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Let Not Your Heart be Troubled - Or Fooled By Polls

I saw an article by The Anchoress (who apparently did not read my discussion of the Quinnipiac poll) regarding the apparent dominance by Democrats in polling. Her theory is that because voting by Democrats was so heavy in the Spring, this means that Democrats will dominate voting in the fall.

Mmmmmmmmmm ... no, that's not really a good description of the situation. Polls are not quite the magic ball they are hyped to be.

For example, take a look back in 2004. Kerry got a lot of excitement among Democrats because he had strong primary support, and a lot of pundits were saying this meant trouble for the fall. Then 62 million voters decided they preferred President Bush for another term, defying the media's proclaimed scenario. And while I will grant that 2008 is different from 2004, human nature is notoriously hard to change. For this election, that means the following points will continue to matter:

[] Barack Obama, like John Kerry, built a lot of his support through young voters in the primaries. However, even young voters who vote in primaries are relatively unlikely to vote in the general election. Candidates have been trying to change that condition for decades without significant success.

[] John McCain's core constituency appears to be senior voters, pro-military voters, and moderate Republicans. The first two of these groups have established a strong representation in votes.

[] Hillary Clinton's 18 million supporters are not completely enthused by Obama's campaign. While most of them will support Obama, fewer will actively work for his election (as in recruiting new voters and pursuing grass roots operations), and there have already been reports of Hillary supporters working to get McCain elected.

[] Voters' opinions and mood can change quickly, but their core beliefs are slow to change, and will change only when confronted with strong evidence. The essential differences between Barack Obama and John McCain will resonate in the election results.

[] Every presidential election, there are states which appear early on to be ripe for a candidate to 'steal' from the other side's roster, but in actual fact few states change philosophies, and the general election is seldom a great surprise to anyone familiar with History.

[] The essential strategic difference in mood between Senators Obama and McCain, is that Obama started with strong positive support and almost no negative reaction, but his attractiveness has steadily declined as the election season progressed, while in McCain's case he began with strong opposition and little support, but his competence and consistency have strengthened his campaign as he progresses. The result of these trends will depend on the speed of their progress relative to the election date, and whether these trends are halted prior to the election.

[] Opinion polls are the product of polling groups, which are often reported as news, but that representation distinctly is not correct. An opinion poll is the result of a collection of interviews using a standardized set of questions and methodology. That poll is weighted to match a desired demographic profile, and any error in demographic assumptions, in party identification, or methodology as relevant to the real population pool will be reflected in erroneous conclusions. It is a salient fact that most opinion polls which attempt to reflect the specific voter results more than one day ahead of the election will be off by more than the statistical standard deviation, and therefore no opinion poll should ever be taken as a predictive indicator of voter intentions.

All in all, it's June and that makes it the noise of spin, nothing more.


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Comments (13)

Deej - not to split hairs, ... (Below threshold)
the anchoress:

Deej - not to split hairs, but I had no opinion at all on the polls except to wonder about them because - as I stated in my piece - I don't really read or trust polls. I sent the stuff to Election Projection asking their opinion, and posted it. I'll be happy to link to you, too! :-)

Polls and pundit observatio... (Below threshold)
GarandFan Author Profile Page:

Polls and pundit observations remind me of the post-election day picture of Truman holding a newpaper over his head that had the headline "DEWEY WINS!".

It's a longgggggggggg way to November. Now that Obama has the Democratic nomination, the main question is 'will he be able to stand the scrutiny'?

I agree. We don't need poll... (Below threshold)
JFO:

I agree. We don't need polls. Just ask your next door neighbors, and their next door neighbors, and... their....

JFOJust ask ... (Below threshold)

JFO

Just ask your next door neighbors, and their next door neighbors, and... their....

