If you listen to the podcast, you may have noticed that, over the past couple of weeks, we’ve talked a lot about polling, and why Obama is doing so well. We’re not the only ones. A lot of people are wondering why Obama is polling well when the things are so bad. One of the criticisms I’m seeing about a lot of the polls is that they skew so heavily democratic. Except for Rasmussen, almost all of the polls coming out seem to have larger numbers of Democrats than one would expect. They have been as high as a D+11% advantage in the population.
This is seen by some as proof that the pollsters are skewing the respondent population towards Democrats. I’m not impressed by the argument, because most pollsters don’t actually try and set up a likely voter model for the poll. Instead, the poll is a sample of usually between 1,000 and 1,500 randomly selected voters. The Democratic advantage in this poll, therefore, is not an artifact of the selection method, but is actually the result of what the respondents identify themselves as. If you call 1,000 people, and 380 of them say they’re Democrats, then that’s the sample.
The poll, then, reports what the respondents say. It’s not the result of selecting a particular number of Democrats or Republicans. That’s a vitally important distinction, because voter identification changes over time. The poll reports what voters say their party affiliation is, but a voter may say he’s a Democrat this week, and a Republican or Independent two weeks from now.
So, the key here, it seems to me, is to look at a set of polls from a particular pollster and see if the party affiliation varies widely from poll to poll. If it does, then there’s probably a problem with their methodology. You might see a shift in party affiliation over time, but the change between consecutive individual polls should probably be fairly small. But in general, if a pollster uses the same methodology for every poll, and is not explicitly looking to create a voter response model, then the results are probably fairly accurate, and show small movements–if they occur–to party identification from poll to poll.
What I’m hearing from a lot of conservatives this week is the idea that the polls are horribly skewed, as if there’s some industry-wide conspiracy to make Obama look good. That doesn’t seem very likely, especially since nearly every pollster uses a bipartisan polling team, i.e. one Democrat and one Republican. So, what I’m hearing from conservatives sounds like the response Democrats made in the 2004 election, when John Kerry was polling badly. Then, as now, there was this feeling that the polls were horribly wrong, and their candidate wasn’t actually losing. But the losing candidate was, in fact, losing.
So if the polls are off, then it must be the result of either a gross, industry-wide incompetence that is causing them all to use a faulty methodology, or a gross, industry-wide conspiracy–between both Republican and Democrat pollsters–to push a pro-Obama narrative. The alternative is that the polls aren’t off, and within a 3% or so margin of error, are reporting accurately what the electorate is saying. The latter seems to me to be far more likely.
Now, as to why so many voters are identifying as Democrats, I don’t have a clue. But consider this: pretty much everyone knows Bill Clinton is smarmy liar, and if he could run for a 3rd term…he’d win.
Also, consider that everyone remembers the Bill Clinton presidency as a time of economic growth and balanced budgets. They remember the end of Bush’s two terms as a time of complete economic collapse. The underlying reasons don’t matter, because most voters neither understand nor care. It may be that voters simply trust Obama more on the economy than they do Romney, because they fear a return to economic collapse. Maybe they think Obama has done as well as could be done. But simply dismissing that with a "the polls can’t be right" explanation is just whistling past the graveyard.
UPDATE: More here, including this graphic.
Now, let’s split this out and look at correlation:
That’s a pretty weak correlation. Look at the blue diamonds for the Obama lead. What is that, a bell curve? Seriously?
No, unless the poll makes a specific effort to model a voter turnout, and specifically samples for a given percentage of R-D-I, then the poll is just telling you what the respondents are telling the pollsters. They may tell them something different next week or next month, but the R-D-I sample is simply a result of respondent self-identification.
