Oct 02 2008

Latest State Polls Up At RCP

Published by at 7:35 am under 2008 Elections

There are a rash of new state polls which make it look like a blow for O-bomba. The truth is a lot of polls were moving towards Obama last week, so there was movement in the electorate. But as I noticed two national polls showed a reverse trend, and some of these polls are clearly producing garbage.

I am truly surprised at how bad the Quinnipiac polls are. Does anyone really believe Obamba is up 8 points in Ohio or 15 points in Pennsylvania??? Without the Quinnipiac outlier in their mix of polls the RCP average for Ohio would be a perfect tie at 0%, not the +2% they have now for Obama. No way +8% for Obama.

The CNN/Time poll for Virginia is no better with a +9 for Obama. Obama could win VA, but if he does it will be by 2-3% points, not 9%.

These state numbers look really ridiculous when combined with the last ABC News/Washington Post and Gallup Daily Tracking Polls, each of which shows Obama leading by 4% nationally – and dropping. With Obama only ahead nationally by 4 there is no way he could be up 9% in conservative VA. Maybe in deep blue NY or CA, but not in VA. Or Ohio, or Florida.

How could all the state polls be seeing the same phenomena? Well, the scary answer for the GOP is there is a mass movement to Obama – which I doubt is happening in the magnitude of some of these polls given the national picture. One blogger thinks the pollsters are ‘cooking’ the voter models. Maybe on one poll, but not on all of them, and the trend is across AP, Quinnipiac, CNN/Time and others.

So, if it is not a huge wave towards Obama what could it be? Well, it could be (and I am speculating here) a small wave that has exposed the problem with the voter models used in polls AND something about voter engagement in the process. I have said this many times, a small error in party affiliation will cause a huge error in the result, amplifying one side over the other inaccurately.  It’s like trying to aim at something far away, where a small error in angle ends up being a large error in targeting once the projectile has propagated along its path.

The voter affiliation IS driving all these poll models, it has to. But what if one side has gone underground, gone quiet? Obama’s supporters are intense and energized and loud. And also too many times thuggish and rude and ‘in the face’. McCain-Palin supporters are quietly determined, but not less energized. They tend to have the optimistic steely eye whereas the liberals are the wildly angry type.

Polls are voluntary, they suffer from challenges all other scientific sampling and statistical processes do not have to deal with: truthfulness and the desire of the subjects to be sampled. I think they have enough mechanisms in to deal with truthfulness and it is probably a component of their margin of error. But participation is another deal all together.

It could be Obama supporters are just more willing to answer the phone, get in the pollsters’ face, and rage against the machine. They are high volume, but may not be a large crowd. Now, with the financial mess (which I still think Pelosi and the Dems orchestrated to lose and keep it the good news for Obama coming) there could be real anger building out there in the country. But I am not so sure that anger has picked a champion yet. It seems America is saying a pox on all your houses.

If we think of two equal groups where one is loud and one is quiet, if we tried to measure their group sizes based on volume we would get a biased result towards the loud group. I think that we are seeing something similar here. I was not sure until I saw those state polls jump out like they did, and this goes back to the voter model I mentioned.

If these models are trying to translate the intensity of the respondents – their volume – to gauge their group size, then that could be why the bottom line is off. There may be more of the left answering the and less of the right answering the phones. The left wants to yell out their anger, the right is quietly biding its time and watching things work out. Like I said, I was not sure this was more than speculation until I saw dropping national polls for Obama simultaneously with huge gains in state polls – where the voter models have a greater effect on the sample.

So, either Obama is heading for a blow out or the two sides of the electorate are, by the nature of their emotional approach to the election, are being measured differently in the polls producing a bias. Honestly I am not sure which is true, and it really could be that it is a bad year for the GOP.

8 responses so far

8 Responses to “Latest State Polls Up At RCP”

  1. AJ,

    Jay Cost has an explanation. McCain the Man can beat Obama the Man.

    The financial mess has driven both the McCain and Obama campaigns off the radar screen of most Americans and replaced it with a generic choice of Republican versus Democrat.

  2. WWS says:

    You’re right, Trent, as is Jay Cost.

    If House Republicans are seen as blocking the bill tomorrow, then not only will there be a democrat sweep of all races in this election, there will be no major republican office holders for the next 50 years. The brand will have been poisoned beyond redemption, same as happened in 1932.

    I had never before quite realized that so many “conservatives” were willing, in fact eager, to burn their own houses down just to make a point.

  3. MerlinOS2 says:


    I have been watching these polls across both individual and every aggregation poll site I can find and I think I am picking up something.

    What I suspect are seminar poll responders. Say they are Republican but actually are nutrooters playing ‘operation chaos’ with the polls.

    When solid red states are pulling margins for BHO that match California spreads red flags should start flying.

    Especially when the spread gap in California has actually been closing over time.

  4. Toes192 says:

    —-Just an anecdote on polls … I have been called a couple of times [Alaska] by pollsters… “hello… goodbye… Not interested.”
    —-So, to make the obvious point, I have no idea what they were about to ask about.
    As per debate… http://fuanglada.wordpress.com/

    —-Our Sarah can lose the Presidency for Senator McCain tonight…

    —-However, she cannot WIN it…

  5. clintsf says:

    The next big move in the polls will be this weekend — following the VP debate.

    First we’ll get a hint of things to come in the daily tracking polls, then the results will start trickling in from key states.

    Watching the polls this week makes no sense — they are about to change dramatically. This is a time to wait and see.

  6. Terrye says:

    I have never been called for a poll. But then I screen my calls. I wonder about them just for the reason that they seem so inconsistent and ready to go one or the other on a whim. It has not been my experience that people change their minds that much.

  7. Mark78 says:

    I hope you are right

  8. AJ,

    The latest Mason-Dixon poll from VA has McCain at +3.



    I think we are seeing the media paint the campaign as they want to see it.

    Obama about to put it away.

    I also think no matter how Palin does tonight. She will be spun by the MSM as an absolute disaster for McCain.

    Those stories have already been written.

    Nothing short of a Biden meltdown complete with a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head will change that story line.