View Full Version : Gallup In The Tank?Back in 2004, I jumped pretty hard on John Zogby.

10-27-2008, 12:49 PM
Gallup In The Tank?Back in 2004, I jumped pretty hard on John Zogby.

I will challenge any behavior at odds with valid practices.

when a major polling group throws out three guesses instead of just one judgment, you can be sure they have lost confidence in their system.

Zogby did two things which I considered, and still do, to be unacceptable conduct for a pollster.

First, was that Zogby flat-out called the election for Kerry back in May of 2004, a prediction he hung onto through the rest of the campaign.

The second reason was that Zogby started mixing results from his telephone polls with his online polls, which invalidates the results from both methods.

I would also point out to the reader that in 2004 and 2005, I was unhappy with political affiliation weighting at the time, and had adjusted my own expectations by reversing the bias from polls.

My point is that even four years ago I was challenging poll methodology when it deviated from NCPP guidelines, and even if Zogby is publishing prettier headlines now, that does not change my wariness from past experience.

This year, all of the major polls show Obama ahead in the presidential campaign right now, some saying he is well ahead. I found serious problems in their fundamental assumptions, not the least being the heavy weighting of democrats in the polls (and let's not mince words - any poll weights by party affiliation, the ones which simply accept what is called in are just accepting the raw data as demographically accurate, which is just as absurd in terms of party affiliation, as it would be if they assumed that race, gender, age, or educational demographics did not need to be reweighted). I have wondered two things as the campaign moved along - what would I say if I turned out to be completely wrong, and what would these polling groups say if I turned out to be right and they were the ones who blew it?

For my case, I intend to review the election from a statistical standpoint, and if Obama wins in a landslide because the nation really did decide it was 48-25-27 DRI, then I will admit it plainly and take my lumps. I suspect the polling groups will have a harder time being forthright if my argument turns out to be correct.

One reason for that is today's polling discussion from Gallup.

Gallup has noted the strength of early voting this year.

The most significant points from that article are these; early voting is stronger than expected this year, and so far republicans have been just as eager to vote early as democrats.

The third point is the most important signal of all. Says Gallup; "Early voting ranges from 14% of voters 55 and older (in aggregated data from Friday through Wednesday) to 5% of those under age 35.

Plus, another 22% of voters aged 55 and up say they plan to vote early, meaning that by Election Day, over a third of voters in this older age group may already have cast their ballots."

The last two statements are very good news for McCain and bad news for Obama. This is because it demonstrates that enthusiasm to actually vote by republicans is equal to enthusiasm to vote by democrats.

This runs directly against claims made in polling up to now, demonstrating that participation in polls is not directly related to voting this year. Second, the higher participation by senior voters and weaker participation by younger voters is directly in line with historical norms, again running against the poll expectations that this year would see a wave of young people voting but seniors staying at home.

Gallup's own data proves this is not happening as they predicted, and the polls are therefore invalid in those respects, in addition to obvious flaws in the party weighting. The reasonable expectation from these facts, would be for Gallup to back down and correct its weighting to match the observed behavior. As of yet, Gallup has not taken that step.

They did, I note, tacitly admit that the "expanded voter" model they introduced this year is invalid, but now they are running no less than three models of polling, which makes me wonder if they are going to wait to see which one comes out the closest (or the least embarrassing) and call that one their 'official' call - when a major polling group throws out three guesses instead of just one judgment, you can be sure they have lost confidence in their system.


Comments (8)
I think that, with this bei... (Below threshold)
I think that, with this being the last full week of campaigning before the election, that we are going to see the polls begin to tighten, as all of these polls who have been in the tank for Obama begin to become concerned about their own validity and future influence, start to show actual results, rather than skewing the data as they have been doing. In fact, I would not be surprised if a "major" poll did not get released later this week that shows McCain actually leading. The object lesson of all this should be to never trust the polling data, and to never let polling data influence your decision to vote.

I think that the base of both parties are going to turn out heavily. We know that dem registration is way up and so the question is how many of the new registrants turn out to vote. If it's heavy, that's bad for McCain.

Here in Iowa Obama's ground organization is incredibly strong as I think it is around the country. I read some quotes from repubs in Florida about how strong his organization is there. Another bad sign for McCain.

Finally, I think you have to look at what the candidates are doing. It looks as if MCain is just battling to hold onto the red states which, again, is a bad sign for him.
Here's my (un)scientific poll: I drove through Wisconsin: Milwaukee, Green Bay and Madison areas the past 2 weeks. I was counting in my head, I saw many more McCain signs then I did Obama. There are a lot of both to be sure. Also, I got many honks and thumbs up for my NOBAMA bumper sticker.

Make sure everyone votes!
The ground organization for Obama is indeed very strong. In fact it might be too strong. You can only contact someone to the point where any more contacts gets either the (false) answer you are looking for or you piss people off to the point where they aren't listening anymore.
Actual numbers for early turnout, JFO, are close to even for the two major parties from what I am hearing. The dem registration numbers are up, but they were up in 2004 as well and the new registrees then failed to show. Most of this years' new registrees signed up in the primaries, which means some of these will be pseudo-dems (Operation Chaos) and some will be PUMAs.

As to where the candidates are campaigning, Obama and McCain are spending time in both "red" and "blue" states. They've both invested in Colorado, but also Pennsylvania, in North Carolina but also New Hampshire. It seems that whatever polls the candidates see, are telling them a much different story than what the media-released polls are saying.

I noted what you said about 'hearing' from republicans in Florida, and I could tell you some very intriguing things I have heard from democrats in Philadelphia and Milwaukee. We'll have to wait and see how many of those anecdoctal stories hold up in the actual election.

One last thought; the 'early voting' numbers reported do not generally include absentee and overseas military voting, and I understand those are very heavy this year as well.
A number of my younger friends are extremely pro-Obama. They talk about how great he is, and how he's going to win, et bloody cetera.

...and when I ask them if they're registered, about a third say "no," and change the subject. Of the rest, when I ask them where they're going to vote, they don't know.

Yeah, that's gonna work out just fine...

I've heard some anecdotal stories that the ground game has been closing as well, especially since Sarah Palin came onboard. She has brought in an influx of fresh energy and volunteers. Ultimately I think that Obama's alleged GOTV advantage will turn out to be overrated as well.

And DJ is right about McCain and Palin hitting PA and NH hard, but ultimately the fight was always going to be primarily in red states since Obama needs some of them to flip in order to win while McCain can win without a single blue state flipping.