As you weigh the results of various polls in the coming couple of months, this might be a handy tool to use when considering their credibility (via Vox Populi). The following list of polls, from a Fordham University study, is in order based on their accuracy last election (2008). Rasmussen and Pew were the only one’s that were spot on. The rest, to varying degree, missed it, either by an inch or a mile (at least in terms of polling):
1T. Rasmussen (11/1-3)**
1T. Pew (10/29-11/1)**
3. YouGov/Polimetrix (10/18-11/1)
4. Harris Interactive (10/20-27)
5. GWU (Lake/Tarrance) (11/2-3)*
6T. Diageo/Hotline (10/31-11/2)*
6T. ARG (10/25-27)*
8T. CNN (10/30-11/1)
8T. Ipsos/McClatchy (10/30-11/1)
10. DailyKos.com (D)/Research 2000 (11/1-3)
11. AP/Yahoo/KN (10/17-27)
12. Democracy Corps (D) (10/30-11/2)
13. FOX (11/1-2)
14. Economist/YouGov (10/25-27)
15. IBD/TIPP (11/1-3)
16. NBC/WSJ (11/1-2)
17. ABC/Post (10/30-11/2)
18. Marist College (11/3)
19. CBS (10/31-11/2)
20. Gallup (10/31-11/2)
21. Reuters/ C-SPAN/ Zogby (10/31-11/3)
22. CBS/Times (10/25-29)
23. Newsweek (10/22-23)
Frankly, if they’re not in the top 5, I’d take them with a grain of salt. Why? Because of things like this:
The latest CNN/ORC poll released today shows a wider lead for President Obama than the previous CNN/ORC poll but it is doubly skewed. It massively under-samples independents while it also over-samples Democratic voters. The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll official reports Obama at 52 to percent and Mitt Romney at 46 percent. Unskewed, the data reveals a 53 percent to 45 percent lead for Romney.
This new CNN/ORC survey, unlike many other analyzed, not only over-samples Democratic voters, but also massively under-samples independent voters, to produce a result more favorable to Barack Obama. This survey’s sample includes 397 registered Republicans and 441 registered Democrats. But the survey included a total of 822 registered voters, leaving only 37 independent voters at most. The survey clearly under-sampled independent and Republican voters.
Note that CNN’s history has it tied for 8th place for accuracy last time around. So, what should those numbers likely be? Well let’s hear from the polling group that came in tied for first (and this is probably the reason why):
Rasmussen Reports recent reporting of partisan trends among voters, based on tens of thousands of voters surveyed, showed the voting electorate made up of 35.4 percent Republicans, 34.0 percent Democrats and 30.5 percent “Unaffiliated” or independent voters. Clearly 6.5 percent of a sample as independents is a large under-sampling of those voters compared to 30.5 percent.
However, what CNN used was this:
The sample for the CNN/ORC poll includes 50.4 percent Democrats and 45.4 percent Republicans and appears to have only 4.2 percent independents. This means independents are under-sampled 25 percent while Democrats are over-sampled 12.1 percent. Both of those are larger variations in sampling than seen in most polls that are likewise skewed by such sampling variations.
And as it stands now, independents lean toward Romney. So unskewed, or perhaps “properly skewed”, the results would be quite different. In fact they would give Romney a 53 to 45 percent lead over Obama.
That sort of sloppiness is an indicator of why CNN was in 8th place before in a race in which there were actually a large population of self-identified Democrat voters, a population that likely doesn’t exist in this election, or at least not to the extent it did in 2008. And if they’re in 8th, you can imagine how sloppy those below them on the list are.
Look at Gallup for heaven sake. 20th? Of course, the right should also note Fox and IBD/TIPP in 13th and 15th positions when they get excited about results there.
This is not just a phenomenon in national polling. It is also happening in swing state polls as well. For example PPP’s recent Ohio poll.
Finally, remember this when considering the RCP poll average. Many of the polls making up the RCP average are found way down on this list.
Just a word to the wise as you watch everything unfold. There are polls and then there are, well, “polls”.
Make sure you know which one’s to watch.
Mitt Romney stopped and bought Girl Scout cookies during a campaign stop this morning. He bought two boxes of Do-si-dos and a box of Trefoil butter cookies.
