Oct 03 2008

Record 69.9 Million Viewers Watched VP Debate – Polls Making Sense?

Published by at 8:32 pm under 2008 Elections,All General Discussions

Does anyone think Governor Sarah Palin is not a force in this year’s presidential race? Here’s something for folks to consider when looking at the political landscape and the polls. The usually ignored VP debate drew a historic audience -  jumping into first place for any VP debate and into 2nd place for all Presidential debates:

Thursday’s highly anticipated face-off between Alaska governor Sarah Palin and Delaware senator Joe Biden was the most-watched vp debate of all time.

Last night’s event was seen by 69.9 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.

That’s the most-viewed debate — presidential or vp — since the second round between Bill Clinton, Ross Perot and George Bush in 1992 (which also drew an audience of 69.9 million). 

Update: Looking at the per network totals at Drudge I noticed PBS and C-SPAN may not be included in the tally, so this could be the all time record breaker! Updated: PBS ads another 3.5 million viewers, making this debate number one even over the 1992 previous record holder – end update

How is it the VP debate dwarfed the top of the ticket debate this year and all years past? Anyone going to try and claim all those viewers took time out of their busy lives to watch Joe Biden?  Let’s get real here, 69.9 million people wanted to see Governor Sarah Palin.  Biden cannot draw that kind of crowd. McCain doesn’t draw these crowds, even Obama doesn’t. Let’s put that into perspective using 2004 as the baseline; more people tuned into the debate than voted for Bush or Kerry (62 million and 59 million, respectively) in the last election.

Do I think Biden won the debate by large margins?  Not likely, he wasn’t the main draw. Palin can bring out 23,00060,000 supportive Americans just by coming to town. Biden has no such drawing power. Yes, a lot of nervous liberals showed up, but that number would be the less than or equal to the number who showed up to watch Obama – their hero. I ain’t buying polls who show Biden winning, they are woefully out of whack. The math just doesn’t work.

In addition, how is it McCain-Palin are sinking in the polls but the RNC is bringing in record donations in September? That is just not going to happen together. If the nation was swarming to Obama-Biden they would be taking their donations with them.

When a mathematical model is broken it usually is detected when its outputs are inconsistent with parameters or drivers in the system. A great example of this is the Global Warming predictions being spewed by models based on rising CO2 levels, while actual temperatures are dropping with rising CO2 levels. That is a clear indication the mathematical model is broken, not that reality is broken.

So we have all these polls showing enormous leads in states like VA which are actually larger than the national numbers. VA is at best 50-50 state, Obama is not going to be leading nationally by 6% and by 10% in VA.  

Something is going on because ALL the polls are showing the same drift towards Obama. But Palin is not losing crowds, the RNC is not seeing lowered donations – just the opposite is happening! Palin just out drew Reagan, Obama, Bush, Clinton, Gore, etc. Is this America turning away from Palin?  Not possible.

I think the polls are suffering from one side not participating in the polling process. Polls rely on equal interest across all the voter categories for their models to accurately reflect the national mood. If the polls are not measuring one half of the electorate the results will go out of balance in favor of the opposite half. There is no way to avoid this in polls – you cannot measure what you cannot sample. In science there is the situation of where a measurement disturbs the system under test. In the end you are measuring the effect of the measurement, not the system, and you get biased or garbage results.

Back to why I think it is the polling process, not the nation of the mood, causing the results.  Engineers use sanity checks to independently verify measurements and products of a model or algorithm. If the independent verification fails (like McCain-Palin sinking in the polls but growing in audience interest) then we know something is wrong.

Right now there are two independent verification data points that indicate the polls probably have some serious problems. RNC money is not dipping in concert with the polls, and Palin’s ability to draw crowds is not diminishing either. In fact, we could point to a 3rd independent indicator that additionally shows the polls have problems, and that is the fact Obama’s crowds are shrinking and smaller than McCain-Palin’s in the same city within one week of each other. If the trend was to Obama and away from McCain-Palin this would not be happening. Note that all these indicators happened in September, or late September, so they are all in the exact same time frame. 

