The Polls

1 Nov

Drudge has become almost laughable in his ridiculousness. Just about every day, he finds something – anything – to back up the premise that Obama is losing. One day, it’s a tightening of the Gallup “traditional model” poll, which one day had McCain within 2 points of Obama, but now shows Obama expanding his lead to +8. Somehow that poll is absent from today’s Drudge Report.

Today, a Zogby internal shows a one-day one-point lead for McCain! This must mean the voters are breaking for him! This is it! Sirens! Woot woot! One point for one day does not momentum make, and tightening of the polls as election day approaches matters little and is expected to happen. So while Drudge’s influence wanes, let’s look at what’s really going on.

Firstly, Nate Silver at the must-read-brilliant Fivethirtyeight.com explains away the alleged significance of Zogby’s one-day internals:

Firstly, there is a reason that pollsters include multiple days of interviewing in their tracking polls; a one-day sample is extremely volatile, and have very high margins for error.

Secondly, the Zogby polls have been particularly volatile, because he uses nonsensical party ID weightings, which mean that his weighting process involves making numbers doing naughty things that they usually don’t like to do.

Thirdly, Zogby polls are generally a lagging rather than a leading indicator. This is because he splits his interviewing period over two days; most of the interviews that were conducted in this sample took place on Thursday night, with a few this afternoon. The reason this is significant is because lots of other pollsters were in the field on Thursday night, and most of them evidently showed good numbers for Obama, as he improved his standing in 6 of the 7 non-Zogby trackers.

Finally, there was no favorable news for McCain to drive these numbers. Polls don’t move without a reason (or at least they don’t move much).

Take a close look at the party weighting link. Zogby’s party ID model assumes it’s 2004 again, when everyone was just feeling peachy about George W. Bush:

There is one very, very significant concern with Zogby, which is that he has a longstanding rule to set his party weightings based on the exit polls from the most recent election. In this case, that means 2004, when a roughly equal number of Democrats and Republicans turned out. However, according to essentially every available poll, Democrats now have somewhere between a 5-point and a 10-point advantage in party ID.

This particular procedure has bitten Zogby in the ass before. Between 2000 and 2004, there was a shift in party ID toward the Republicans; as a result, Zogby’s numbers were 2-3 points high for Kerry across battleground states.

So, back to reality, from Pollster.com – the tracking composite from September 1 – date:

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Pollster says Obama has 311 electoral votes including leaners, while McCain has 142 including leaners. 85 electoral votes are judged to be “toss-ups”, including Florida, Georgia, and Indiana. (There are 10 hour-long lines to early vote in Georgia right now).

RealClearPolitics gives Obama the same strong & leaner 311 EV, while it gives McCain only 132 EV, counting Arizona’s 10 among the toss-ups.

Here’s the RealClearPolitics tracker of all polls from 2004. Note how Bush led Kerry throughout September and October. Anyone who suggests that Kerry was leading in the polls at this point in that campaign is a liar.

Now, compare the 2004 tracker to RCP’s 2008 lines:

No complacency. No sitting back & relaxing. Things are looking good – better than you’ve probably heard – but there are still three long days to go.

5 Responses to “The Polls”

  1. Ward November 1, 2008 at 1:23 pm #

    So, what’s the spin, er, take here on Obama’s Kenyan aunt Zeituni Onyango residing in public housing at taxpayers’ expense in Boston while under a four year old standing deportation order from an INS judge? Perhaps, that revealing her status was an invasion of her privacy? (see: Plumber, Joe the.) Think ACORN has her registered yet? What does The One say about enforcing the law in this case? Wonder if it’s true that she’s among his campaign donors. Just sayin’.

  2. Byron November 1, 2008 at 1:36 pm #

    Can’t wait until Tueaday . . .

  3. Byron November 1, 2008 at 1:42 pm #

    Or Tuesday, even.

  4. STEEL November 1, 2008 at 3:56 pm #

    Ward…

    With sh#t like that as a campaign strategy you wonder why your guy is losing?

  5. Ward November 1, 2008 at 9:03 pm #

    Steel: two minutes for non sequitur.

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