Debbie Wasserman-Shultz derided the incident as yet more evidence that Romney is out of touch with average Americans. "He didn’t get a single box of Samoas or Thin Mints? That’s unpardonable. Those are the Girl Scout Cookie varieties Americans love. Mitt Romney has proven again that he’s not fit to lead America during this tough economy."
Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called Romney a racist over the flap. "He didn’t buy anything that has any chocolate in it. Not only did he turn down the totally brown Thin Mints, he wouldn’t even take the partially brown Samoas. The only reason I can think of for such blatant insensitivity is outright racism."
Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said a friend in the Girl Scouts told him Romney had never purchased Samoas or Thin Mints. "The facts are clear. Unless Romney releases his purchase records of Girl Scout cookies for the last twenty years, we’ll all know exactly what to think."
A Romney campaign spokesman pointed out that the group of Girl Scouts selling cookies outside a supermarket was out of Samoas and Thin Mints. "We were all disappointed that there were no Samoas, but that’s not Mitt Romney’s fault. The Obama economy with its high unemployment has made it impossible for the Girl Scouts to predict how many cookies of each variety to order. I really wanted some Samoas with vanilla ice cream on top, but, hey, that’s just how it goes."
Politifact looked at the Romney campaign’s claim that they didn’t buy Samoas or Thin Mints because they were not available that day. Since there were some Samoas and Thin Mints available from other scouts elsewhere in the country, they rated the claim "mostly false".
Jonah Goldberg provides a little history lesson that helps one understand why it is that politicians are now credited with the country’s economic progress or lack thereof:
The idea that presidents “run” the economy is both ludicrous and fairly novel. Before the New Deal (which in my opinion prolonged the Great Depression), the notion that presidents should or could grow the economy was outlandish. But, as the historian H. W. Brands has argued, it was JFK who really cemented the idea that the president is the project manager for a team of technicians who create economic prosperity. “Most of the problems . . . that we now face, are technical problems, are administrative problems,” he explained, and should be kept as far away from partisan politics as possible.
It may have been JFK who “cemented” the idea, but it was FDR who first sold it and the myth that grew up around him that claimed he had saved us from the Great Depression. Subsequent study of the era has yielded pretty solid evidence that, in fact, his policies failed and it was a world war that dragged us out of the Depression.
That said, it really doesn’t matter – the perception and belief has been established that the President does indeed have an effect on the economy – right or wrong. That’s just the reality of the matter. Additionally, politicians haven’t been shy about cultivating that perception. It is another means of padding the resume (if the results during their term have been good) or attacking the incumbent (if the results haven’t been very good).
The truth is politicians do have an effect – usually when they chose to intervene, the economy does worse and when they get out of the way, it does better. For the most part, they have yet to realize that, however.
But that’s not really the point I’m interested in making. All of that said, what this race boils down too is a President, who has had poor results, claiming he should be given another 4 years to do better.
The problem with that? He’s already proven he doesn’t know what he’s talking about:
President Obama, a hybrid reincarnation of Kennedy and Roosevelt according to his fans, came into office with similar misconceptions. Controlling the White House, the House, and the Senate, his team of propeller-heads insisted that if we passed exactly the stimulus they wanted, the unemployment rate would top out at 8 percent and would be well below that by now.
They waved around charts and graphs “proving” they were right, like self-declared messiahs insisting they are to be followed because the prophecies they wrote themselves say so.They got their stimulus. They were wrong.
They were dead wrong.
So the question then, given their “know-it-all” claim and their assertions that their plan would work if we’d only give them the money, why should we trust them to do better the second time around, given the fact that we’re actually worse off now than when we were in the actual recession?
As Goldberg points out, their claim is the downturn was “so much worse than anyone realized” isn’t a good excuse given the assurance with which they made their previous claim.
Why didn’t they realize it? That’s a fair question.
A more important question though is why in the world would you give another chance to someone who didn’t drive the vehicle of the economy out of the ditch as promised, but instead put it into a telephone pole?
It makes absolutely no sense.
And Obama’s plan for his coming 4 years? As best as I can discern, pretty much maintain course and tax the rich. That’s it. We’re banging along the economic bottom, unemployment is trending worse, and Obama wants to raise taxes on a single group that would pay for a total of 11 hours of government spending.
