fear is the mind killer

    by Sun dog on Tue Sep 16, 2008 at 02:13:04 PM PDT

  •  Another point (3+ / 0-)

    Why would a polling company with a reputation like Gallup want to use biased methods to produce inaccurate poll results? Polling companies pride themselves on their accuracy; if they were consistently and grossly inaccurate, nobody would use them.

    None of the news organizations want to be the ones that "got it wrong," (except maybe Fox, who is trying to manipulate voters more than anything). Still, even left- and right-leaning polls make an attempt to be mostly accurate, because the campaigns want to know whether they are ahead or behind.

    I can see Gallup making judgments about what type of data to use that may be different than what someone else might do but that doesn't mean it's a deliberate attempt to introduce bias.

    Last election, I was on Zogby's list. I kept getting e-polled every week. I question whether it accurately captures the electorate to continually poll the same exact responders. I worked for a Market Research Firm in Minneapolis; we did political polling for the Star Tribune. We never purposefully used the same sample for a subsequent poll.

    •  I could argue this from the dark side... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larry Bailey

      This far out, who is to say whether they are accurate or not?

      But I agree with your point. (Also your point about Zogby Interactive. Zogby is not likely to inspire such a fervent defense on my part....)

      •  That's a good point, too. (0+ / 0-)

        They could be relying on the fact that it's several weeks away and they could always say people must have changed their minds.

        I do find it interesting when polls have great disparity between one another. I'm also thinking that when you're only sampling what is a relatively small sample of the population, you are bound to have days when your results are off. Also, how the sample is weighted could definitely throw results way off.

        I was thinking about how when someone puts up a KOS poll, and if two people vote, the poll says "50%" think this way or that way. But it's only 2 people! I confess I don't know much about statistics or how polls are calculated, but I have always been skeptical of how accurate they could be when their such a small percentage of our population.

        •  it's a deep subject (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Febble

          The sample shouldn't have to be very big. One famous analogy is: how much of the soup do you have to taste to tell how hot it is? 10%? of course not. But -- but -- the soup has to be well stirred.

          The tough stuff in polling has little to do with raw sample size, and much to do with getting a "well stirred" sample. And -- to drop the metaphor before I do myself in! -- in asking questions worth answering. (I say this as an observer -- I don't run polls myself.)

  •  I agree with you... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HudsonValleyMark, Junah

    ...for the most part. I never bought into the "conspiracy" theory. People often confuse what particular reporters tend to highlight with Gallup the organization.

    I take issue with some of the editorial content Gallup chooses to put up. In fact I have issues with a polling organization posting any sort of editorial opinion.

  •  thanks. I have not had time to thoroughly read (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larry Bailey

    or link, but i absolutely appreciate this kind of factual information that assists us to make a positive contribution to disseminating information.  Great work.

  •  Oh every time people start questioning the polls (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larry Bailey, Micheline

    you know what that means: major case of willies.

    Don't give a damn a/t each & every politician currently alive in the US. Last time i voted for the top part of the ballot was 1972. Never missed SB election

    by Mutual Assured Destruction on Tue Sep 16, 2008 at 02:14:29 PM PDT

    •  I disagree (4+ / 0-)

      Polls should always be questioned, good or bad. Polls drive "analysts" drive news cycles drive elections. Simply letting data points float around unquestioned isn't smart, in my opinion.

      •  Well, this is certainly true (0+ / 0-)

        and the headline margin is rarely the most interesting story.  Both journalists and readers need to become more informed consumers of polls.

      •  Oh come on, if the polls were favoring our side, (0+ / 0-)

        there wouldn't be a couple of highly recommended (and if i am add partially flawed) diaries with 1000s of comments and many many others not that well written.

        Oh come on, as Obama would say. This is simple psychology, and by the way it corresponds to the first and second stage of grief: denial and anger. There are 3 left, let us hope we never get to the last 2.

        Don't give a damn a/t each & every politician currently alive in the US. Last time i voted for the top part of the ballot was 1972. Never missed SB election

        by Mutual Assured Destruction on Tue Sep 16, 2008 at 02:30:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  And (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          costello7

          I also remember several, maybe even many, commenters saying "Don't believe the hype. Get back to work." when those polls were released because it was always going to tighten.

          There is, I think, a clear difference between being happy about numbers moving in a positive direction and a blank acceptance of what those numbers allegedly include. I can be happy Obama's trending upward according to Ras's tracker and still want to know where that number is coming from.

  •  Excellent Diary! Excellent. Thank you for... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slinkerwink, HudsonValleyMark

    ...bringing some reason to this issue (and for the, IMO, gentle slaps at the hyenas crying "rigged").

