We were supposed to have had the final Iowa poll from CNN and the Des Moines Register to break down this morning but that didn’t wind up happening. The poll results have been shelved by the sponsors out of “an abundance of caution” over fears that the results had been compromised. While that sounds like something ominous, raising fears of hacking, the explanation offered by the newspaper is far less dramatic. They claim that somebody set the font size incorrectly on their laptop. Really? (Associated Press)
The Des Moines Register, CNN and its polling partner have decided not release the final installment of its presidential preference poll, fearing its results may have been compromised.
Carol Hunter, the executive editor of the Iowa newspaper, posted the announcement Saturday night at the same time the results of highly anticipated survey were supposed to be released…
“It appears a candidate’s name was omitted in at least one interview in which the respondent was asked to name their preferred candidate,” Hunter wrote in an article posted on the Register’s website.
Taking this explanation at face value, it might not sound all that suspicious. At my age, with my eyesight not being what it once was, even with my glasses on I sometimes adjust the zoom on my browser up to 110% or even 125% for some websites. And if you do that, some of the content at the bottom of the screen drops off, so the pollster might have omitted the name of one candidate that fell at the bottom. In the case of the only confirmed instance of this happening, Pete Buttigieg was left off the list.
But is that really a good enough reason to scrap the entire poll right before the caucus? They’re saying the discovery was based on a single complaint from one voter and the font size error only affected one of the people conducting the survey. How big would the impact have been on the final results? The sample size for the last Des Moines Register Iowa poll was 701 likely caucus-goers. Let’s say there were ten people making the calls. If one person’s font size was off, there might have been roughly 70 calls where a name was left off the list of choices. But they randomize the order of the names, so all the candidates would have missed being listed, likely less than a dozen times each. Wouldn’t that randomization balance out?
It’s also curious that the respondent didn’t alert the person calling them, but instead called the newspaper after the survey was finished. But at the same time, having been surveyed myself more than a few times, I can see how the mistake might only be noticed by somebody if their favorite candidate was the one left out. If you’re waiting to hear Biden’s name and it’s not offered, you’d notice. But if it was Warren that was left off you might just respond with Biden’s name and move on.
Hearing about a critical poll like this one suddenly disappearing on the eve of the caucuses is bound to trigger some conspiracy theory impulses in some of you, despite the rather banal nature of the technical error. But what the heck. We’ve got some time to kill before the Super Bowl, so let’s put on our tinfoil hats and figure out what CNN and the Des Moines Register are really up to, shall we?
First of all, the error took place because of a bad font setting on a screen? How many years have you people been doing polls now? C’mon, man. We’re supposed to believe you didn’t have those kinds of bugs worked out of the system by now?
So if it wasn’t a technical glitch, why else would major media outlets suddenly disappear a poll like this? The answer should be obvious. Because they didn’t like the results. If their preferred candidate was suddenly tanking a the eleventh hour, potentially depressing turnout among his or her supporters, shelving it might make sense. The problem is, who is the media really pulling for this time? The answer in 2016 was obvious. CNN was coronating Hillary Clinton before the race even began in earnest.
But this year it’s not nearly as clear. Priority number one is to make sure Trump loses, so you can assume that they wouldn’t want to push any results showing the candidates who fare the worst in head-to-head polls doing well, such as Sanders or Buttigieg. Biden previously looked like the safe bet, but his “senior moments” have become a concern for many in the MSM. So is there one candidate out there who was seen as the potential savior on the horizon with both the money and the legs to make it all the way through the primary?
Bingo. CNN clearly wants Michael Bloomberg to win, but he didn’t even campaign in Iowa and probably polled at less than 2% so they tanked the results. Mystery solved!
Or, you know… they might have just had a font glitch on one of their screens. But that’s such a boring explanation.
All joking aside, we’ll close with one tidbit out of Iowa to keep an eye on. Other surveys have shown Amy Klobuchar slowly moving up and she’s now cracked into double digits, while still below the 15% required to move past the first round in the caucuses. At the same time, Warren has continued to sag and may fall short of 15% herself at many of the caucus meetings. If we assume that Klobuchar’s more moderate supporters go to Biden in the second round and Warren’s go to Sanders, that could really tank Buttigieg and split pretty much all the delegates between two people.
But if Warren breaks 15 and Klobuchar doesn’t (or vice versa) we could see either Bernie of Uncle Joe walk away with a significantly wide margin of victory. So in the end, it may wind up being Warren and Klobuchar who decide the real winner in Iowa rather than the raw number of votes received by Biden or Sanders. Such is the strange nature of the caucus process.