You’re asked to buy into that nonsense as solid economic policy – i.e. giving him more time.
Are you actually going to do that?
If so, and if you give this incompetent president and his clueless advisers another 4 years, you deserve everything that comes with that choice – to include a hearty “I told you so” from me if I’m still around in 2016.
Of course the spin will be that the unemployment rate has dropped to 8.1%.
Unstated is the fact that the reason the unemployment rate dropped is because 368,000 more Americans left the labor force.
In fact, the labor participation rate in the US is at its lowest level since September of 1981. Had we not seen 350,000 dropped from the labor force last month, the unemployment rate would be 8.4%. And if the labor participation rate was the same as the day Obama took office, unemployment would be at 11.2%.
96,000 jobs, while better than nothing, isn’t even close to what is necessary to get this economy going again. And don’t forget, the average monthly gain in 2011 was 153,000 a month. In fact, the U-6, which includes part-time workers looking for full time work, is at 14.7%.
I keep telling you that when you talk about jobs or lack thereof and what that means to individual Americans, it’s personal. While they may care or not care particularly who has the best record in foreign policy or whether or not abortion is something they believe in, being jobless, struggling, and/or knowing someone in the family who is, has much more of a direct effect on a potential voter than the other issues.
14.7% fall into that category with probably twice to three times that many effected by what those 14.7% are struggling with. Believe what you will about the polls right now, but if history is any indicator, Obama isn’t going to get a round 2.
Oh, and just as a reminder of the depth of the failure:
UPDATE: Meanwhile at the Ministry of Truth the “Spin-o-matic” is in overdrive:
While there is more work that remains to be done, today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression.
It does? Wow … who knew? Certainly not the 350,000 who dropped out of the labor force this month. But hey, be happy, don’t worry … and ignore the chart.
Obama 2012: “I never said it would be quick or easy”
Obama 2009: “If this isn’t done it three years, we’re talking about a one term proposition”
Last night we heard, well, we heard a speech that was not so hot. Oh he said lots of stuff, but we’ve all learned over the past 3 plus years not to really trust what he says, but instead to watch what he does. He knows how to own the rhetoric, he just rarely if ever lives up to it.
He’s the “I want to have it both ways” president.
For instance – last night he said this:
We don’t think the government can solve all of our problems, but we don’t think the government is the source of all of our problems …
And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades. It’ll require common effort, shared responsibility, and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one.
On the one hand he tells us government isn’t the answer and on the other, he claims it more government is the answer. Which should we believe?
Well in this case, the latter, given his actions (see ObamaCare which he never once mentioned last night, just like the number “8.2%.). He spent two years going the FDR route with a Democratic Congress and had he not seen his party go down in flames in 2010 and a check put on him in the House of Representatives, you can be assured he and the Democrats would have attempted to grow government even more.
This is a guy on whose watch we almost doubled the debt. Yet not a mention of that last night. Instead he tried to tell us how much he was going to take off the debt . 4 trillion he claims.
Independent experts say that my plan would cut our deficit by $4 trillion.
But another thing you learn listening to this president is to take his claims with a grain of salt. 4 trillion? Only if you believe in “creative” accounting. Jennifer Rubin, quoting the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler’s fact check of that claim points out why it is a load of rubbish:
By the administration’s math, you have nearly $3.8 trillion in spending cuts, compared to $1.5 trillion in tax increases (letting the Bush tax cuts expire for high-income Americans). Presto, $1 of tax increases for every $2.50 of spending cuts.
But virtually no serious budget analyst agreed with this accounting. The $4 trillion figure, for instance, includes counting some $1 trillion in cuts reached a year ago in budget negotiations with Congress. So no matter who is the president, the savings are already in the bank.
Moreover, the administration is also counting $848 billion in phantom savings from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though the administration had long made clear those wars would end.
In other words, by projecting war spending far in the future, the administration is able to claim credit for saving money it never intended to spend. (Imagine taking credit for saving money on buying a new car every year, even though you intended to keep your car for 10 years.)
