Rapid Poll Movement is a General Election Myth

This is my "position paper" on polls for this election. It argues that there have been no real bounces in the election for either candidate, and that polls which weight by Party ID are the most accurate indicators of the state of the campaign. It discusses this in relation to nearly every single recent poll, and many other polls as well.
On September 9th, CBS News released results from its post-RNC poll, conducted September 6th-8th, that was very good news for Bush, and very bad news for Kerry. In fact, with the possible exception of the June Harris poll, this was the worst poll for Kerry this entire election cycle. In a poll that had a Party ID weighting of 33.5% (354) Democrats, 32.1% (340) Republicans, and 34.5% (365) Independents, John Kerry was quite simply not where he needed to be in order to win the election. Kerry polled at only 80% among Democrats, while Bush polled at 90% among Republicans. Even more worrying for Kerry, Bush led 48-39 among independents. While not overwhelming, this poll clearly showed a Bush lead. Even if the Party ID figures were re-weighted in this poll to reflect either 1996 or 2000 turnout, Bush still led by five points.

This week, the CBS poll, conducted from September 12th until September 16th, showed the exact same overall result: Bush leading Kerry 50-42 among registered voters in a two-way trial heat. On the surface, this may not seem like good news for Kerry. It may even appear as though Bush's convention bounce is sticking. However, this poll was actually very good for Kerry and, as we shall see, highly unusual because it showed real movement. While Bush leads Kerry by exactly the same 50-42 margin among registered voters, among all three different Party ID groups, Kerry actually improved his position. Among Republicans, Bush fell from 90 to 87. Among Democrats, Kerry moved up to 83 from 80. Among independents, Kerry went from nine points down to being down by only a single point, 43-42. While the overall results look exactly the same as those form last week, CBS admits to having a potentially spoiled sample:

In most CBS News Polls, Democrats outnumber Republicans among registered voters. Personal identification with a party can change (temporarily or permanently) with events and voting preferences. In many states voters do not register with a party, and individual identification is a matter of choice. In this poll, where the Republicans hold a significant lead in voter preference and more voters hold negative views about Democratic nominee John Kerry, when voters are asked about their partisan identification at the end of the questionnaire, more identify themselves as Republicans. 36 percent say they are Republican, 32 percent Democrats. The percentage that identifies themselves as Democrats in this poll is lower than it has been in CBS News Polls conducted earlier in the year. In this case, it is impossible to determine a trend in the CBS poll simply by looking at the top-sheet results. The overall results of the two polls are exactly the same, even though Kerry gained among all three Party ID groups. Had the later poll been weighted according to either 1996 or 2000 Party ID turnout, Kerry would have completely erased Bush's deficit. If the two polls had the same Party ID, not matter what that Party ID was Kerry would have gained considerably from the first poll to the second. What happened was that the 33.5% Democrat, 32.1% Republican, 34.5% Independent Party ID sample changed to a 36% Republican, 32% Democrat, 32% Independent Party ID sample. Kerry's gains within the Party ID groups were wiped out by a shift of the relative importance of the Party ID groups within the poll as a whole.

In the block quote above, CBS openly admitted that the September 12-16 poll might be inaccurate because of its Party ID structure. However, as a means of defending their current results, CBS also claimed that "personal identification with a party can change (temporarily or permanently) with events and voting preferences." Considering this, it would be useful to examine just how valid that proposition is.

Two polling firms, Harris and Pew, have conducted Party ID surveys over a span of thirty-five and seventeen years respectively. Here are Pew's results:

Pew's 2004 survey was conducted in June and July, and contained over 19,000 people in their sample (under 0.5 MoE). Although I do not know for certain, it is reasonable to assume that their previous surveys were conducted among similar sample sizes. Since 1990, Republican self-identifiers have varied between 27 and 30 percent of the population, except once in the immediate post-9/11 survey when they rose to 31%. Democratic self-identifiers have varied between 30 and 34% of the population, except once, immediately before 9/11, when it rose to 35%. In eight of the sixteen surveys since 1990, self-identifying Democrats made up 33% of the population. This chart does not just show slow movement in Party ID--it shows glacial movement.