Like I said, this is a standard scientific and engineer tool to discover if a mathematical model is producing good results. And I would bet there may be other indicators out there that might show a serious problem with the polls we are seeing. Now, it could be a problem with the math model itself, or it could be in the sampling process. Since all the polls, based on different internal models and extrapolation methods, are showing the same trend it cannot be the math inside the polls. That leaves only one area that could be hitting all the polls the same – and that is participation in the sampling process.

This would be a historic situation if true (as if we haven’t seen history being made all year in one way or another). When will we know if this is what is happening? After the polls start closing and we start seeing results coming in. If it is a sampling problem because one side of the political spectrum basically refused to participate, then Obama will either squeak out a win or lose.  Only time can prove this theory.

Update: Yep, Palin sure is sinking like a rock, her crowds are simply dwindling down to a few dead-enders:

More here at Gateway Pundit. Note the Biden crowd of 10 celebrating his debate night!

Update: Obama gets 6,000 to an event in PA this week, Palin is expecting 10,000 in CA. Yeah, Obama is taking the lead all right ….

18 responses so far

18 Responses to “Record 69.9 Million Viewers Watched VP Debate – Polls Making Sense?”

  1. kathie says:

    I think it would be a tragedy of hugh proportions if Obama won, so I hope you are right AJ.

    I want to think that Obama is an honorable guy. But he just has too many holes in his resume. No record of his college years, then the few years he worked after college before running for the State Legislature. His radical associations, never really explained his Wright connection and Black Liberation, Bill Ayers, who paid his Harvard tuition and many other associations.

    People talk about Sarah about being one heart beat from the Presidency. Obama is at the top of the ticket. With out a speech written out he is incoherent. Who is his brain? I know people who are willing to vote for him “hoping” he will make a change. They are totally “gone” on him. They don’t care what his policies are or how he will make change. They just love him!

    The ball is in McCain’s court. I hope he takes it up.

  2. […] Posted on October 3, 2008 Right Wing Nuthouse: AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY INSANE: THE MOTHER OF ALL BIDEN GAFFES Contentions: Joe Biden’s Alternate Universe Jammie Wearing Fool: ‘These Are Men With Sphincters of Steel’ And Still I persist: “An American Carol”: a brief review w/spoilers Riehl World View: If Accurate, Then McCain Is Done Amerpundit: Clinton says Palin Kind of Rocked Last Night Bill Hobbs: How McCain Can Win Sister Toldjah: PDS Brigade: Gov. Palin cheated! Marc Ambinder: Palin Didn’t Read Pre-Prepared Answers The Strata-Sphere: Record 69.9 Million Viewers Watched VP Debate – Polls Making Sense? […]

  3. daralharb says:

    To the extent that we postulate a “hidden vote” for McCain/Palin, we must postulate a hidden danger to the American polity. On the basis of the polls, Obama’s supporters expect him to win the Presidency. If, on November 4, the hidden vote you postulate denies that office to him, his supporters are likely to leap to the immediate conclusion that the announced result is based on fraud; that the nation’s highest office has been stolen for John McCain. Their reaction will be furious, and might take any form from attempts to legislate or litigate electoral vote switches to protests of electoral votes in Congress to direct attempts simply to install Obama in office. Imagine Florida 2000, clear across the country, and the worst fears we had about that Constitutional crisis coming to pass in 2008.

    It is also possible to postulate not a hidden vote for McCain/Palin but a hidden factor driving votes toward Obama, a factor which is not being polled for and which voters might be very reluctant to discuss even if it were being polled for. There may be a very deep fear of what Obama’s most fervent supporters will do if he does not win. Over the past six weeks we have seen what can only be described as an ongoing explosion of rage in response to the Vice-Presidential nomination of Sarah Palin and McCain’s ensuing surge in the polls. Some of the expressions of that rage, such as Andrew Sullivan’s ongoing obsession with Trig Palin’s birth date suggest paranoid sociopathy of the same sort that drives “9/11 Truth”. Others, such as “comedian” Sandra Bernhardt’s suggestion that Palin might well be gang-raped should she venture into New York carry with them the threat of violence. Faced each day with unrestrained fury, ever more virulent rhetoric, and ever more explicit threats, a relatively small but politically decisive segment of the electorate may have decided that the nation can more easily survive a failed Obama Presidency than it can the consequences of refusing him that office.

