When it comes to polls: readers beware — Michael Barone

The dean on conservative election watching and an authority on all American politics, Michael Barone has probably forgotten more about polling and elections than every TV talking head, blogger and reader combined. In his latest column he lays out the trends and controversy in today’s polling with his usual insights and lucid reasoning.  I excerpted the closing portion of his column, but it’s worth reading the whole thing:

I don’t believe that any of the media pollsters have been tilting their results in order to demoralize Republicans, though I do look with suspicion on the work of some partisan pollsters.

But I do have my doubts about whether samples with more Democratic Party identification than in 2008 are accurate representations of the electorate. Many states with party registration have shown big drops in registered Democrats since then.

Pollster Scott Rasmussen, who weights his robocall results by party identification, adjusted monthly, has shown a much closer race than most pollsters who leave party identification numbers unweighted. So has the Susquehanna poll in Pennsylvania.

It may be that we’re seeing the phenomenon we’ve seen for years in exit polls, which have consistently skewed Democratic (and toward Barack Obama in the 2008 primaries). Part of that is interviewer error: Exit poll pioneer Warren Mitofsky found the biggest discrepancies between exit polls and actual results were in precincts where the interviewers were female graduate students.

But he also found that Democrats were simply more willing to fill out the exit poll. Which raises the question: Are we seeing the same thing in this month’s polls?


  1. John Smith
    Posted September 30, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

    He’s very naive

    There is an obvious effort to con the public into believing an Obama landslide. This is why the results are trumpeted to the skies and pollsters get angry and defensive when called on their bullshit.

    It is impossible for every single poll to have more Democrats answer than Republicans/Independents

  2. WillBest
    Posted September 30, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

    As I have posted elsewhere

    Just look at what Obama is doing.

    Current – Nevada
    Wednesday – CO debate
    Thursday – Wisconsin
    Friday – Virginia, Ohio

    The last time Obama was in FL was on the 20th for the Univision interview and he didn’t hold any public events just a private fundraiser. He hasn’t held a campaign event for his ground troops since Sept 9th.

    Why would Obama be living in Ohio when he supposed has a 4-10 point lead when his lead in FL is -1 to 1?

    He could kill Romney by winning FL. But by the end of this week he won’t have held an event for his grass roots in nearly a month.

    By the same token Romney hasn’t been in FL since Sept 20 either, and has allowed Obama to outspend him in FL by a staggering 50% in recent weeks. Romney has the resources to not let that happen, and he can’t play FL cute he has to win it.

    Both sides are playing FL like its in Romney’s column, and that supports my theory that the nation really has moved against Obama by an average of 2% since his 2008 actuals and here is what I mean by that

    I was playing around with the state level RCP comparing it to actuals from 08, and then having undecideds break 50/50 for Obama and Romney the results are

    Primary battleground
    Florida – Obama gains 1/2%
    North Carolina – Obama gains 1/2%
    Ohio – Obama gains 1/2%
    Virginia – Obama loses 1%

    Ancillary battleground
    Iowa – minus 2% from 2008
    Nevada – minus 3%
    Wisconsin – minus 2%
    New Hampshire – minus 2.5%
    Colorado – minus 1.5%

    States getting polled
    Georgia minus 3%
    New Jersey minus 3.5%
    Connecticut minus 4%
    Pennsylvania minus 1%
    Arizona plus 1.5%
    Oregon minus 2.5%
    Minnesota even
    Missouri minus 2.5%
    Michigan minus 3.5%

    Thus the polls in OH, FL, VA, and NC are defying a national trend and outside of OH where there was the auto bailout and dissatisfaction with republican union busting there is no evidence to suggest that FL, VA, and NC were not also affected by this. Meaning FL, NC are solidly in the Romney column and its why Obama is focusing on VA and OH more than any other states and why he is looking at Wisconsin which while would in theory be safe at 53% (after national movement) comes with Paul Ryan to affect the race more than on a national level. Even Nate Silver has agreed that the VP is worth 1-2% in his home state.

    So what we are left with is in
    NC 52 R 48 O
    FL 51 R 49 O

    CO, VA 51 O 49 R
    NH, WI (w/ 2% VP bump) 52 O 48 R
    IA 52 O 48 R
    PA, NV being 53 O 47 R

    Ohio is then the proverbial swing state at 50/50, but then Obama has a lot of significant local advantages with the auto bailout and the republican overreaching on collective bargaining reform.

    • Posted September 30, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

      From what I have been hearing the GOP ground game is doing very well in Ohio.

    • No Tribe
      Posted September 30, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

      The Dispatch poll today shows Obama having definitely made ground there. And I think you are right, that it is the state where the Obama folks have their set their first firewall. Pretty good choice, given the auto play. I still think Obama gets top there at 49.5-50.5 so it’s in play because he’s at his high point right now.

      We may see a bit of a shift on Romney’s part to Wisconsin instead of Ohio, as there is no auto play there, in fact, its the reverse, because Obama did not help their plants at all.