    No Way, No How, No McCain-Palin.

    by Larry Bailey on Tue Sep 16, 2008 at 02:20:52 PM PDT

  •  too many Republicans (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HudsonValleyMark, costello7

    To some of us, the fact that three different polls showed a movement toward Republican identification suggests that maybe a lot of people who have been wavering between "Republican" and "independent" wavered back immediately after the convention.

    How would they know? If they asked x amount of people they would still only be working with that small group and not the entire universe of however many millions of voters there are.

    Even if they had access to up-to-the-second national party registration figures, it would take an enormous number of people changing their registration from Democrat/Independent to Republican....*that week*!

    Which didn't happen, by the way. Because if it had it would be a monumental news story.

    •  yeah, and bear in mind that ID isn't registration (0+ / 0-)

      People might "think of themselves" as Republican one day and independent the next; they generally won't change their registration status accordingly!

    •  Did you read the part (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      slinkerwink

      in the diary that explained that party ID is not the same as party registration?

      By the way, citing party registration figures is simply beside the point, unless a lot of context is provided. Surveys generally ask people how they think of themselves, not how they are registered -- and plenty of registered Democrats and Republicans don't think of themselves as such.

      •  still....how would they know? (2+ / 0-)

        how many people would have to be interviewed before they felt comfortable changing party ID from an 8 pt Democratic edge to even?

        •  they don't have to change it, only report it (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Shahryar

          Some pollsters choose to weight to party ID because they reason that these numbers should not change very much during a campaign. Some pollsters choose not to, because they reason that we don't know how much these numbers might change during a campaign (at least in the very short run). The former group does have to ponder whether to change their weights during a campaign, but the latter group can just report whatever turns up each time.

  •  Does it matter? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bicycle Hussein paladin

    Whether we're ahead or behind, we should still be doing everything we can to win this.  Don't work less just because we're up a few points, and don't strain a muscle if we're down and you think you can get us back up.  It's a race, and we're in it for the long haul, not the snapshot.

  •  What Gives Me Trouble... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HudsonValleyMark

    is that somehow there seems to be a large pool of voters that blow with the wind. How is it possible that at this stage there is any significant number of people who haven't made up their mind?

    Are there really that many citizens who are asleep all the time?

    This is CLASS WAR, and the other side is winning.

    by Mr X on Tue Sep 16, 2008 at 02:37:19 PM PDT

    •  not "asleep," but otherwise preoccupied (0+ / 0-)

      Some political scientists call this "rational ignorance." Reckon the probability that your vote will decide the outcome, and invest proportional effort in deciding whom to vote for.

      It's really hard for us to wrap our heads around that level of indifference between the candidates. The 2004 election appears to have been decided by people who didn't remember whom they voted for in 2000. Imagine.

  •  They said Obama was in the pocket of Corporations (0+ / 0-)

    During the FISA deal.

    And they clamped their wallets shut and put them in the vault.

    Anyway, sometimes people are in the pockets of Corporations, that's a fact.

    And since Republicanism is the religion of Corporatism, well, that follows.

    So when people see things that make no sense at all, such as that Americans would prefer McCain over Obama, that's when they jump to conclusions.

    You can put lipstick on a pit bull, but it's still a hockey mom.

    by eroded47095 on Tue Sep 16, 2008 at 02:37:46 PM PDT

  •  Significant point - (0+ / 0-)

    "[Moore] argues that today's polls report the whims rather than the will of the people due to an intrinsic methodological problem: poll results don't differentiate between those who express deeply held views and those who have hardly, if at all, thought about an issue. Thus, respondents are compelled to provide an ill-considered, top-of-mind response because the method does not offer the option of expressing no opinion. In Moore's view, forced-choice polls not only distort public opinion, they create a legitimacy spin cycle, which damages U.S. democracy."

    This is a great article.  I've read several articles about skewed polls and couldn't quite wrap my mind around the premise.  After all, pollsters live or die by their accuracy and cannot avoid that final day of reckoning.  Why would they fake it?  

  •  rec'd, and thanks for the intellectual rigor (0+ / 0-)

    intellectual rigor was always a weakness of the left (but 20yrs in the cold has tightened us up)and one of the things that drove me away. W drove me back, and I'm glad to say we're better.

    Far better than the right. I think one reason we've picked a good candidate, and he's (and before him Dean) done so well, is that we're more computer saavy and intellectual than the right. Sorry to truckers and all the other hard workers who listen to limbaugh while they're working, but if you don't read a lot and surf well, you won't know anything. Makes that fat drug addict and hannity sound (sl.) plausible.

  •  Thanks for this (0+ / 0-)

    and for taking the diaries point by point and explaining why they're off.  The education for the rest of us who don't know that much about polling is appreciated.

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