    A moment’s reflection will show how difficult it would be to detect and measure such a “fear effect”. Polling organizations would be most reluctant to change their questions so close to the election, even if they suspected some new factor was driving voter choice. The very act of probing for a fear effect in focus groups would likely generate highly charged political controversy. In any case, neither poll respondents nor focus group members could bring themselves to admit easily that they had been bullied into a political choice they did not really want. People are quite unlikely to admit even to themselves that they are acting from cowardice

    In the end, it may be best for those of us who believe that an Obama Presidency would be a disaster to put aside hope based on speculations that cannot be measured and to work as hard as we can for the election of John McCain and Sarah Palin.

  4. kathie says:

    DARAL..this election is totally irrational, it is actually quite frightening. Obama supporters are an obsessive mixture of love, hate and race. What a combination!

  5. Stix Blog says:

    Palin Entering the Arena…

    This just gives you a glimpse of the crowd at the Chaifetz Arena. It was lively, but when she came in the Arena the place exploded. H/T to Strata-Sphere…

  6. grumpyguy says:

    I hope you are right! That CBS scored the stiff as the winner does suggest some bias in their undecided voter sample.

  7. Stix says:

    It is scary Kathy

    I was in the Chaifetz Arena and it was very cool and everyone was pumped for Palin’s at the debate.

  8. AJStrata says:


    You are correct, that is exactly what will happen. I would not be surprised to see rioting.

    I agree the ‘hidden vote’ scenario is far fetched and maybe grasping.

    But there could be another scenario about to play out – the polls begin a long typical march towards a tight race.

    I am not sure what is going on here, all I know is if you look at other indicators the data doesn’t line up.

  9. VinceP1974 says:

    I can’t stand Republicans.. so fucking wimpy. Read this… embarassing. My comment that I’m sending to the campaign is at the bottom


    Why McCain Goes Easy on Fannie and the CRA

    October 03, 2008 10:29 AM ET | James Pethokoukis | Permanent Link | Print

    Here is the big question of the moment that many GOPers are asking: Why is John McCain not tearing into Barack Obama and the Dems on the huge role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the Community Reinvestment Act in the financial crisis on Wall Street? In fact, the biggest criticism by conservatives of Sarah Palin’s debate performance last night was that she had the opportunity to talk about Fannie/Freddie and the CRA but instead criticized the role of “predatory lenders.”

    Here is what Team McCain is telling me: Expect McCain to make the case on television, but don’t look for him to turn to Obama in the next debate, point his finger, and say something like this (courtesy of the Ace of Spades HQ blog):

    I stayed away from making these partisan attacks, even though you lied ridiculously about me and your own attempts at ‘reform.’ I held back, because partisan attacks—even truthful ones—would harm our country and reduce the chances of getting a vital bill passed. Well, the bill is now passed. I put country first. You didn’t, and you lied on top of that. And now—only now that this crisis has been dealt with, to the extent we can—I’m going to give you a bit of straight-talk about Fannie, Freddie, my attempts to reform it, and your attempts to block reform on behalf of your big donors and friends in ACORN.

    Nope, that is not going to happen Why not? 1) It is a complicated argument, and McCain is not good at making complicated arguments, not even about earmarks. (Note, additionally, his lack of defense of the war in Iraq during his debate with Obama. Amazing.)

    2) There is a racial component to criticism of the Community Reinvestment Act that can make it sound like you are scapegoating minorities for Wall Street’s problems.

    3) The campaign believes McCain’s time is better spent talking about taxes and energy and healthcare. Really.

    There is a newish TV ad about Fannie and Freddie. You tell me if it makes the point conservatives desperately want McCain to make. I don’t think it explicitly or aggressively connects the dots the way activists crave. Here is the transcript:

    ANNCR: John McCain fought to rein in Fannie and Freddie.

    The Post says: McCain “pushed for stronger regulation”…”while Mr. Obama was notably silent.”

    But, Democrats blocked the reforms.

    Loans soared.

    Then, the bubble burst.

    And, taxpayers are on the hook for billions.

    Bill Clinton knows who is responsible.

    PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: “I think the responsibility that the Democrats have may rest more in resisting any efforts by Republicans in the Congress or by me when I was President to put some standards and tighten up a little on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”

    ANNCR: You’re right, Mr. President. It didn’t have to happen.

