Why did the polls blow it in New Hampshire?

The final polls in New Hampshire – and there were plenty outfits issuing them – forecast a big win for Barack Obama, predicting he would win going away with a margin ranging from six to 13 points. Instead, Hillary Clinton won by three points. How could professional pollsters (and Jay Tea) get it so wrong?

Well, the morons at Daily Kos have a theory: there were Diebold machines counting some of the machine-readable ballots, and in those areas, Hillary won. Where there was hand-counting of ballots, Obama won. Of course, they never mention that the least accurate tabulation method is a hand count, but if morons made sense, they wouldn’t be morons, would they?

While most of the pollsters are hiding under their beds and not taking phone calls, Rasmussen Reports at least tries to answer the question:

It is hard to remember a time when the polling and expectations were so universally different from what really happened. At the same time, It is worth remembering that polling was generally on target for the Republican race. John McCain won, as expected, by splitting the Republican vote with Romney and winning big among Independents. Independents accounted for 37% of the Republican Primary voters, a bit higher than projected.

So what happened with the polling on the Democratic race? There are several possibilities.

First, there may truly have been very late changes in the race. Hillary’s tearing-up moment may have played a role (another powerful moment came in the debate on Saturday night where the only woman in the race reminded everyone that she embodies change). There is some evidence to support this theory, even if we only recognize it in hindsight.

In Rasmussen Reports polling, our final trend was in Clinton’s direction–our tracking poll showed Obama’s lead declining from 10-points following the Sunday interviews to seven points after the Monday night calls. Extrapolating that trend another day would have pointed to a much closer race. Additionally, the Rasmussen Reports surveys showed that Clinton supporters were somewhat more certain that they would stick with their candidate than supporters of Obama or Edwards. If this is the case, why didn’t the late trend get more notice? Perhaps because few other firms polled on Monday night. So, the last polls reported by many continued to show an uptick for Obama.

Further support for this theory comes from Exit Poll data showing that an astonishing 38% of voters made up their mind in the final three days of the race (after Iowa).

Read the rest at the link provided. Now, I salute Rasmussen for taking the bull by the horns and addressing the issue. But suppose for a moment they are completely correct: large numbers of the electorate made up or changed their minds in the final days, and none of the polling outfits either caught the change or alerted us that such a huge proportion was still in play.

So, then, what good are they?

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  • ken

    No clue how the pollsters take into account the land-line-less population? I saw a lot of young people registering to vote on Tuesday and how many of the 18-25 year olds just have only a cell phone and/or VOIP?
    I’ve got a VOIP line and it’s great… no direct marketers or pollsters calling :) while friends in the state have had their phone ringing off the hook for months.

  • just me

    Not to mention many people were “phone call” fatigued.

    I probably got 10-15 phone calls a day from candidates or pollsters. It got to the point that I dreaded hearing the phone ring.

    I am pretty certain a lot of people were just like I was in the last couple of weeks and hung up or if they had caller ID didn’t answer.

    My guess is polling was tough the last week or so.

  • http://www.rustedsky.net JLawson

    Goes to show the only poll that really counts is the one on election day, where people really show what’s on their minds. Exit polls don’t count, because people usually won’t like someone getting in their face and asking who they voted for. (I know I don’t – and will cheerfully lie if asked.) Telephone polls? As pointed out, you gotta answer the phone, AND tell them your actual plans.

    “Kucinich. Definitely Kucinich. Thank you! Bu-bye..”

  • Jeff Blogworthy

    I love it when the polls are wrong. It happens quite often. Many polls are designed to shape public opinion, not reflect it.

    I knew the Diebold nuts would be out there.

  • Mark L

    It’s simple. Most Democrats are secret racists. They don’t like blacks. (Especially the blacks in the Democratic Party — otherwise they would not blindly support a party whose policies destroyed the black family, something even slavery could not do.) But they don’t want to be seen as racists.

    When polled, they said they were voting for the black candidate because that was politically correct. In the polling booth, they pulled the lever for the white-bread, middle-class candidate.

    Either that, or Hillary sent her flying monkeys throughout NH with copies of Democratic voters’ FBI files and warnings about how they were going to show up next at the local newspaper if Hillary did not come in first.