Here are the Harris results:

Year	Rep	Dem	Gap
2003	 28	 33	 5   
2002	 31	 34	 3
2001	 29	 36	 5
2000	 29	 37	 8
1999	 29	 36	 7
1998	 28	 37	 9
1997	 29	 37	 8
1996	 30	 38	 8
1995	 31	 36	 5
1994	 32	 37	 5
1993	 29	 38	 9
1992	 30	 36	 6
1991	 32	 37	 5
1990	 33	 38	 5
In 2003, this poll included more than 6,000 registered voters, and thus has a slightly higher Margin of Error than Pew, but the MoE is still under plus or minus one. According to Harris, since 1990 Republicans have varied from between 28 and 33% of the population, while Democrats varied from between 36 and 38% of the population before dropping to 34 and 33 the last two years respectively. In those two years, Republicans also dropped while Independents / Not Affiliated / Other saw an increase. Further, with the exception of 2002, the Democratic edge in Party ID ranged between 5 and 9 points--a mere four-point swing. Overall, this chart also shows extremely gradual movement, never once in a year seeing the same kind of movement CBS recorded in a single week. Considering this, there is simply no circumstance under which the shift recorded by CBS, a poll with a Margin of Error of plus or minus, 3.5 can be understood as accurate.

Party ID is indeed a variable rather than an absolute constant. However, even over periods of years in surveys with miniscule margins of error, it is a slow moving, incrementally shifting variable. Considering this, from the perspective of week to week polling in the final two months of a Presidential election, in order for such polling to truly gauge the state of the campaign, it should be treated as a constant. Given this, it is my position that polls that weight their results according to a fixed Party ID model offer a more accurate picture of the campaign than those that do not weight their results by Party ID (or other demographics).

* * * * *

In a forthcoming paper concerning Gallup's 2000 tracking poll to be published in Public Opinion Quarterly, Robert Erikson, Costas Panagopoulos and Christopher Wlezien put forth the following thesis:

[E]stimates of who may be likely voters in the weeks and months prior to Election Day in large part reflect transient political interest on the day of the poll, which might have little bearing on voter interests on the day of the election. Likely voters early in the campaign do not necessarily represent likely voters on Election Day. Early likely voter samples might well represent the pool of potential voters sufficiently excited to vote if a snap election were to be called on the day of the poll. But these are not necessarily the same people motivated to vote on Election Day..... [S]hifts in voter classification as likely or unlikely account for more observed change in the preferences of likely voters than do actual changes in voters' candidate preferences While I do not have access to the entire paper, I find it quite interesting that changes within the demographic composition of the likely voter sample account for a greater proportion of Gallup's day-to-say tracking variation than do actual changes in voter preferences. Based on my research, I am prepared (at least blog-prepared) to submit a similar thesis. Differences in overall trial heat results between polling firms, and even between polls conducted by a single polling firm that does not weight by Party ID, are more a result of differences in the Party ID composition of the polls than in actual changes in voter preference. Further, such differences present a false picture of the election since significant shifts in Party ID among the electorate do not take place.

Including the CBS poll, I have gathered together Party ID data from twelve recent polls. In six of the polls, the Economist, Harris, ICR, Pew, Rasmussen and Zogby, the samples were weighted to fit demographic and / or previous turnout models. The results of these six polls poll as follows:

Table One
* = likely voters
	Bush Kerry Date
Econ	 47   46   9/15
Harris*   47   48   9/13
ICR	 48   44   9/12
Pew	 46   46   9/14
Rasm*	 49   45   9/16
Zogby*	 47   45   9/9
The similarity between the results in these six polls is remarkable. The race varies from Bush up four to Kerry up one, with no two polls disagreeing about Bush's raw score by more than three points or Kerry's raw score by more than four points. On average, Bush leads by less than two points (47.3-45.5).

For the sake of comparison, I have also been able to track down the internals of six recent polls that do not weight their results according to Party ID or other demographics: ABC, CBS, Fox, Gallup, IBD / CSM and Newsweek. Here is how these six compare to each other:

Table Two
* = likely voters
       Bush Kerry Date
ABC	50   44    9/8
CBS	50   42    9/16
Fox*	47   45    9/8
Gallup	52   44    9/14
IDB	44   46    9/12
News	49   43    9/10
These polls show significantly more variance than the other six. But what is perhaps even more remarkable is the variance they show among themselves:
Table Three
* = likely voters
      Bush Kerry Date  Shift
ABC    48   47	 8/29	  5
CBS    44   47	 8/18	 11
Fox*   44   45	 8/25	  3	
Gallup 49   48	 9/5	  7
IDB    44   44	 8/23	  2
News   54   43	 9/3	  5
With the exception of Fox and IBD / CSM, which are the outliers among the most recent set of polls, the shift from poll to poll within each polling firm has been enormous. Compare this to the shifts experienced by the six polls that weight their results:
Table Four
* = likely voters
       Bush Kerry Date	Shift
Econ	46   45    9/8	  0
Harris*  47   47    8/15     1
ICR	46   47    9/5	  5
Pew	52   40    9/10    12
Rasm*	48   46    9/9	  2
Zogby*	46   44    9/2	  0
With the exception of Pew, which showed an enormous shift, there has been virtually no movement from poll to poll within polling firms that conduct sample weighting. In four of out six cases, the shift in the gap between Bush and Kerry was two points or less. Among the unweighted polls, in four our of six cases, there was a shift of five points or more. In fact, among the unweighted polls, two points was the smallest shift.

This provides evidence to support both aspects of my hypothesis. First, polls that weight are more similar to one another than polls that do not weight. Second, polling firms that weight show less movement from poll to poll than polling firms that do not weight. The reason for the difference between the two groups of polls is that Party ID varies in one set, but not the other.

Interestingly, had Party been weighted in the six most recent unweighted polls, they would look almost exactly like the six recent weighted polls:

Table Five
* = likely voters
      Bush Kerry Date
ABC    48    47   9/8
CBS    47    46   9/16
Fox*   46    47   9/8
Gallup 48    48   9/14
IDB    47    47   9/12
News   46    47   9/10
Yikes!

* * * * *

People typically dismiss Rasmussen because of their horrible results in 2000 (easily the least accurate pollster). However, Scott Rasmussen seems to have learned from his mistakes, and now he weights by Party ID, something that he did not do in 2000. Because they have done a daily tracking poll for eight months now, Rasmussen is easily the polling outfit with the most polling data on this election. Despite this, they have shown little movement in the election during the entire eight months of their tracking poll:

Bush vs. Kerry, Rasmussen Tracking, January 19-July 15

This graph only runs from mid-January until mid-July, but even if the latest results were incorporated, they would look much the same (with a slight Bush uptick over the past three weeks). Because Rasmussen weights by Party ID, no matter what cataclysmic events have occurred in the election that have affected other polls, they have shown occasional blips only briefly and slightly altering a long-term deadlock. Now, compare this to polls that do not weight by Party ID during the same period:

Bush vs. Kerry, all polls, January 19-July 15

The Economist and ICR started polling post-July 15. Harris and Pew poll very infrequently. Thus, among polls that weight, only Zogby plays a significant role in the second graph, which shows far more variation than the first graph. I do not have all of the internals to prove this conclusively, but I am pretty damn sure the above variations are more due to Party ID than anything else.

Party ID does change over time, but slowly, even glacially. For national results, right now I trust Rasmussen (along with the Economist, Harris, ICR, Pew and Zogby) as much as I trust any other poll in the field. By weighting Party ID, these six polls limit randomness, maintain a consistent sample, and prevent erroneous polls that, for the past several months, have been unfortunately reported as evidence of a "bounce" for one candidate or the other. There have been no significant bounces for either candidate this entire election. For four months, Kerry was on a very slow upward slope. For the past month, Bush has been on a slow upward slope. Recent polls suggest that Bush's rise has stalled, and even reversed. However, whatever is happening, it is all happening very, very slowly. Rapid poll movement is a mirage in the desert of the horserace generated by poor polling methodology. On November 2nd, I could end up getting burned, but I have cast my lot with the polling firms that weight their samples. My new methodology in projecting the popular vote in the Presidential election is almost entirely based on the theory I have put forth in this post. It won't be long before we find out who is right.

This is going to be a very close leection. GOTV

Tags: General 2008 (all tags)

Comments

29 Comments

2002
I admit I only skimmed this entry.

However, what was the story in 2002?  I remember beforehand we thought it would be close, or a Dem advantage, but then we got pasted.  And, the Repubs had this brand new GOTV operation, the 72-hour thing.  So is that reason to believe that the 2000 or 1996 or 1992 party id weightings might not be so Dem-centric anymore?  Not to defend a GOP 40% mark like Gallup's, but maybe we should be splitting the difference...

by tunesmith 2004-09-18 01:28AM | 0 recs
On Polls
A great analysis (as usual)can be found at http://www.emergingdemocraticmajorityweblog.com/donkeyrising/

CBS News/New York Times Poll Has It Close to Even!

