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Con Poll Alert

First off, if you are reading this to get a review of what happened Friday night, you're in the wrong place. I presume that everyone interested enough to read about the debate after the fact, will have had enough interest to watch the debate for themselves, or at least chase down the details from a few of the many places which did offer detailed accounts. Wizbang, for example, has five different threads about what was said, as well as the tone and pace of the event. What I am writing here is a heads-up on what to expect this week, or more accurately, what not to expect.

For me, the most significant observation during last night's debate came when John McCain said "I'm afraid Senator Obama does not understand the difference between a tactic and a strategy". Besides the obvious reference at the time to military operations, it was a significant observation as to how Barack Obama misunderstood the strategic purpose of the debate. Chew on that, and I will come back to it in a later piece.

During this week to come, there will be even more frothy expectation of glorious poll results by those addicted to bumper stickers and headlines for their news. But unless the pollsters twiddle with the party-affiliation numbers again, they will not be likely to change much. First off, that's the historical model. By the way, the National Council on Public Polls says you should pretty much ignore those "instant polls" which come out right after a debate. Why? Here's why:

"Keep in mind that the instant post-debate poll: (1) measures only top-of-head reaction to the debates, (2) does not measure the debate's effect on candidate preference, and (3) applies only to those viewers who were contacted and participated. Remember that who won the debate may have little or no influence on candidate preference."

Bet no one at Fox, CBS, CNN, or any of the other stations and networks bothered to note that, but as I said in an earlier post, the media is in the business of selling a story, not giving you facts.


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Comments (10)

At the risk of being cliche... (Below threshold)

At the risk of being cliche, I have never understood the significance of polls other than that they are used, by their percieved winners, to try and get an even better poll from the momentum of the one they currently harp on and, the percieved "loser" and their allies make the point that polls are only "snapshots in time". Amusingly enough, the two sides switch back and forth according to who "won" the latest pol.

Self serving political point alert: Polls are used by the drive-bys AS THE BASIS FOR ACTUAL STORIES to propagate their leftist leaning views. (does anyone remember the daily polls of Bush being yet another point lower than the previous days record breaker? I do. It stuck out almost as much as the absence of any similar polls showing how much America hates the current democrat "leaders" in congress.

summation: the leftist cabal ol' "Tail Gunner" Joe warned us about is alive and, well, accounting for about 20 - 30 points of influence in the direction they are steering us. How else to esplain "conservatives" who grow gov at mind boggling rates and put patriotic border guards away for doing their jobs? Not to mention the endless stream of, NEVER EVEN NAMED -let alone punished, treason coming from our "leaders" in D.C. and elsewhere.

(3) applies only to those v... (Below threshold)

(3) applies only to those viewers who were contacted and participated. Remember that who won the debate may have little or no influence on candidate preference.

This might be the most retarded criticism of a poll(s) I have ever heard. Of course you are only measuring the opinion of the respondents. If you get a large enough sample size you can generalize with a small(ish) margin of error.

That #3 bullet basically says, "no polls, anywhere, ever are valid at all." Laughable.

I say we wait to see how Ra... (Below threshold)

I say we wait to see how Ras and Gallup move by mid-week. That oughta be instructive.

"(3) applies only to those ... (Below threshold)

"(3) applies only to those viewers who were contacted and participated. Remember that who won the debate may have little or no influence on candidate preference.

This might be the most retarded criticism of a poll(s) I have ever heard. "

If you click through, the article says:

Whatever the instant answers, they come from the relatively small proportion of the public who saw and heard the debate and have had no time to give it any thoughtful consideration.


I wish someone would do a p... (Below threshold)

I wish someone would do a poll on how freaky Jim Lehrer's 'eye-balls-popping-out-of-his- face-like-Pelosi' look?

My poll question would be "do you think Lehrer looks better or worst than the Kathryn Helmond character in the movie "Brazil?"

Two counters to that, ORyan... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Two counters to that, ORyan.

First, you may not have noticed, but those were not my words, but the advice from the National Council on Public Polls. It would take a rather large and arrogant assumption to believe their statement condemned all polls.

Second, you do not understand proper poll methodology. What happens in valid polling, is that the polling group randomly contacts a large (1,000 +) number of qualified respondents, whose answers are taken and the group weighted to match demographic norms. What happens in these 'instant polls' generally come in two flavors: groups selected to generally match demographic norms, but only in pools of 20-50 people (any poll with less than 96 randomly reached respondents creates a margin of error well above 10%). The other type is to take a mass anonymous poll which makes no attempt to weight for demographics, in fact many of them allow a person to vote multiple times, which renders the answer utterly meaningless. This is why the NPCC says to reject such polls, they simply do not follow necessary procedures to authenticate their results.

That is simply not what tha... (Below threshold)

That is simply not what that bullet said. Criticizing methodology and sample size is totally valid, they said, "applies only to those viewers who were contacted and participated." Well no shit.

They did not say, "typically sample sizes in flash polls are too small to have much external validity." I don't believe that they were actually trying to condemn all polls; I can however recognize a clearly wrong and particularly moronic criticism.

I'm not saying that the opinions won't shift over time; I'm saying some of the reasons invoked for why we should all ignore flash polls are silly.

Yeah ORyan, you totally<... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Yeah ORyan, you totally recovered your credibility with your last comment ... not.

I don't know if this has be... (Below threshold)

I don't know if this has been brought up, but in the last presidential election cycle, the Pew Research & Battleground polls were the most accurate. Both of these polls now show a much tighter race than the other polls.

Hey, no polling company has... (Below threshold)

Hey, no polling company has EVER asked for my participation in any poll what so ever! But, that aside, part of the instant polling is what the "spin" is being done right after the debate. Be it the assembled "reporters" or the candidates supporters. That DOES have an effect on what people think. FTR, I thought that Sen. McCain clearly won on foreign policy and was not bad on the economy. I do not think that it did The One any favors to be smirking, constantly interurpting and saying "Thats not true, John." Oh, and is it not more respectful to refer to John McCain as Sen. McCain, as he refered to "Sen. Obama"?






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