Sunday, October 14, 2012

Who's doing the polling lately?

As I wrote about last night, there are some questions that need to be raised about whether or not the first presidential debate is the reason the polls have started swinging in Romney's direction. And so this morning, I decided to take a look at which polls are contributing to the change. I used TPM's list of the polls they aggregate because its one of the most comprehensive.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who's been paying attention that Rasmussen and Gallup dominate with a total of 12 polls each since the beginning of October. Running a close 3rd is Reuters/Ipsos - who uses web-based polling - with 11. Next in line would be Rand with 9. But its the 5th place finisher that caught my eye. Beginning just the day before the first presidential debate, IBD/TIPP has weighed in with 5 polls in just 2 weeks - when they had previously been polling once-a-month.

Those are the big players. YouGov has 3 polls in the mix while Clarus and CVoter have 2. Eight organizations have conducted one poll during that time, including Monmouth, Fox, American Research, Zogby, PPP, Pew, Politico, and McLaughlin. But there's not one from the big guns at NBC/WSJ or CNN or ABC/WaPo.

So lets take a look  at these pollsters that are contributing to Romney's "bounce." We've all heard enough about Rasmussen, so I'm not going to go there.

Gallup is interesting because during this time period, they switched from polling registered voters to using their screens to try to determine likely voters. As Zandar points out this morning, that accounts for most of the shift in their results. As a matter of fact, Gallup actually has this comparison of their weekly tracking polls with registered voters over the exact time period we're looking at. What you see there is NO CHANGE.

I'm not going to comment on the Retuers/Ipsos results because I don't know enough about web-based polling. But I think its pretty safe to say that - of all the forms of polling - it has to be the least reliable.

I'll come back to Rand in a minute. But first, I want to talk about this explosion of polls from IBD/TIPP. In case you didn't know, IBD stands for Investor's Business Daily and just as the title says, its a newspaper specifically devoted to "detailed information about stocks, mutual funds, commodities, and other financial instruments aimed at individual investors."

Here's what Nate Silver had to say about IBD/TIPP polling:
As we learned during the Presidntial campaign -- when, among other things, they had John McCain winning the youth vote 74-22 -- the IBD/TIPP polling operation has literally no idea what they're doing. I mean, literally none...

There are pollsters out there that have an agenda but are highly competent, and there are pollsters that are nonpartisan but not particularly skilled. Rarely, however, do you find the whole package: that special pollster which is both biased and inept. IBD/TIPP is one of the few exceptions.
So its important to note that a polling outfit that is "both biased and inept" decided to flood the aggregates with polls over the last 2 weeks.

Lets get back to Rand for a minute. Take a look at the trend line of their polling.

I'd suggest that if you get rid of the "noise" created by Rasmussen, Gallup's switch to likely voters, and the infusion of polls from IBD/TIPP, this would be a pretty good look at what is actually happening in this race. Things started tightening a bit by the end of September after the bounce Obama got from the conventions was extended with the release of Romney's video talking about the 47%. But the fundamentals of this race haven't changed.

Oh, and according to Rand, that big bounce Romney got after the first debate? Gone already.


  1. The thing about this whole discussion that miffs me--you don't miff me, I mean the whole talk across the media and "blogosphere"--is that none of it changes what any sensible person ought to actually do. You need to volunteer a little bit of time for the candidate you support, and get your fanny to the polls.

    I suppose the polling question is important for those who might otherwise support a third party candidate. If it's tightening up in your state, you really do have to think about how you'd feel if the candidate furthest from you politically won.

    1. The reason this is important to me is that people take this kind of misinformation and create whole narratives out of it..."Obama may have thrown the election away with that one debate." Too many people are buying it - even though its based on a lie. The truth is - the race was tightening and the debate revved Republicans up. That's all there is to it.

      But in the end, you're right. We still gotta do what we gotta do.

    2. The other worthwhile polls to look at are Survey USA and Ann Selzer & Associates, which now polls for Bloomberg News. They were the 2 most accurate in '08.

      But the bottom line is -- especially given the always shallow & hysterical media post-debate coverage & the always gullible and ill-informed voters -- that President Obama needs to bring it on Tuesday. A better than the 1st debate performance or even just a good performance may not be enough. He needs to be great. And I suspect he will be.

      But a great performance shouldn't cause us to relax. Rather as you've said repeatedly, it should inspire us to do everything we can to insure his victory.

  2. I won't relax until the president is re-elected. There's no need to replace a doer with a flip-flopper.

    Obama all the way!

  3. I actually downloaded that Rand data, but I haven't been able to get Excel to make the graph with the shaded error part in the middle. Any suggestions?

  4. I don't know about that. While I think Obama is still the favorite he squandered his chance for a landslide election that would have allowed him to claim a mandate to do a lot in his 2nd term. You get 3 chances to compare the two directly next to each other and Obama absolutely flubbed his first chance. First impressions matter.

    1. Read the post below this one (linked in the first sentence). It explains that the tightening in the race happened the week before the debate. It created a tiny blip that is now gone. But it wasn't the "game changer" you're suggesting it was.

  5. The Prez will win out. He has the great Org and the boots on the ground. Two repub-leaning papers came out for him today in NC and NEB. POTUS is on his way to winning , get out and help the senate and house folks , we need to take back our congress from the loonies!