Well, that is if you weight their data to conform to the 4 point Democratic party ID lead which we have good reason to believe is the underlying distribution in the voting electorate. As many have already heard, the new CBS News/New York Times poll, conducted September 12-16, gives Bush an 8 point lead (50-42) among RVs--but also gives the Republicans a 4 point edge on party ID. Reweight their data to conform to an underlying Democratic 4 point edge (using the 39D/35R/26I distribution from the 2000 exit poll) and you get a nearly even race, 47 Bush/46 Kerry.

Nearly even. That goes along with the the 46-46 tie in the Pew Research Center poll (which gave the Democrats a 4 point edge on party ID without weighting) and the 48-48 tie in the Gallup poll (once weighted to reflect an underlying Democratic 4 point edge). Not to mention the two other recent national polls (Harris, Democracy Corps) that show the race within one point.

Perhaps all this is just a coincidence, but the pattern seems striking. Once you adjust for the apparent overrepresentation of Republican identifiers in some samples, the polls all seem to be saying the same thing: the race is a tie or very close to it.

Note: this entry has been revised from the original to correct the CBS reweighted horse race from 46-46 (original) to 47-46 (corrected).
Posted by Ruy Teixeira at 10:34 PM | link | Comments (25)

Gallup Strikes Again!

Here are Bush's leads in the three national polls released before Gallup's current poll (no RV data available for DCorps and Harris; Pew and Harris matchups include Nader):

Democracy Corps, September 12-14 RVs: +1
Pew Research Center, September 11-14 RVs: tied
Harris Interactive: September 9-13 LVs: -1

Looks like a tie ball game, right? But according to the Gallup poll conducted September 13-15 and released today, Bush is up......13???

Let's just say I'm just a wee bit skeptical of this one. First, Gallup's poll only includes one day (the 15th) these three other polls do not, so it can't be Gallup's survey dates that explain the big Bush lead.

Second, this 13 point lead is an LV figure and, as I've repeatedly emphasized, Gallup's LV screening procedure produces completely untrustworthy measures of voter sentiment this far in advance of the election. Here is a summary of the case against Gallup's LV data:

Sampling likely voters is a technique Gallup developed to measure voter sentiment on the eve of an election and predict the outcome, not to track voter sentiment weeks and months before the actual election. There is simply no evidence, and no good reason to believe, that it works well for the latter purpose. In fact, the evidence and compelling arguments are on the other side: that the registered voters are the more reliable guage of voter sentiment during the course of the campaign.

Here's why. Gallup decides who likely voters are based on 7 questions about their interest in voting, attention to the campaign and knowledge about how to vote (e.g., where their polling place is located). The interested/attentive/knowledgeable voters are designated "likely" and the rest are thrown out of the sample. But as a campaign progresses, the level of interest among voters tends to change, particularly among those with partisan inclinations whose interest level will rise when their party seems to be mobilized and doing well and fall when it is not. Because of this, partisans of the mobilized party (lately, Republicans) tend to be screened into the likely voter sample and partisans of the demobilized party (lately, Democrats) tend to get screened out. But tomorrow, of course, the Democrats could surge, in which case their partisans may be the ones over-represented in likely voter samples.

That suggests the uncomfortable possibility that observed changes in the sentiments of "likely voters" represent not actual changes in voter sentiment, but rather changes in the composition of likely voter samples as political enthusiasm waxes and wanes among the different parties' supporters. And that is exactly what political scientists Robert Erikson, Costas Panagopoulos, and Christopher Wlezien find in their analysis of Gallup's 2000 RV/LV data in their forthcoming paper, "Likely (and Unlikely) Voters and the Assessment of Campaign Dynamics" in Public Opinion Quarterly: "shifts in voter classification as likely or unlikely account for more observed change in the preferences of likely voters than do actual changes in voters' candidate preferences."

That means that, instead of giving you a better picture of voter sentiment and how it is changing than conventional registered voter data, likely voter data give you a worse one since true changes in voter sentiment are swamped by changes in who is classified as a likely voter.