Rather than good arithmetic, independent budget analysts called the maneuver “a major budget gimmick.”
The administration also counts $800 billion in savings in debt payments (from lower deficits) as a “spending cut,” which is a dubious claim. We didn’t realize that debt payments were now considered a government program.
There are a number of other games being played, so fake money is being used to pay for real spending projects. In effect, most of Obama’s claimed deficit reduction comes from his proposed tax increases.
And, as we’ve all learned, those tax increases are but a drop in the sea of red ink this president has unleashed. His appeal to authority notwithstanding, his claim is as empty as his rhetoric.
As most have figured out, the problem isn’t about who is or isn’t “paying their fair share”, it’s about out-of-control spending. In the entire speech last night, that was not a subject that was addressed. Instead, as you saw above, we were given a real preview into what he has in store for us when he can be “more flexible”. FDR type experimentation.
What does FDR type experimentation require? More government and more spending.
Finally, if you missed this, you need to be reminded:
And yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet, because climate change is not a hoax.
That says two things. One, he plans to do the same sort of slow walking for fossil fuel he’s done this past four years while doubling down on his disastrous green policy. And part of the doubling down is undoubtedly to somehow impose a carbon tax that will help feed a ravenous spending machine.
The president who said he would return science to preeminence in decision making during his administration, is now planning on using the pseudo-science of AGW as an excuse to raise taxes on everyone. If that’s not clear, you’ve just not been paying attention.
So he’s right, there’s never been a more clear choice. Continued disaster, keeping a country on the wrong track on that track or an attempt to change that.
Will Romney be better?
He’s actually a turn-around specialist with experience and success in the field. How could he be worse?
I say we make Obama stick with the 2009 statement – for the good of the country.
It must be true. None other than Politico has noticed:
A crabby, negative campaign that has been more about misleading and marginal controversies than the major challenges facing the country? Barack Obama and Mitt Romney can both claim parenthood of this ugly child.
But there is a particular category of the 2012 race to the low road in which the two sides are not competing on equal terms: Obama and his top campaign aides have engaged far more frequently in character attacks and personal insults than the Romney campaign.
Nice to see Obama has “changed politics as we know it”.
Another promise abandoned.
So the question of the week is can the DNC via Obama reignite the “magic” of 2008 in dispirited voters?
Charlie Cook, the dean of Democratic strategists, takes a look at three demographic groups critical to Obama’s 7 point margin of victory in in 2008. While he finds one of the groups, African-Americans, still with Obama in numbers similar to 2008, two other groups are not at all showing the same enthusiasm they had then. They are voters 18-29 and Latinos. Obama leads comfortably in both demographics. However, the question is, will they vote in the numbers necessary to push Obama over the edge.
Cook says it doesn’t appear so.
In each case, the percentage who say they will definitely vote is significantly lower than it is among other demographic groups who view Obama less charitably.
Groups among those who see Obama “less charitably”, as Cook puts it, includes seniors (65 and older):
Voters ages 65 and older favor Romney by a 15-point margin, 54 percent to 39 percent, and 86 percent of those in that oldest cohort say they definitely plan to vote, compared with just 61 percent of those ages 18-29. Romney has a statistically insignificant 1-point edge (46 percent to 45 percent) among those 30 to 49 years of age, but 80 percent of them say they will definitely vote. Among the 50-to-64 age group, Romney leads by 3 points, 48 percent to 45 percent, with 86 percent of that cohort saying they will definitely vote.
Cook believes it is a matter of enthusiasm, or lack thereof:
But the study also found “consistent evidence that President Obama’s 2008 first-time voters are less supportive than other Obama voters, reflecting a decline in enthusiasm among a key voting bloc in the 2012 elections.”
Note, both polls are those of “registered voters”, however, the point is clear – enthusiasm for Obama isn’t at all near the fever pitch it was in 2008 and experts like Cook know that. As he says, there’s “consistent” evidence Obama’s support among those groups has eroded when it comes to enthusiasm. Cook also knows what has to happen for Obama to again grab the edge and win. How critical is the Democratic convention to that?