    (Do I need a close sarcasm tag before I end this post?)

  • sean nyc/aa

    Interesting post on this topic here.

    Basically, the polls weren’t that wrong, just that they were missing a large chunk of the electorate which broke significantly for Hillary. Why was this segment missed? Who knows. It could be a number of reasons (ie young women w/ only cells, working women or moms w/o the time to answer phone surveys, a late breaking rebellious vote to stop th media from prematurely picking the winner, or Hillary might have even earned the late undecideds with a strong debate/show of emotion), but I highly doubt it’s Mark L’s speculation as the numbers for Obama were right on target.

  • Allen

    Ever stop and think who forecasted Obama winning? MSM did, and they forgot the voters when they did so. MSM got egg all over their faces, and can’t understand how they were wrong.

    It wasn’t voting machines, etc. The people in NH weren’t able to be brain washed by the MSM. And why have polls in the first place, wait until the ballots are all counted, then announce the winner. Real frigging simple that way, but leave it to MSM to screw it up.

  • http://www.outsidethebeltway.com rodney dill

    Of course, they never mention that the least accurate tabulation method is a hand count,
    Given that the equipment is not hacked or otherwise tampered with.

    If this was a Republican vs. Democrat race and the polls show Democrats to win in a landslide and the Republicans pulled out a narrow victory there would be cries of fraud, voter disenfranchisement, and calls for an investigation.

  • Alan Orfi

    This may also simply be a case of buyers’ remorse. At the last moment, folks began to realize that Barack Obama may actually become the nominee… certainly cause for reflection.

  • Piso Mojado

    The pollsters forgot to poll the people in NY and Mass to ask them who they would vote for when they drove up or rode the bus to New Hampshire for the Primary.

    Hillary called out her calvery and they came to her rescure and voted for her even though they are not residents of NH.

    She won’t be able to pull that off in states that require ID and residency.

  • _Mike_

    So, then, what good are they?

    Filling 24 hours with new News isn’t easy… plus for the people who decide what to do based on what everyone else is doing, it’s vital.

  • http://fullthrottle.cranialcavity.net/ marc

    Why did the polls blow it in New Hampshire?

    Um well, let me pull on my thinking cap and ponder that a second.

    ‘Cause their polls?

    There, the case is “solv-id,” as Inspector Clousaeu would say.

  • http://www.eddiebear.wordpress.com eddie bear

    #1:
    If the “no land line demographic” is true, wouldn’t they have voted for Obama, who would/should have been the natural cohort for him? I am, however, getting tired of this meme many pollsters have been pushing since 2002 that the “no landline” crowd is a huge cohort, as they have not been a factor up until now, IIRC.

    Also, I do recall another time when many pollsters missed a last second break. In 2000, most pollsters, save *spit* Zogby, missed the late surge/break for Gore after the Bush DUI story.

  • John S

    When the state AG finishes disallowing motor-voter ballots with names and addresses that can’t be verified, Obama will again be the winner.

  • OLDPUPPYMAX

    And easily as important is the number of first time voters who signed up and participated in the process on Tuesday. How many drove in (or were brought in) from Mass., Vermont, etc for the single purpose of voting for Hillary? Does NH have such info available? When the Clintons are involved, the must straightforward, least complicated answers are usually wrong. Look for a scheme and your far more likely to be on the right track.

  • COgirl

    “It is hard to remember a time when the polling and expectations were so universally different from what really happened.”

    Venezuela and Hugo Chavez, perhaps.

    Any similarities?

  • http://politics.wizbangblog.com/ Jim Addison

    COgirl ~ LOL!

    There may be something to the “land-line” theory, IF the pollsters over-weighted to compensate for cell phone users and younger voters, demographics where Obama outperforms Clinton by a significant margin.

    My point is, if they can’t get their weighting right, why is anyone paying them to do this? Rasmussen notes they (polls generally, not just them) were pretty close on the GOP side. So, what are we supposed to do – flip a coin to figure which party they get right?

  • http://www.debunkers.org/ SPQR

    the pollsters did not show the last minute trend up that Hillary got – and that their polling calls were starting to reveal. That’s all. The conspiracy nuts are getting themselves worked up already about election machine conspiracies that just did not happen.

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