I think the case against the Gallup LV data looks rock solid. In my view, it's time for them to drop reporting these data because they are highly likely to give an inaccurate picture of the state of the race and, by doing so--especially given the high profile of Gallup's polls--unfairly pump up one side of the race and demoralize the other. That doesn't seem acceptable to me.

Of course they'll reply: well, our data work so well right before the election, they must be the best data to use all the time. But, for the reasons outlined above, that reasoning is completely specious. And then there's this: the LV data haven't been working so well lately even right before the actual election. In 3 of the last 4 presidential elections (including the last one), Gallup's final RV reading was actually closer to the final result than their final LV reading!

As I say, maybe it's time for a rethink down at Gallup HQ.

Throwing out the Gallup LV data, then, let's move on to their RV result: an 8 point Bush lead. Obviously pretty far off the results of the other contemporaneous polls summarized above, but....could be I suppose.

But then there's this: the Gallup internals show Kerry with a 7 point lead among independent RVs. Huh? Kerry's losing by 8 points overall, yet leading among indenpedents by 7. How is that possible? Only if there are substantially more Republicans than Democrats in the sample.

That suggests that reweighting the sample to reflect the 2000 exit poll distribution (39D/35R/26I) would give a different result. It does: the race then becomes dead-even, instead of an 8 point Bush lead. (Note: Steve Soto of The Left Coaster got Gallup to give him their party ID distributions for this poll and confirms a 5 point Republican party ID advantage in their RV sample.)

One final note: I mentioned the Pew Research Center poll had the race dead-even just like the reweighted Gallup data. And what was Pew's party ID distribution in their RV sample? You guessed it: a 4 point lead (37-33) for the Democrats, just like in the 2000 exits.

I think we've finally found out how to make these polls get along!
Posted by Ruy Teixeira at 07:22 PM | link | Comments (44)

by drplaud 2004-09-18 03:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Rapid Poll Movement is a General Election Myth
Chris,

First let me say that I've admired and enjoyed your analysis of poll results for quite some time now.  You're the place that I go to first for discussions of polls.

You build a good argument for weighting polls by party ID.  I'm left with one lingering, but possibly important question.  Why does party ID fluctuate so much in these presidential polls in the first place?  I'm persuaded that party ID nationally doesn't normally fluctuate that much from year to year, but we now have poll results showing party ID fluctuating by 5% or more from one week to the next.  What's the explanation?

Is it as simple as just getting a bad sample one week?  It shouldn't be, because that's what the MoE is designed to take account of.

Or is it something deeper, like independents who aren't really strongly identified with either part, but who tell pollsters that they ID Repub when they're leaning toward GWB, and tell them that they ID Dem when they're leaning toward JFK?

If it's the latter, then simply weighting by party ID doesn't seem to fix the problem, I think.

Curious about your thoughts.

Kash

by Kash 2004-09-18 04:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Rapid Poll Movement is a General Election Myth
Kash,
I think what we're seeing is sample variance -- simple random variation in the composition of a relatively small sample of a much larger population -- as well as uncontrollable variation caused by some people being home to answer the phone while others aren't.

In other words, it's both pure chance and outside variables such as when people work, who has telephones, who answers them at certain times, etc.  The school year just started, for example, which could cause shifts in when people are home to answer the phone.  Football season just started, too.  etc.

