Sep 27 2012

Sample Problems With Current Polls: The Resistant Libertarian/Tea Party Voting Bloc

Published by at 9:07 am under All General Discussions

The political blogs are all atwitter about how the polls are slanting their samples and turnout models. Some claim nefarious intentions, others see a rising tide of Democrat voters that would eclipse 2008. Many assume doom for Romney. I doubt any of these situations are true. Something else is in play, and I touched on it in my previous post – see here. Since that last post much of the commentary has bolstered my observations and theory.

Before we dive into the data, let me reiterate the premise of my theory: The Libertarian/Tea Party insurgent voting bloc of 2010, that swept the GOP into office in mind boggling historic numbers, is still out there in force. But this bloc is resistant to being sampled in the polls, and this causes the polls to be skewed towards Obama.

Confidence in any statistical analysis (of which polling is just one instance) is driven by this simple fact – the sample must be highly representative of the system or population under study. If you miss a major element of the ‘thing’ being sampled, the statistical results will be off. The more you miss, the more the sample is off. If you are randomly missing individuals, no big deal. But if you miss a segment that is unified in its characteristic (e.g., is anti-Obama), then your result will be off.

After the GOP was swept into office at all levels of government in 2010, the voters who sent them there expected great things. We expected the nation to turn away from its current disastrous course and move to less government (and we mean MUCH less here), towards fiscal responsibility (or sanity),back to fairness, etc. What we got was the usual DC two-step (huge budget increases and lame promises to behave in the future).

The 2010 electorate never forgave the politicians for failing to exploit the opportunity given them. Thus both parties remain pariahs of the people, and DC is still the enemy of Main Street: where a vast majority of the voters live.

This disappointment has turned into hot, but patient, determination. There will be another round of incumbent culling in 2012 (as we have seen in primaries within the GOP, and we see with new comers easily taking on the old guard in two party contests). Scott Walker is still in the Governor’s office because the 2010 insurgent voter is still out there and active.

But these voters have no interest in playing the game anymore. They are not mindless or desperate groupies running to the GOP for salvation. They are quietly determined to keep sending messages to DC and the entire political industrial complex (note the still falling revenues, ratings, viewers and readers of the old media) – a strong message. And they are not answering the pollsters. They are a strong anti-Obama vote (note: not a pro-Romney vote), and they are resisting the pollsters efforts to sample them. They are not going to play any more. They will live their lives and then show up when it counts. Politics is tuned out right now.

We see tell tales of this in the data. For example, let’s begin here where one person’s “over sampling” actually supports  my theory taht major groups are resisting to be sampled, thus making it look like the other groups are over sampled:

But the oversampling of Democrats is only a small part of a larger problem. In addition, pollsters are undersampling groups that are sympathetic to Republicans, like evangelicals and people who make over $100,000 a year, and oversampling groups that are sympathetic to Democrats, like mainline Protestants and people who make less than $50,000 a year.

If someone cares to do the analysis, they will find these under sampled groups probably represent the home of much of the Libertarian/Tea Party movement. The results of this missed sampling are mind boggling:

Here’s what Marist is predicting the 2012 electorate will look like in various swing states, relative to 2008:

Republicans                                       Democrats

Iowa  -6.1%                                        Iowa  +5.9%
Colorado  +3.2%                              Colorado  +13.3%
Virginia  -21.2%                           Virginia  -20.5%
Florida  +11.7%                                Florida  +10.8%
Ohio  -9.7%

I have highlighted my home state to illustrate how dumb this sample is. Virginia is deep purple, but started to turn on Obama within the first year, leading to the election of Governor Bob McDonnell (R) by a stunning +20% margin. In 2010 Virginians swept out a lot of Democrats in the House. So is it really going to be pro-Obama this year? The comparison between 2008 and 2012 indicates a serious sampling problem. One that should be noted by the pollsters and reducing the confidence (in other words, increasing the MoE).

The polls are statistics based on samples. Pollsters can only go on what the sample indicates. If a major segment of the population is not willing to be sampled, is resisting being sampled, and they universally hold a strong view one way or the other, then the results will come out wonky.

Here is some proof of this theory, when you focus on a specific voting block, it tells a different story than when you integrate the voting blocks to represent the country. Here is the proof:

For example, the most recent NYT/CBS/Quinnipiac poll of Virginia shows Romney carrying Republicans 95-3 and independents 54-43.