  3. Joe Citizen
    Posted September 30, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

    “It is impossible for every single poll to have more Democrats answer than Republicans/Independents”

    No poll I have ever seen shows more Dems than Repubs + Indepenents. Is that what you mean?
    If all polls show a plurality of Dems, well, that is just what you would expect, given that there exists a plurality of Dems.

  4. margaret
    Posted September 30, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I just watched a video clip of Dem commentator/pollster Larry Sabato. He lives in Virginia and he’s doubting the polls showing Obama with a large lead. He thinks Obama will win the election by 3% points and have a lot less electoral votes but that’s what you would expect him to say anyway, but that he seems uneasy with the polling, is interesting.

    • Posted September 30, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Permalink | Reply

      It appears that Ras has changed his weighting from a +3 Dem to around a +5 or +6 Dem. In his polls Romney still leads 0bama iIndies in swingstate, Has more GOPers than 0bama has Dems, leads women, yet still down 4 points.

  5. Posted September 30, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I believe Ras changed his weighting of parties to about +5 or +6 Dem.

    • Posted September 30, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I don’t see that on the national level. Ras has his national polling at D+2.5 which is reasonable. Swing state polling is another matter. I could see a change there but the thing to keep in mind is that the swing state polling also has Michigan and Pennsylvania among that segment of states. Just something to keep in mind.

  6. Posted September 30, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I beleive he conducts a separate tracking poll to determine party weighting. The number he publishes is the average for the month, for instance, for August he had it Republicans +4. My guess for September will be even or D+1, given the recent trend toward 0bama

  7. No Tribe
    Posted September 30, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

    On ads.

    Obama spent $19.2M in ads ending Oct 1st, Romney spent Romney spent $14M. DNC spent $0 and RNC spent 2.2 So 19.2 to 16.2, which is as close as Romney has ever been in a week of ad spending so far.

    $3.9 was spent by Obama’s outside groups, and just $2.8 in ads by outside groups for Romney, which is probably a first– where Obama’s outside groups outspend Romney’s in a week on ads.

  8. mdr1972
    Posted September 30, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Permalink | Reply

    If Romney would run ads in Virginia stating the fact that sequestration was Obama’s idea and if not dealt with will cause many in Virginia to be out of work come January third this state would be a blowout for Romney. Obama is offering to pay defense contractor legal fees if they are sued for not issuing pink slips. What the hell is this? This should be an outrage and Romney is very stupid if he does not exploit this. I have Romney winning the election 51 to 49% with the same states Bush won in 2004.

  9. lost democrat
    Posted September 30, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

    In Ohio, there are about 350K fewer registered Democrats than in 2008. Obama won Ohio by about 200K. if everything else stays the same, he looses Ohio by at best a narrow margin or several percentages points. The Columbus Dispatch poll today which has Obama leading has a + 9 Democratic edge. That poll is completely off target. Just another poll wishing it was 2008. I guess they forgot about 350K fewer registered Democrats in Ohio. Any Ohio poll which has a + 3 or more Democratic edge just ignore. Ohioans last November , voted down Obamacare by 2 to 1 margin. it is still very unpopular In Ohio. The MSM likes to talk about the auto bailout but they don’t talk about how unpopular Obamacare is in Ohio. Ohio is also a strong NRA state. That can’t ignored in running office in Ohio. .On the ground, I have seen just a few Obama signs & decals in Blue cities like Cleveland and Columbus. I have seen none the suburbs , smaller cities and rural areas. A democrat cannot win a statewide election in Ohio with just turnout in Blue cities. He will loose suburbs, smaller cities and rural areas but he needs to keep the margins close enough so not to fall so far behind that he can’t make it up in blue cities like Cleveland & Columbus. Ohio is not Illinois. Obama is getting crushed in those areas. In 2008, there was a strong anti-Bush sentiment, which helped Obama in appealing to those voters. In 2012, that help is gone.

    • ed
      Posted September 30, 2012 at 11:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

      As actual real data comes in I am more and more heartened by what I see occurring. Hey what do the GOP registration levels look like and what does the GOP ground game look like?

    • WillBest
      Posted October 1, 2012 at 1:19 am | Permalink | Reply

      Just a caution just because there are fewer registered Dems doesn’t mean that there will be a reduction in turnout. Even on presidential years only 80-90% of registered voters show up.

      • Posted October 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        if you look at the studies looking at exit polling…while Dems tend to turnout more to the polls republicans hold their base on average since 1980 at a rate of about 86%. Whereas Democrats hold their base at about 77%.

        Which means 100 republicans voting only 14 will vote for a candidate other than the republican, 100 democrats voting 23 vote for another candidate. There is some anecdotal evidence that the republicals lose theirs to the third party libertains whereas Democrats lose theirs to non votes or the republican.

  10. ed
    Posted September 30, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Permalink | Reply

    From other posts on this invaluable site, it may be that Obama has conceded Florida so OH, VA and WI are it!!!!

  11. wholefoodsrepublican
    Posted September 30, 2012 at 11:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

    don’t get mad, get out the vote.

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