by jonweasel 2004-09-18 10:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Rapid Poll Movement is a General Election Myth
But Jonweasel (as I play the Devil's Advocate), it's hard for me to believe that sample variance is that large when you're asking 600-1000 people.  The MoE tells us that 95% of the time, the sample variance will be less than 3% (or 4%, or 3.5%, or whatever it is for each individual poll).  Yet we're seeing 5 or 7% swings in party ID.  That seems unlikely to be due to just sample variance, not for so many polls at the same time.
by Kash 2004-09-18 11:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Rapid Poll Movement is a General Election Myth
The MoE only takes account of random sample variance.  In a telephone poll today, there are several non-random factors that tend to skew samples toward Republicans.  First, cellular phones: pollsters don't call them, and the now-significant fraction of the population who use only a cell phone, no land line, consists mainly of young and/or lower-income urbanites -- a Democratic demographic.  Second, university students whose dorm phones are extensions off a campus phone system are also beyond the reach of telephone pollsters -- and the youngest voters are tilting heavily Democratic in this particular election, largely because of concerns about the war (friends and relatives who are there, fear of being drafted, etc.). Third, people who aren't being reached at home in the evening because they have to work two jobs to make ends meet (a rapidly growing demographic in the Shrub Economy) also tilt Democratic.  Finally, your single-mother-working-two-jobs (arguably as representative of the Democratic base today as the factory worker was fifty years ago) is likely not to take the time to talk to a pollster even if she is home when they call, because she's simply to busy.  (The purpose of our massive GOTV campaigns -- DNC, ACT, and MoveOn.org's Leave No Voter Behind -- is to make sure that she's not too busy to go to the polls and vote against the jerks whose laissez-faire economic policies helped put her in this situation in the first place.)
Later,
Alex
by Alex 2004-09-18 11:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Rapid Poll Movement is a General Election Myth
Alex has it exactly right.

The variance you're seeing is both random and the product of confounding variables.  Some of those confounding variables are pretty systematic, and are obviously affecting multiple pollsters.

by jonweasel 2004-09-18 01:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Rapid Poll Movement is a General Election Myth
Alex, I don't think that's a sufficient explanation.  The things that you're describing are perfectly true, and they bias the sample, but they shouldn't increase its variance, unless those are factors that can actually change substantially from week to week.  The things you're describing might make the polled repub ID significantly higher than the actual number, but how would they cause the party ID figure to change so dramatically from week to week?  The sharp week-to-week variation in party ID is what's at issue here, not the level.  So I'm still not convinced that we've found the culprit.
by Kash 2004-09-18 01:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Rapid Poll Movement is a General Election Myth
I partially agree with what you say, Alex.  But there is something else I've been wondering about.  Why is it just these past two weeks that Republicans are suddenly outresponding Democrats?  Gallup has always been a bit skewed, but not this badly.   Why were the numbers roughly equal after the Dem convention, but widely skewed Republican now?  The convetnion doesn't cover it because Dems didn't over respond after the DNC the way Rs are over-responding now.

No answers from me.  Just questions.

by PonyFan 2004-09-18 02:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Rapid Poll Movement is a General Election Myth
A couple of guesses:
  • school has started; working parents have less time to answer the phone, or even be home
  • football season has started
Any more?
by jonweasel 2004-09-18 02:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Rapid Poll Movement is a General Election Myth
I think the start of the school year may be an important factor -- not just working parents, but university students and K-12 teachers are probably less available to telephone polling now than in August.  I don't know much about the impact of the football season, though I'd guess that NFL fans trend Republican -- they're generally white, male, and middle-class, right?  So if they're more likely to be sitting on the living room couch where they can pick up the phone in the evening, that could account for some of the Republican bias as well.  I can't figure out anything to account for the wild variation in a given poll from one week to the next, though, apart from some serious flaw in their methodology.
Later,
Alex
by Alex 2004-09-18 03:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Rapid Poll Movement is a General Election Myth
I think you guys are missing the point. LV numbers fluctuate, I believe, based on transient attitudes among the party faithful. When one party is dominating the headlines (say around and just after a convention), the people that identify with that party will be more active and engaged in those headlines for a brief period. And since the LVs are counted that way due to a set of questions designed to guage that very thing, they will be weighted too heavily. So, while LV fluctuations may have a tangential importance (it's of some interest to know which side is more engaged at any particular), they vastly outstate the actual impact of those brief, shallow fluctuations. The day of voting will bring out a lot of people that wouldn't be swayed by these little hiccups in the race.

Now, Gallup, with its systemic overstatement of Republicans, is a different issue, but I believe the explanation above explains the variance Chris is talking about.

by BriVT 2004-09-19 03:58AM | 0 recs
POLLS
it appears the race has stabilized into about a 4 point bush lead.rasmussen has been at that level for 3 days now.it appears that the election will about iraq ,according to rasmussen polling.the approval/disapproval for iraq is identical to the
horserace.it appears as iraq goes  so will this election go .looks to me that if we have a bad october in the war bush may be doomed!
by EXBUSHVOTER 2004-09-18 08:07AM | 0 recs
Re: POLLS
I think the lead is smaller than that.  Rasmussen may have been strongly influenced by an outsized pro-Bush sample a couple of days ago.  We should know in a couple of more days if the three-day average drops back to 1-2 points.
by jonweasel 2004-09-18 10:44AM | 0 recs
It's No Myth: See 1996
Chris,