They've already been asked and have answered. Take note of the white male vote in the link below. Those are the neighbors Obama should be worried about.


http://www.realclearpolitics.com/horseraceblog/2008/05/a_review_of_obamas_voting_coalition_1.html

HughI don't disagr... (Below threshold)
JFO:

Hugh

I don't disagree with your point at all. Nor am I naive enough to believe Obama has a lock on the election.

My completely unscientific view comes form an admittedly small sampling of conservative friends. These folks have always voted Republican and are social and fiscal conservatives. They are all so fed up with Bush and his policies and the Republican party in general that they want a drastic change and intend to vote for Obama. They may change their minds before November certainly but they're mad and they're mad at the Republican party in general, not just Mr. Bush. I think they are a small sampling of many folks from the right.

But as I said much can happen in the next five months. At a minimum it will be interesting and fun to watch.

his (McCain`s) competenc... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

his (McCain`s) competence and consistency have strengthened his campaign as he progresses.

I think we are watching the progress of an entirely different campaign. McCain has made so many `u-turns` he is in danger of getting whiplash or as Steve Benen writes in a post today, `It's a delicate dance, and John McCain is 'liable to break a hip'.
Benen lists about 30 flip-flops McCain has made, just in the past few weeks.

JFO, while i can understand... (Below threshold)
ke_future:

JFO, while i can understand being mad at bush and the republican party (they have not been the small government, fiscally conservatives i want) i just don't get how they think a vote for Obama is going to help.

best case if Obama gets elected is that he gets to replace 2-3 supreme court judges. these robes will be there for decades. and that's assuming that none of his ideas on gun control, tax rates, foreign policy, and the military go anywhere.

i'm sorry, but to vote for obama because you're mad at republican politicians is just plain dumb.

SteveI don't think... (Below threshold)

Steve

I don't think any core Republican voters will be taking their cue from The WP's Dana Milbank, a well known liberal apologist. Nor will they be taken in by Milbank's thinly veiled insult to McCain's age (the "hip break" thing, you, um, um, um know Steve).

Now, as to those flip flops: core Republicans will embrace the change on drilling and the windfall profits tax; they are in favor of FISA warrants and, for that matter \, any type of warrant (or lack of) that will expedite the arrest/termination of terrorists trying to communicate with their sponsors/co-conspirators from here in the US.

Abortion....appears he is leaning right into the base. Estate tax, same thing.

As to the remainder of Milbank's laundry list, do you detect a trend? Moderate to right? Sort of tells of which candidate, from the perspective of even before the early primary season, McCain's people wanted to run against. That would be your candidate, Steve.

McCain will beat Obama. It ... (Below threshold)

McCain will beat Obama. It won't even be close.
The congressional GOP is in for a real drubbing.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Unfortunately, O'Muse is ri... (Below threshold)

Unfortunately, O'Muse is right about Congress.

The Senate may become a veto proof majority for Democrats and the House will become even more of a majority for Dems.

However, BHO will not even defeat a weak Republican candidate. I've often asked liberal friends why they would not support a moderate Democrat in a year like this. Bradley and Nunn come to mind. But instead the Dems offer up a half term (no opposition) Chicago machine politician with no experience whose acolytes become apoplectic at the very mention of anything critical? Joe Biden looks good compared to this.

Any numbscull who votes for... (Below threshold)
Redphilly:

Any numbscull who votes for McCain in November deserves what they get from the Republicans. Not only will Rev. Wright have been right about USKKKA as they would have voted for him for the selfish reason of his skin color but they will have voted for a man who has in his camp, Cheney. A man who practically called West Virginians incestuous hillbillies, laughed about it and gave me the distinct impression that he and his cronies (Bush, McCain) had told similar derogatory anecdotes behind closed doors!

Obama will win easily. The... (Below threshold)
Adnora:

Obama will win easily. There is almost nothing McCain says or does that makes any sense.

Hussein is toast! There ai... (Below threshold)
moseby:

Hussein is toast! There ain't enuff blacks to get him elected...unless they start breedin like schoolgirls from Massachuesetts...heh heh
depp=true




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