How can Romney be losing when he is taking independents and holding the Republicans? He can’t unless the Democrats are being oversampled, or the Tea Party component of independents and the GOP moderates are being under sampled! The fact is we see this sampling issue across the board (Romney holding his base and independents, but losing when the groups are integrated and weighted by sampling size). This universal feature in the data indicates to me this is not a pollster issue, but an issue with a voting bloc resisting to be sampled.

Here is more evidence that the polls are not getting a square sample, probable out of no fault of their own – the party ID race:

Of all the polls you have seen, there is one poll that has gotten no attention, it is a poll that has been taken monthly, it is a poll that Doug Ross spotted and promoted on his site. It is the Rasmussen Poll of party identification.

They have party identification results online dating back to 2004. Here are the 2012 numbers through August

This poll shows a huge surge in GOP levels. A historic surge. A surge that makes the 2010 results pale in comparison. Never has the GOP seen this large of a lead over the Democrats. Is this an outlier? I doubt it. Rasmussen has an excellent record. Why is the GOP registration surging, but not their intensity in the samples? Obvious voters are preparing to vote, but the polling is meaningless to them.

How is this comparing with current poll samples? Not even close!

The bottom line is there were seven percent more Democrats in the electorate in 2008 than there were Republicans. That’s from the exit polls and that’s about as accurate as you can get….President Obama won by about seven points. Given 90 percent of Democrats vote for the Democrat and 90 percent of Republicans vote for the Republican, every time you reduce the margin between the parties by one point, roughly it’s about one point off the margin.”

Schoen pointed out that the Pew poll was based on Democrats sampled for having an 11 percent voters registration edge over Republicans. He further added, “saying that America has gotten more Democratic than 2008, which is a questionable assumption.”

The sample in polls has become more Democrat leaning because those red hot angry Libertarian/Tea Party voters (who are strongly anti-big government and therefore anti-Democrat) are ducking the sampling. Jay Cost also sees an “over sampling”, which could in reality be an under sampling:

Specifically, many polls have, in my judgment, overestimated the Democrats’ standing right now. I base this conclusion not on a secret, black box statistical methodology or some crystal ball, but rather on a read of American electoral history going back to 1972. If I am right, then some of the polls are giving a false sense of the true state of the race, and will likely correct themselves at some point or another.

One important “tell” in my opinion, is this president’s continued weak position with independent voters, who remain the true swing vote.

Who is right? Is this biased and deliberate over sampling to shore up the lamest of ducks? Or is the data telling us the truth. Romney has the edge with the GOP voters and independents, but the under sampling of a stealthy, large voting bloc makes it appear as if Obama has the edge? We will know soon enough. We will definitely know by November. If it is a blow out (as I suspect it will be) then DC will again be put on notice – especially the GOP. 2012 will never be a pro-GOP vote because the government is broke all over. Main Street wants government to shrink back down to its minimum level, get out of our lives and stop taking our hard earned money. This means neither a GOP or Democrat activist government. We want both parties out of our lives.

The data to date indicates this is what is happening. Now we wait and see.If you want to see what the polls look like if the sample is corrected go here. If I am right, these are the numbers we will see in November.

More discussions on this topic over at Hot Air

Update: The above Hot Air article linked to this Breitbart article, that tells me something is truly wrong in the sample, not the polls:


In 2004 the vote was R+4.

In 2008 the vote was D+3

CBS/NYTs is reporting that in 2012 we will see D+9.

Is Florida now 3 times more Democrat than in 2008? Doubtful. It looks to me like the FL 2010 exit polls showed a 36-36-29 DRI – which means it was a tie. I fail to see the case for a D+9 in 2012 except if the 2010 insurgent voters are ducking the sample.

Update: Doug Ross has a good round up on this topic as well.

19 responses so far

19 Responses to “Sample Problems With Current Polls: The Resistant Libertarian/Tea Party Voting Bloc”

  1. Crawford says:

    There’s a flaw in your reasoning — the assumption that the publicly available polls are intended to be accurate. I submit that the oversampling of Democrats is intentional, and is intended to create a “bandwagon effect”. By showing Obama ahead, they discourage marginal Romney voters. By keeping the race tight(*), they encourage marginal Obama voters.

