New Pew poll: Obama wins by 10 if Democrats lead in turnout this year by, um, 19 points

posted at 9:57 pm on August 2, 2012 by Allahpundit

Normally I give these polls with ridiculous samples the ol’ college try, but I’m not even going to bother with this. You’re welcome to it if you want to put in the time. The sample:

No need to boot up your computer’s calculator. That’s 43.5D/24.5R/32I, or D+19. The 2008 presidential exit poll, in a big blue year, was D+7. And yet, even here, we find this:

Nate Silver notes that Pew has been polling high for Obama all year and that registered voters tend to skew Democratic vis-a-vis likely voters. If you adjust for those effects, he thinks Obama’s actual lead here is around four points. Fair enough; that’s all I’ll give you from Pew. If you want more, hit the link. Instead, let me play contrarian by quoting from RCP expert Sean Trende’s latest piece playing off yesterday’s questionable Quinnipiac numbers. Hugh Hewitt did a superb job grilling Quinnipiac’s pollster about their sample today, but Trende argues that worrying about the partisan composition of samples is way overblown:

I say this, in part, because we’ve been having this debate for a very long time, and it usually goes nowhere. In 2004, re-weighting polls to reflect the 2000 exit polls was all the rage among Democratic bloggers. The argument went that Republicans hadn’t had parity with Democrats in polling in a very long time, so we should ignore polls showing Republicans even with Democrats, or perhaps even ahead of Democrats in terms of ID. Of course, the final exits showed a tie between the parties, as Republicans managed to turn out their base at “supercharged” levels.

Since then, the same thing has occurred in every election: The losing side objects to the partisan composition of polling. The polls then proceed to get the final result roughly correct…

In all three states polled, the RCP Averages (Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania) include at least one poll of likely voters from a nonpartisan source that is roughly consistent with the CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac result. They also include polls that are not consistent with the CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac result. Overall it looks like CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac’s system places it on the more pro-Democratic side of the “house effect scale,” but not outrageously so.

That Quinnipiac poll suddenly becomes very worrisome if a guy as sharp as Trende thinks there might be something to it. Similarly, read the e-mail Bill Kristol got from a friend “with an excellent track record of reading election trends.” He makes a simple point: While it’s true Romney’s even with Obama in the national polls, it’s not true that he’s even with him in the far more important swing-state polls. (Silver has a chart illustrating this, in fact.) His theory is that the Bain attacks are working — not nationally, where comparatively few people are seeing them, but in areas that are being bombarded with tens of millions of dollars in ads. Perhaps not coincidentally, just today Romney hired a PR person for the exclusive purpose of answering the Bain critiques. That’s not to say Romney can’t make up the difference — conservatives will be carpet-bombing the swing states with ads soon enough — but the idea that he might be behind right now by a small but significant margin where it counts isn’t necessarily liberal media bias at work.

Update: Jay Cost of the Weekly Standard e-mails to reassure me:

It’s one thing to give pollsters a wide berth, but D+8 in Ohio [in the Quinnipiac poll] is absurd. My general rule of thumb is that the historical average over the last 25 years is D+3.5. The best for the GOP was in 2004 (when it was even) and the worst was 2008 (when it was D+7). Anything over D+7 is just not defensible.

And one of the points, too, is that there is a difference between methodological soundness and inference. You can dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s as a pollster, but if you get a D+9 sample in Ohio, I’m sorry, that does not lend itself to a valid inference about November.

In other words, you don’t have to go so far as to argue that pollsters should weight by party ID, but you should be aware of what the spreads are and be very skeptical of anybody going as far as Pew (!) or even those CBS/NYT/Q polls are.

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Trende is just trying to protect RCP’s brand. If they have to start throwing out polls wholesale because of ridiculous sampling numbers then RCP is in big trouble. Instead, he writes an article about how they really aren’t that far off and now RCP is the place to go for Democrats who have found a new hope and Republicans running scared and hoping the numbers will change. It’s brilliant salesmanship, a bunch of BS but brilliant salesmanship.

jnelchef on August 3, 2012 at 9:53 AM

I just thought of something. If Obama is re-elected, then we have to listen to Michelle saying “For the second time in my life, I am proud of my country.”

Let’s make sure she is not “proud” come this November. America doesn’t need her kind of “pride”.

Sterling Holobyte on August 3, 2012 at 10:43 AM


Steve Z on August 3, 2012 at 11:23 AM

Thanks for reminding me. Link…

Propaganda poll shows Obama ahead

Trende seems to have discounted or dismissed how the poll respondents said they voted in 2008.

For example, the Q poll respondents voted for Obama over McCain by 53% to 40% in 2008. And yet Obama only carried Florida by 2.8%.

How is this a representative sample?

farsighted on August 2, 2012 at 10:48 PM

This is what Trende is missing. Trende is correct that adjusting the D/R/I partisan splits from poll sample to exit poll results is not predictive of the next election, but for the wrong reason: Exit polls do not predict election results! Exit polls showed Gore +6 in Florida in 2000, and it was really a tie. Exit polls published on Drudge on Election Day 2004 predicted President Kerry, and we know how that turned out. Exit polls on the Wisconsin recall election predicted a tie, and Walker won the actual election by 7 points.

But a poll which asks respondents how they voted in a previous election, such as the NYT/CBS/Q-polls CAN be adjusted according to the actual election results for the previous election (assuming that the respondents didn’t lie about their 2008 votes).

According to the article linked by Farsighted, the NYT/CBS/Q-polls gave the following votes for the samples in 2008 and their intentions in 2012:

2008 Obama 53 McCain 40
2012 Obama 51 Romney 45
Change Obama -2 Romney +5 Net R+7

2008 Obama 53 McCain 38
2012 Obama 50 Romney 44
Change Obama -3 Romney +6 Net R+9

2008 Obama 54 McCain 40
2012 Obama 53 Romney 42
Change Obama -1 Romney +2 Net R+3

Relative to their votes in 2008, the NYT/CBS/Q-poll sample shifted toward Romney by 7% in FL, 9% in OH, and 3% in PA.

In 2008, Obama won FL by only 2.8% (not 13%), OH by only 4.7% (not 15%), and PA by 10% (not 14%). If the entire electorate shifted their votes like the respondents of the NYT/CBS/Q-polls did, Romney would win both Florida and Ohio by 4%, and would lose PA by 7%.

Everybody here knows the Pew poll is garbage: there will not be a D-19 advantage in the electorate this year.

But the NYT/CBS/Q-Polls are actually GOOD news for Romney. Some Obama voters in 2008 have switched to Romney, and Romney has picked up some undecided voters from 2008. Romney is outpolling McCain by 7% in FL and 9% in OH–good enough to win their 47 Electoral Votes. If Romney can win VA and one other state out of CO, WI, IA, NV, and NH, he will be President.

Steve Z on August 3, 2012 at 11:46 AM

Firstly, I haven’t read all three pages of comments.


If Ø is such a shoe-in, why, oh why, at this early stage of the campaign, is he running ads relentlessly in Connecticut?!? This is a state with a completely (D) set of representatives and senators in Washington, as well as a pretty thorough sweep of (D)s in state government and in our own state house. Admittedly a lot of the town governments are (R), but anything over a larger area almost invariably goes (D).

If the administration’s campaign needs to shore up support here? I’d say they’re worried. Whether the worry is founded or not, I can’t tell, but it’s there.

LibraryGryffon on August 3, 2012 at 11:47 AM

I conducted a poll that showed more Americans prefer cats than dogs. Of course, I only surveyed women and gays… Does that matter?

Colony14 on August 3, 2012 at 7:08 PM