Tag Archives: Blacks

Sobriety, Thy Name is Barone

The only people who are always right are the people who never have opinions until after-the-fact.  Anyone dismissing Michael Barone for erroneous election day predictions will do so at their own peril.  His latest in the Washington Examiner is a sober reminder about the political realities for both parties:

Neither of our two political parties is going to be annihilated. Both have suffered far worse defeats than Mitt Romney and the Republicans suffered in 2012. Both have figured out how to adapt and win over voters who used to vote against them. Or at least to position themselves to win when the other side’s president is seen to have massively failed. The 2008-2012 Obama campaign — it never really stopped — did an excellent job of turning out just enough voters to win 332 electoral votes. But Obama carried just 26 states to Mitt Romney’s 24, which is relevant when you look at future Senate elections. As for House elections, Obama carried only 207 congressional districts to Romney’s 228. That’s partly because Republicans had the advantage in redistricting after the 2010 census.

Core constituencies:

Obama core constituencies — blacks, Hispanics, gentry liberals — tend to be clustered geographically in central city neighborhoods in big metropolitan areas. His big margins there helped him carry many electoral votes but not so many congressional districts. [But] Obama’s in-your-face liberalism, so apparent in last week’s inaugural speech, antagonized some groups in a way that may hurt Democrats for some time to come.

Changing constituencies:

The Obamacare contraception mandate helped Mitt Romney carry 59 percent of white Catholics — probably their highest Republican percentage ever — and 78 percent of white evangelical Protestants. These groups total 44 percent of the electorate. That’s a counterbalance to Obama’s 93 percent among blacks and 71 percent among Hispanics. They were just 23 percent of the electorate, and while Hispanics will be a growing percentage, blacks probably won’t.

Don’t get too comfortable in that “permanent majority”:

George W. Bush’s 51 percent re-election, with 11.5 million more votes than four years before, got his strategist Karl Rove musing about a permanent Republican majority. That didn’t happen. Now Barack Obama’s 51 percent re-election, with 3.5 million fewer votes than four years before, has Democrats talking about annihilating the Republican Party. That’s not likely to happen either.

Lessons from 2012

Karl Rove breaks down the lessons from the 2012 election defeat. In short, don’t believe the hype:

The media’s postelection narrative is that Democrats won because of a demographic shift. There is some truth to that, but a more accurate description is that Democrats won in a smaller turnout by getting out more of their vote. Turnout dropped by 7.9 million voters, falling to 123.6 million this year from 131.5 million in 2008. This is the first decline in a presidential election in 16 years. Only 51.3% of the voting-age population went to the polls. While the Democratic “ground game” was effective, President Barack Obama received 90.1% of his 2008 total while Gov. Mitt Romney received 98.6% of Sen. John McCain’s vote. Neither party generated a higher turnout nationally.

Who didn’t show up:

According to exit polls, turnout dropped among white and black Americans (by 8.3 million and 1 million, respectively) but rose among Hispanics. They added 850,000 votes to Mr. Obama’s total compared with 2008. Millennials (those aged 18-29) were a larger share of the turnout than in 2008, but 176,000 fewer in number. They cast 1.5 million fewer votes for Mr. Obama than last time and 1.1 million more votes for Mr. Romney than they did for Mr. McCain. To win, the GOP must do better—much better—with Hispanics and millennials, and also with women voters.

How to fix it:

Tactically, Republicans must rigorously re-examine their “72-hour” ground game and reverse-engineer the Democratic get-out-the-vote effort in order to copy what works. For example, a postelection survey shows that the Democratic campaign ground game was more effective in communicating negative information. It would be good to know why—and how to counter such tactics in the future. Republicans should also emulate the Democratic “50-state” strategy by strengthening the ground game everywhere, not just in swing states. It will be important for the GOP to erase the data advantage Democrats may have in their targeting of potential supporters for their candidates. And local GOP organizations must persistently focus on adding to the voter rolls the millions of people likely to vote Republicans if they were registered. Strategically, Republicans will need to frame economic issues to better resonate with middle-class families. Mr. Romney had solid views on jobs, spending, deficits, health care and energy. But even among the 59% of voters for whom the economy was their top concern, he prevailed by only four points (51% to 47%).

The Folly of David Axelrod’s Turnout Model

Much of this blog is spent arguing — persuasively I hope — why the polling data and get out the vote activities favor Mitt Romney this election cycle.  But if President Obama wins re-election where could all of this analysis have erred?

Possibly the final remaining question that will determine the election outcome is whether Obama campaign manager David Axelrod is correct on the racial composition of the electorate being 72% White or whether he is fooling both himself and his acolytes in the media? President Obama regularly polls with national support among Whites as low as between 36 – 38%. If Axelrod is correct then Barack Obama has a good chance to eek out a close re-election. But if Axelrod is wrong on the electorate composition and Whites make up closer to 75% of voters then not only will Barack Obama lose this election, he could lose it badly with a final tally in the area of 338 to 200 electoral votes.