    (*) — They also cannot go TOO far in oversampling, or the results would be ludicrous. I believe they’re already on the edge of that territory, because they’re assuming D turnout/share higher than 2008.

  2. […] voters, the numbers don’t add up to a big Obama lead, they just don’t.H/T – AJ Strata, Doug Ross, Hot AirShare […]

  3. Good Captain says:

    Excellent points AJ!

    I believe undersampling is very likely the problem in most of these polls. I am intrigued by your theory on causation, but I wonder if you can reconcile Rasmussen’s Party ID poll results w/ other undersampled ones if one assumes Rasmussen’s methods in acquiring raw data are similar to that of other pollsters. If so, I am incredulous to think only Rasmussen has implemented a similar methodology correctly.

  4. Frogg1 says:

    It’s a reasonable analysis. Hard to say. Judging by how the MSM bias has gone into such ridiculous overdrive, I tend to lean towards the poll skewing to be by design though.

  5. Redteam says:

    “After the GOP was swept into office at all levels of government in 2010, the voters who sent them there expected great things. We expected the nation to turn away from its current disastrous course and move to less government (and we mean MUCH less here), towards fiscal responsibility (or sanity),back to fairness, etc. What we got was the usual DC two-step”
    I like the post, generally there is nothing to disagree with. the quote above, I point out only because it implies high expectations from too small a crowd. The only thing that was really acccomplished is that the House changed control to the Repubs, but, still mostly old line Repubs, not new Tea Party ones. With the poor leadership of Boehner and their relatively small number, not much could really be done. The numbers need to be boosted this year and the Senate needs to turn also.
    But as to the polls: I don’t particularly disagree with the reasoning behind the vast errors in them, but as both Frogg and Crawford stated above, the most likely reason behind the poor polling is that they are deliberately trying to mislead voters into thinking the Dimocrats are going to win. I suspect that with no polling at all, the reported results(expectations) would be the same. The MSM is so determined to keep Obama (empty chair) in office, they have no problems with lying and being totally dishonest. I don’t expect that to change.

  6. Wilbur Post says:

    I am certainly in the category of which you speak. I have been a small government conservative for more than 30 years. I have had caller ID for a long time, I NEVER answer when pollsters call. I would if Rasmussen called (they never have) but for none of the others. The last one I was called by was Quinnipiac, within the past year. Went straight to the answering machine.

  7. jwb says:

    There is another factor to be considered…and I have no clue as to the numbers. However, I know that among my friends, they like me are just sick of governance by poll and therefore just LIE to any pollsters that call.

    1. The intent of a poll is readily determined from the questions asked.
    2. Willing and enthusiastic responses ensure that one will become part of the “regularly” polled.

    I lie…age, demographics and responses.

    I wonder how many like me play the game?

  8. roylofquist says:


    You are spot on. From Pew:

    “At Pew Research, the response rate of a typical telephone survey was 36% in 1997 and is just 9% today.”

    I live in central Florida – ground zero. I have hung up on at least a dozen pollsters in the last couple of months.

    You’re right – I’m not interested in “the game” anymore. I’m talking to friends and acquaintances as subtly as possible to nudge them into the voting booth and do the right thing. Grim and determined are we.


  9. AJ,

    You have just successfully described the Tea Party as a political polling “hostile field” just like Traditional Marriage supporters are versus Gay Marriage advocates in the media polls.

    There have been 30 traditional marriage wins out of 30 Gay Marriage state referendums and every media political poll on the subject has missed by anywhere from 4% to 10% compared to actual votes cast.

    The Tea Party has been so thoroughly and consistently attacked by the media since it was born in 2009 that the Tea Party demographic is actively avoiding/lying to polls associated with the MSM just like Traditional Marriage supporters are regards Gay Marriage polls.

  10. gwood says:

    Great post.

    There’s something else in play here-the financial imperative.

    The legacy media have been losing viewers and readers for some time now. We all know their fiscal woes. Election years can represent huge increases in revenues, and not just from political ad buys.

    If the truth were told-that this election has been over since the 2010 mid-terms-then there would be far less revenue derived. The pollsters are no more concerned with credibility than the media. The pollsters seek relevance to the cause of making this a horse race. Thus the media and the polling firms have their interests aligned.

    I discount the liberal bias somewhat, especially with the pollsters. Note that the WSJ and Fox News polling are just as ridiculous as the liberal media polls.