    JOHN McCAIN: I’m John McCain and I approve this message.

    My bottom line: The McCain campaign is underestimating how absolutely furious conservatives are that free markets, and by extension Reaganomics and the last 25 years of American economic policy, are getting the blame for the housing and credit crisis. A real morale killer, they tell me. Over and over. Every day.


    Comment I made:

    This Country Needs Defending
    Who the heck does John McCain think he is?

    We’re under a full assault by Marxists, and he wants to be polite?


    What was all that talk about fighting with him? If he didn’t mean fight against his opponent , who the heck was he talking about? Was he talking about the Republican Party? Gee he doesn’t seem to have any problems telling Republicans where to go..

    This country is under assault , if McCain doesn’t want to run for President, for the good of the country, drop out of the race and we’ll get someone who wants to .

    Shame on you for disrupting the Palin family’s life, subjecting them to the most vicious hatred and humiliation.. for what?

    I’m outraged and disgusted.

    My country is being treaded on, and once again the stupid Republicans do nothing.

  10. MerlinOS2 says:

    On Intrade there is a contract about if Obama would benefit or lose support due to the VP debate.

    Yesterday the contract dropped from 61 to 32.50

    Contract Link

  11. WWS says:

    I think Intrade is gonna need a bailout.

  12. AJ,

    The key thing the political pros are going to look for is the demographic make up of this debate audience.

    If there was a disproportionate number of white working class women viewing this, Obama’s campaign will be in a world of hurt.

    It would be a good indication that McCain/Palin will be getting a greater vote margin among white women in 2008 that Bush 43 got in 2004 (11%).

  13. Frogg says:

    I tend to agree with AJ’s analysis. Some things just don’t add up. I’ve read a lot of articles about the strange polling this election cycle. Where, for no reason at all, pollsters will all of a sudden oversample Dems, etc.

    Besides the Palin factor (which no one can deny), there are also articles all over the place that sound similar to the one about the Pueblo CO McCain rally in a Dem stronghold:

    “Republican presidential candidate John McCain, seeking to rebuild campaign momentum after a recent rough patch, got a boost from an unexpected source Friday — a working-class southern Colorado town typically labeled a Democratic powerhouse.

    Even some Republicans, accustomed to their minority status in Pueblo, said they were surprised by the attendance and excitement at the event.”


    These things are happening all over.

  14. Frogg says:

    The McCain-Palin campaign announced today that Tuesday’s rally for Republican vice presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin has been moved to the Pensacola Civic Center.

    Campaign staff said there has been overwhelming interest in Palin’s visit and organizers decided a larger venue was needed.


  15. AJ,

    Tom Blumer at Newsbusters.org caught the AP radically cooking their polling party identification books.



    “Somehow,” the sample make-up changed from 33-31 Democrat to 40-29 Democrat from the earlier to the latter poll — a shift of nine points.

    “Somehow,” the Strong-Dem vs. Strong-GOP difference went from nothing to eight points.

    “Somehow,” the Strong-GOP vs. Moderate-GOP mix went from +3 to -3, a swing of six points.

    Here’s my best estimate of how the Sept. 27-30 poll would have turned out if AP-GfK had used a sample similar to the one it used Sept. 5-10:


    After correcting for differences in the samples, almost all of Obama’s double-digit pickup disappears, leaving McCain with four- and three-point leads without and with leaners, respectively. Even if one argues that the first poll showed a too-small gap between the two parties in the number of people sampled, substituting the 5-point difference Gallup identified shortly after the GOP convention would still leave McCain with a slight lead.

    Either AP isn’t supervising its GfK cooks properly, or it’s directing them to poison discussions of presidential race, while hoping that no one notices the rancid product it is clearly producing.

  16. VinceP1974 says:

    *All Hands To Battle Stations*
    *All Hands To Battle Stations*

    *Operation: Destroy The Marxist is Beginning*



    CNN FRONT PAGE NEWS: Palin says Obama pals with ‘terrorists’

  17. […] I noted in a previous post, there is something seriously wrong with polls showing an Obama wave across the country, yet on […]

  18. […] that is popularity. Palin still holds the record for attracting huge crowds, and she and Biden hold the all time viewership record for a national debate. Her ability to draw is stunning. The VP debate draw was clearly  not dopey […]