Very. It is there the spark needs to be lit again, where a message that resonates and energizes the same demographic groups that put him over the line last time.
Will it happen? Well that’s the “big question”.
And behind all these problems isn’t the “war on women”, “race” or “inequality”. It’s the economy. If, in fact, the Democrats concentrate on the diversion of the first three, the likelihood of them reenergizing their voters isn’t high. It may, however, even further energize the other side.
So you may see them tip-toe around mentions of the economy and attempt to push it off on Bush again. They’re already trying out “the Bush recession”, “the Bush economy”, etc. That’s unlikely to impress many (most polls have indicated that voters think, after 3 years, Obama owns the economy now), but it’s about all they have in that arena.
Of the two conventions, the DNC is likely to be the more interesting of the two by a long shot.
This is definitely worth two minutes:
Of course, politicians routinely repeat their stump speeches, so you could generate a video with repeated mantras for almost anyone in office. But this many, four years apart?
Remember, this guy is supposed to be a world class orator with world class intelligence. Can’t he come up with some different ways to explain himself? Hasn’t he learned from four years of being president, and gained a deeper understanding of the problems?
Four years ago, those soundbites sounded fresh, and people hearing them could believe that he meant them and would take action on them.
Recycling soundbites after four years in office doesn’t sound fresh. It sounds desperate, unoriginal, and generally sad.
Back in December, 2008, I said:
If Obama supporters don’t feel the quasi-religious fervor they felt in 2008, which I think is probably the case, then they might not give nearly as much money, or work nearly as hard for him. He’ll have to find other ways of connecting with voters to make up for that.
It’s pretty clear now that he has no other ways. He used everything he had in 2008, aided by a compliant, sycophantic media. He must confront the reality of four years in office, yet he has nothing left to offer but the same empty rhetoric and the same empty promises.
Every week, in more ways, this man sounds like a loser. With four years in office rebutting everything that was said about him in 2008, I doubt that his tingle-thighed acolytes in the media can do much about that.
(Video found via Instapundit.)
We’ve said it is a question that ought to be asked. Mitt Romney brought it up in his RNC speech. Chris Wallace ask it of David Axelrod. George Stephanopoulos posed it to David Plouffe. The answer? Well you’ll not hear a straight one from either Axelrod or Plouffe.
The question they’re avoiding?
The question Democrats didn’t want to answer head-on Sunday: Are Americans better off today than they were four years ago?
Asked the same question repeatedly host George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week,” President Barack Obama’s senior White House adviser, David Plouffe, reverted to talking points about job creation and the failings of the Bush administration.
“We were this close to a Great Depression,” Plouffe said at one point, pinching his thumb to his index finger.
Stephanopoulos cut him short.
“We’ve clearly improved, George,” Plouffe replied. “We’ve made a lot of progress from the depths of the recession … We’ve got to continue to recover.”
Of course, what Axelrod and Plouffe both understand, surely, is that it really doesn’t matter how close we got to a depression or whether or not we are actually technically recovering. What matters is how the American voter perceives the situation.
That, of course, includes the unemployed and the underemployed. It means all the households which have seen their income slip over the years (median income dropped from about $54,000 to $50,000 during the Obama years).
As I keep pointing out, economic issues become priority issues when a voter is effected by something like a downturn. When the negative effect is widespread, it is likely to be the priority issue for the majority of the voters.
So it will be interesting to see how the DNC chooses to theme its convention. Sandra Fluke being a keynote speaker should tell you much of what you need to know. My guess is it will be themed to avoid talking about the economy and the administration’s dismal record and instead, heavy on this faux “war on women” theme, with splashes of “I got Osama” and “why didn’t the Republicans talk about Afghanistan?”. Throw in a dash of “the evil rich not paying their fair share” and you’re done.
What you won’t hear, not even faintly, is whether or not we’re better off than we were 4 years ago.
Because we know we’re not.
And they know it too.