Your figures on party ID are annual averages, so they don't show what happened over the course of a year. Party ID can shift substantially over the course of a year, especially an election year.  The NCPP points out that over the course of 1996 the Democrats went from even to 10 points up in party ID.

http://www.ncpp.org/weight_data.htm

National Council on Public Polls'
Polling Review Board

THE GOOD AND BAD OF WEIGHTING THE DATA

"Consider the change in party identification from the Pew Research Center polls throughout 1996. In the beginning of the year the Republican-Democrat split was 30%-30%. On Election Day it was 26%-36%. The number who considered themselves Republicans went down steadily the closer the survey was to the election. Using party identification to weight just the likely voters in a political poll is little better than a guessing game where the pollster is substituting his or her judgement for scientific method."

by Chef Ragout 2004-09-18 08:27AM | 0 recs
Re: It's No Myth: See 1996
There are good reasons to be in the other camp too, not the least of which is that basically in order to be accurate with a weighted poll that you have to correctly guess Party ID turnout in the election.

I no not really accept that level of fluctuation, however. Pew showed a ten point swing, but by 1997 it had returned to normal. In fact, it always seems to return to normal when the annual naitonal surveys are done. If there really was fluctuation of that level, would there at least occassionally, at least once, be an equivalent swing from one year to the next?

by Chris Bowers 2004-09-18 08:58AM | 0 recs
Re: It's No Myth: See 1996
While I agree with this somewhat, short-term variation should show up as significant variation in once-a-year samples, too, unless the yearly sampling is done over an extended period of time.  As I understand it, that's not the case.

Party ID and who turns out to vote may be very different animals.

by jonweasel 2004-09-18 10:45AM | 0 recs
Good Stuff
The analysis from mydd has greatly helped me maintain my liberal sanity through all these polls.

I think you've made a convincing case.  And I hope your right, as well.

It still boggles my mind that this race could be even with the record of disaster that Bush brings to the table.  

I'm keeping the faith, but unless the polls are missing some big blocks of voters (cellphone users, or newly registered, for examples), I don't look forward to sweating out election night and the days thereafter.

We could have a Florida over again in 5-10 states.  THAT's a YIKE!

by JimPortlandOR 2004-09-18 10:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Good Stuff
Totally agree with this.  I love the work you do Chris!

Don't get too stressed out.  The race won't really come into focus until the debates.  We're still working through Bush's convention bounce numbers so "unsettled" is a pretty expected state for things to be in.

It'll take another week or so for state polls to stop reflecting the RNC bounce, so we won't really have a good picture of the electoral college until next week.

by PonyFan 2004-09-18 10:37AM | 0 recs
A reminder
Just as a reminder, Kerry has several things going for him that should worry any incumbent essentially tied with a challenger.  First, the likelihood of undecideds breaking for Kerry is high.  Second, there are quite possibly many voters who, if asked, will never indicate a preference for anyone but the President during wartime, out of a fear of seeming disloyal.  But if presented with a choice in the voting booth, they may vote for someone new.  Third, there may be a fair number of Republican respondents who can never bring themselves to express support for Kerry who will nonetheless stay home on election day.

The moral of the story is this: there are intangibles that the polls cannot track.  If I were Bush, I wouldn't be comfortable going into the election with less than a 5-7 point lead.  As it is, it would appear that he's still polling in the mid-to-high 40's, despite spending hundreds of millions on advertising and a convention designed to put Kerry away.  That can't be good news for the Bush camp.

by jonweasel 2004-09-18 01:08PM | 0 recs
Re: A reminder
First, the likelihood of undecideds breaking for Kerry is high. Does anyone know of a systematic study of which way the undecideds have broken over the past few elections?

