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HISTORICAL QUOTE OF THE WEEK - "Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other." ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Thursday, October 23, 2008

BARACK OBAMA SLIPPING, WHILE MCCAIN MAKES GAINS - HOW ACCURATE ARE THE POLLS

This has been an election season for the books. Whether the Republican or the Democrat tickets win the election both will provide a first in American politics. Sarah Palin could be the first female Vice President while Barack Obama could be the first African American President.

Throughout this campaign the polls have been all over the board. During the Primary season polling missed the boat completely while occasionally they hit the mark. Since the Conventions there have been trends for both candidates and shifts but one thing has been consistent, none of the polls have shown a consistency in numbers when comparing one poll to another.

For instance in today's polling, the range is everywhere from a tie with the AP poll to Obama up by 11 if you believe the ABC poll. According to the the Investor's Business Daily poll shown on the right Obama only leads by three which places the race well within the margin of error. I posted this particular poll because of the detailed break down in the polling and IBD has been right on the mark on election day in the last three Presidential contests.

But with that said can polling be trusted to be accurate and fair ? Not really. First one has to consider the polling sample and how that affects the results of the poll. For instance immediately after the Republican Convention Gallup used a polling sample showing 33% Democrat and 31% Republican resulting in a 7 point McCain lead.

Two weeks later Gallup released a poll showing Obama with a 9 point lead. Yet when the polling samples are taken into account at 40% Democrat and only 29% Republican it becomes obvious how those numbers changed in the course of two weeks. Using the same polling samples in the Gallup poll as were used immediately after the GOP Convention the 9 point Obama lead becomes a tie or a 2 point McCain lead depending on how the calculations are handled.

Another major aspect to take into account concerning polling has to do with the totally unbalanced media coverage. Obviously many networks like NBC are , "in the tank," for Obama and either like NBC have lost all journalistic objectivity or lean so heavily in favoring Obama that the majority of reports concerning McCain and especially Governor Palin are negative.

In fact a recent study shows that 63% of reporting about McCain is negative while only 29% of reporting about Obama is negative. Considering the news coverage of the campaign experts attribute about 5% of the polling lead that Obama shows in many of the polls to the unbalanced coverage favoring Obama. Many agree that this 5% as in past unbalanced coverage does not carry to actual votes counts on election day. If you deduct 5% from most of the polling Obama's lead drops to an average of about 4 or 5 points. Taking into account then the larger sampling of Democrats and this race becomes a dead heat and within the margin of error across the board.

Another aspect that is neglected when polls are discussed is the experience factor. Fox reported on a Rasmussen poll taken in five key states, VA, NC, PENN, Ohio and FL. The polling showed McCain up by 2 in FL and Ohio with Obama up from between 3 and 5 in the other three states. But when the question of who voters thought was more experienced for the Presidency, McCain lead in the experience factor by more than 19 points in every one of the five states.

The historical record also must be taken into account when considering the accuracy of polling. For instance in 1980 going into the week before the election Jimmy Carter polled 10 to 12 point higher than Ronald Reagan and on election day Reagan was behind in the polls by 9 points. He won the election by nearly a 10 point margin and an electoral landslide. Also in 1984 on election day polls showed Walter Mondale only 3 points behind Reagan, within the margin of error. Reagan won by 18 points and the largest electoral landslide in history.

In the last two Presidential elections Al Gore lead in the polls by 10 points on election day 2000 and John Kerry lead by 6 also on election day 2004. Looking at another election whose polling mirrors this year is the 1948 election between President Harry Truman and Governor Thomas Dewey. Going into election day Dewey lead Truman in polling anywhere from 5 to 15 points, ( sounds familiar doesn't it ?), when the numbers were counted and the results were in Truman actually beat Dewey by 4.4 points with an electoral victory of 303 for Truman , 189 for Dewey and 39 for Strom Thurmond with 266 needed to win. After the election according to the son of George Gallup the founder of the Gallup organization, Gallup had to personally visit more than 30 newspapers, " to lure them back after 30 canceled their poll service."

The more accurate polling takes approximately five to ten days to give a balanced and reasonable account of what respondents are thinking. With the 24/7 news cycle and the coverage which cries for numbers on an almost moment by moment basis, pollsters are taking snap daily polling that give numbers that are based more on current emotional responses to headlines rather than true voter decisions on how they will vote come election day. As such we see varied numbers and numbers that change sometimes dramatically every day.

The bottom line is that the only real poll that counts is the one that occurs on election day when voters enter a private booth or cubicle and express their true thoughts as to which candidate they believe will best lead this Nation for the next four years. Then all of the media hype and the campaign rhetoric means nothing as voters are faced with the guidance of their own conscience and the decision as to what they want for this country over the next Presidential term.

Ken Taylor

9 Comments:

Blogger Voice of Commen sense said...

You can't believe any of the polls, they are only accurate if every single legal voter takes them. And if people who can't legally vote, don't take them

9:48 AM, October 24, 2008  
Blogger Rob said...

The poll you are citing is a complete joke. I just went to the IBD poll today and it shows McCain leading 74% to 22% among voters between the ages of 18-24. That is ridiculous and for that reason alone you should throw out the poll as useless.

As a general comment, the national polls don't matter as much as the state-by-state polls because the Electoral College determines the president. The RCP projection in the EC is 375-163 Obama. Unless something dramatic happens in the next week and a half, this is going to be a landslide. The only question right now appears to be, How large?

11:51 AM, October 24, 2008  
Blogger The Liberal Lie The Conservative Truth said...

First Rob, the RCP state polls are national polls and not in state polls. IE in NC national polls show an Obama lead of 5 while a Charlotte Observer poll, a McClatchy paper and liberal has McCain by 2.

Also the IBD poll has been the ONLY poll that has been right on the mark in the last THREE elections while others like those used at RCP missed the boat completely in both 2000 and 2004.

But I agree that polls do not win election only the poll at the voting booth counts and I ended this post stating that very thought!

3:28 PM, October 24, 2008  
Blogger Rob said...

The RCP state polls are state polls. National media companies like CNN and Politico conduct state polls. RCP just doesn't include every state poll - just as they don't include every national poll in their overall poll of polls.

RCP has 5 polls listed for NC that have all been conducted in the last week. The latest poll shows a 2 point lead for McCain. The other 4 polls also show a close race (tie to 4 point Obama lead).

The larger point is that if NC is not a strong McCain state at this point, he is in real trouble.

I have no idea if IBD was right in 2000 and 2004, but the idea that young voters between the ages of 18-24 are overwhelmingly for McCain is just ludicrous.

I can tell you as a matter of fact that Zogby's polling was dead on in its final polls in 2000 and 2004. In 2000 their final polls showed a tie, and in 2004 the final Zogby poll before the election was a 1 point Bush win. Today, the Zogby poll is +10 for Obama.

10:20 PM, October 24, 2008  
Anonymous Steve said...

RCP did not miss the boat in 2000 and 2004. Without the vote suppression effort, Bush would have lost both times.

11:08 PM, October 25, 2008  
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