    It’s about the money just as much as it is about liberal bias, IMHO.

  11. OFg8r says:

    My wife and I used to just hang up on pollsters because we did not trust them

    Earlier this week a pollster from Bloomberg called. I decided to go along. The “kid’ who was asking the questions needed help several times getting his question out. The poll simply went on forever. I never did figure out if it was meant to be a Presidential poll, even though there were a number of questions about Romney and Obama mixed in with others.

    The upshot was that there were so many questions, and so many leading statements preceding certain questions, that the pollster could cherry pick and make what they wanted of the response. I refused some questions with a comment that the premise of the question was false.

    Bottom line, it confirmed my earlier policy of just not playing the game. I realize that there is a risk is that the polls are distorted, and GOP leaning voters may become discouraged with the drumbeat of negativity.

  12. jan says:


    Enjoyed reading your analysis. I only hope that it’s underlying pinnings prove to be correct.

    What I do know is that this election seems far more contrived than one’s remembered in the past. Perhaps, the media, being basically dem operatives of Obama this time around, has put such a spin on how this election is going, that it has dizzying effects on outsider lay people, like myself. However, it does put dismay into your day to see poll after poll turning bluer, while Obama’s policies seem to be failing even more — both domestically and his foreign policies.

    The Benghazi fiasco and cover-up should, by all accounts, be enough to topple any administration’s credibility, thus exiting them from power. But, these polls, continue to show deaf ears to all negative events surrounding Obama. So, IMO, you are either on to something, or the public has become so dumbed down, that they can’t even execute brain waves to see the fiscal/national security cliffs that are right in front of us.

  13. […] Morning Joe Train Bypasses Realville Again: DTGSample Problems With Current Polls: The Resistant Libertarian/Tea Party Voting Bloc: Strata-SphereVote ‘President by Proxy’ Valerie Jarrett out of office on Nov. 6: […]

  14. patrioticduo says:

    I just hope your thesis (a thesis that I share with you) is correct. If not, then we have nowhere to go and nowhere to hide.

  15. Frogg1 says:

    Michael Barone didn’t go into the same detail as AJ; but, pretty much said the same thing in a recent opinion piece:

    Barone: When it comes to polls, readers beware

  16. Frogg1 says:

    Why would the oversampling of Dems continue to increase with every poll? It’s why I think the skewered polls are by design:


    How the ObamaMedia Faked Obama’s Growth in the Polls

    On September 11 and 12, Democrats were being oversampled by 3 percent. Two days later they were being oversampled by 4 percent. A week later by 5 percent. By September 23rd, they were being oversampled by 6 percent. By the 26th they were being oversampled by 9 percent.

    As a result of all that hard work, Obama’s lead increased from 5 percent during a 3 percent oversampling to 9 percent during a 9 percent oversampling suggesting that not only was Obama not gaining, but that he was actually falling behind.

  17. mathman2 says:

    I am part of the 91%: the 91% are those who do not respond to polls. My vote is secret (or is supposed to be secret). No person or authority has the right to know what my vote is. Oh, yes. I avoid those who try to interrogate me AFTER I vote.
    So far as I am concerned, it is not their business how I vote.
    Keep in mind where our ancestors came from. They were fleeing oppression, fleeing dictatorships, fleeing those who told them how to live, what God to worship, what to eat, where to work, and so on.
    We are a proud, stubborn, stiff-necked people.
    I will respond to no polls.
    I will vote my conscience in November.
    It is no one’s business but my own how I vote.
    Besides, I will stay out of jail longer when my vote is secret!
    I am a mathematician. If you do not actually sample all of those in your randomly selected sample of the population, your results are false. Period. This is provable. Each person in your random sample whom you miss degrades the accuracy of your result. And since those being missed are predominantly those in the Tea Party, you can count on a BIG SURPRISE in November!

  18. […] In a recent post I postulated that the 2010 insurgent voting block that swept the GOP to historic midterm election in 2010 (and showed itself in 2009 VA, NJ, 2011 MA) with wins across all levels of government  was so pissed off with the Political Industrial Complex and politics as usual that they were actively resisting being sampled by pollsters. We may see an indication this is true. […]

  19. […] two previous posts (here and here) I pondered the theory that the 2010 insurgent voting – primarily coming from a […]