Also, I think if you looked at the polls of Independents, across the board, that Kerry is ahead. Really, you win the independent Presidential vote by 5-10%, as Kerry is doing in all of the polls, and you win the election.

by Jerome Armstrong 2004-09-18 03:08PM | 0 recs
Dick Morris seyz...
...they go for the challenger 85% of the time:

http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=13068

Bush's Women Woes  
By Dick Morris
FrontPageMagazine.com | April 21, 2004

Both of the polling organizations that track the presidential race in daily surveys have concluded that the contest has settled into a stalemate. Scott Rasmussen reports that for eight of the last nine days, President Bush has gotten 45 to 46 percent of the vote, while Sen. John Kerry ranged from 44 to 46 percent. John Zogby shows Kerry ahead by three and reports little movement either way.
This "tie" is terrible news for the Bush camp.

One of the (very few) immutable laws of politics is that the undecided vote almost always goes against the incumbent. Consider the past seven presidential elections in which an incumbent ran (1964, '72, '76, '80, '84, '92, and '96) - that is, look at the final vote versus the last Gallup or Harris polls. My analysis shows that the challengers (Goldwater, McGovern, Carter, Reagan, Mondale, Perot, Clinton, and Dole) got 85 percent of the undecided vote. Even incumbents who won got only 15 percent of those who reported that they were undecided in the final polls.

So . . . when Bush and Kerry are tied, the challenger really has the upper hand.

More bad news for Bush: Democrats usually grow 2-3 points right before Election Day as downscale voters who have not paid much attention to the election, suddenly tune in and "come home" to their traditional Democratic Party moorings. Remember, virtually every poll (except Zogby) showed Bush slightly ahead of Al Gore as the 2000 election approached - yet Gore outpolled Bush by 500,000 votes.

by Geotpf 2004-09-18 03:13PM | 0 recs
Now, the question is...
...is the fix in?

Do The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, and GALLUP(!!!!) just suck at the whole polling thing, or are they trying to justify the results, which, due to the fixed voting machines, will show the president be re-elected, even though really Kerry won in a near landslide?

by Geotpf 2004-09-18 03:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Now, the question is...
Add to this list: MSNBC via Mason Dixon - DKOS has the latest from these "impartial" pollsters on 4 battleground states. If it is to be believed - horrible news for us.
by gail 2004-09-18 05:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Now, the question is...
I don't think the polls are that bad.  Two things to keep in mind:
  1. State polls trail national polls, so these polls are showing Bush at the heighth of his bounce from the RNC.  the numbers are unlikely to get any better for Bush and will probably decline as swing voters return to being undecided.  This always happens after a convention.  
  2. An incumbent under 50% is vulnerable.  Even at the height of his post-convention bounce, Bush is under 50% in 4 out 5 of these polls, and right at 50% in one.  Next week and the week after, state polls will start showing the true state of the race and that's bound to be bad news for Bush.  He needed to put Kerry away with his convention and he didn't do it.
There are some things about the poll that are worrisome, specifically the approval numbers.  I believe that they are unnaturally high for Bush and low for Kerry because of the overwhelming negativity of the RNC combined with the 9/11 bounce.  But the right track/wrong track numbers still show some glimmers of hope, since the right track are all below 50%.

We'll see what happens next week.

by PonyFan 2004-09-18 07:09PM | 0 recs
Unreliability: polls: gullibility: TV reporters
I agree with "A reminder" about "the Moral of the story":  polls cannot dictate what will happen when voters visit their voting stations on Nov. 2.  Let's redouble our efforts to get Democratic, undecided, and (yes) Republican voters to recognize that "King George" has no clothes.    
by lillian 2004-09-18 03:14PM | 0 recs
Republican voters know!
They know their candidate is a liar!!
Simple fact is that their ideology does not allow them to move much to question the party line.  However, once they step into the voting booth or get their absentee ballot-NO ONE will know how they voted.  So if this person is called on the phone he/she is not going to move from the party line.  There are too many Republicans for Kerry for these polls to be ligit.

And all the new registerred voters?  Are they called at all?  On their cell phones?  This is a group that is going to actually influence the election and they are off the screen.

Kerry in a Landslide-but do not relax.

Jerome-heard you on the J. Garafolo show the other night! GOOD!

by lja 2004-09-18 04:23PM | 0 recs
Two Explanations?
First, the 'excitement filter'. This boosts incumbents and overstates volatility. The newspaper polsters [i]love[/i] volatility and 'surge' headlines.

Second, Party ID may be stable among voters and unstable among nonvoters. In either case, unstable party ID means unreliable LV models.

by Left for the Left 2004-09-19 04:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Rapid Poll Movement is a General Election Myth
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