The entire Obama campaign is predicated on a voting public with a racial composition that in my opinion is highly unlikely to appear in 2012. The Obama campaign has revealed their assumption that White voters will only comprise 72% of the national voting public this year.  State percentages will vary but those models are not revealed publicly. The Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS) is the final arbiter on racial make-up of an election. For months following an election, they pour through every precinct and get an accurate read on election statistics before releasing their results which unsurprisingly tend to differ from election night exit polls.

The racial breakdown in 2008 election according to the Census Bureau was White 76.3%, Black 12.1%, Hispanic 7.4%, Asian 2.5%, Other 1.7%.
The CNN exit polls which are still used regularly in news stories reported: White: 74%, Blacks: 13%, Hispanics 9%, Asians 2%, Other 3%.

When you look at the differences, Whites are underrepresented by 2.3%, Blacks overrepresented by 0.9% and Hispanics over-represented by 1.6%. In the last election Whites voted Republican (55 – 43) while both Blacks (95 to 4) and Hispanics (67 to 31) voted Democrat. When national polls reflect the CNN racial make-up they are over-sampling Democrat groups and under-sampling Republican groups.

As outlined previously, 1.7 million White voters (who voted in 2004) did not vote in 2008. This means from a racial composition stand-point the 2008 demographic breakdown is over-generous to the non-White groups and somewhat of an anomaly due to the missing White demographic who voted in 2004 but sat out last time. This is not an argument against the decreasing percentage of White voters in election, because the overall increase in the non-White voting population is very real. The problem with Team Obama’s assumptions, however, is they decrease the White vote -4.3pp to 72% this election cycle when there is no evidence to support such a steep decline.

Before 2008, the average decrease in the White percent of the popular vote was -1.4 percentage points (pp) since 1988.  This was not solely because of decreased interest from White voters in Presidential elections but due to the increasing number of non-Whites both in the population and participating in Presidential elections. The rate of change from election to election was a decrease of -0.4pp in the White composition of the voting public and most of that coming between 1992 and 1996 in another election when white Republicans were less than enthusiastic with their nominee. Something dramatic, however, happened in 2008. The number of whites as a percentage of the voting population dropped -2.9pp to 76.3% from 79.2% (Pew Research, April 30, 2009).

The doubling of the average decrease in White participation was a combination of 2 competing factors: first, non-Whites were excited over the prospects of the first viable non-White Presidential candidate and White voters of the opposition party were unenthusiastic over their candidate and did not participate in the election.  Without the combination of these factors the White vote percentage of the electorate would still have declined but the decline would not doubled. Compared to the recent rate of change of -0.4pp, the change in the decrease of White composition from 2004 to 2008 was -1.4pp, 3.5x greater than the modern trend.

The folly of the Obama campaign’s election assumptions is the 2008 perfect storm that doubled the election-over-election decrease in White participation at a pace 3.5x as great as the norm will repeat itself with another -1.4pp rate of change resulting in a -4.3pp decline to 72%.

This type of assumption is the same as a football team that has a record first quarter outscoring their opponent 35-0 and then game-plans they will repeat that every quarter scoring 140 points.  That is clearly not going to happen.

In the 2012 election neither of the two major factors from 2008 that conspired to dramatically decrease White participation are evident.  Every survey consistently reveals meaningful decreases in enthusiasm among non-White voters while White voters appear substantially more enthusiastic than 2008. To take a record turnout model from 2008 and extrapolate it to the next election and expect a repeat record decrease from the unusually low 2008 turnout is folly bordering on delusional.

Regarding the macro-trend in the US of an increase in the non-White composition of the population, the return of an enthusiastic white voter coupled with the decreased non-White enthusiasm should strongly mitigate the macro-demographic trend of very real increases in non-White voters overall.

But David Axelrod’s entire campaign is predicated on the above assumptions that expect a “White flight” that exists in no poll nationally or in any state. At a state level, it is due to differences of opinion like the above that both campaigns are reportedly seeing dramatically different electorates in Ohio with each campaign completely confident they will win the state. One of them is very wrong.

National polls often use 74% as the representative White vote in this election, but from a historic stand-point 75% is the more reasonable level which would be a -1.3% decline from 2008. With polls today consistently showing Obama’s support between 36-38% with this segment of the electorate comprising 75% of voters, it is easy to see how a tight race can turn into a blowout rather quickly. As for David Axelrod’s turnout model, he is talking his book when every ounce of data says he is blowing smoke. If Axelrod is right on the racial make-up of the electorate, President Obama probably wins re-election in a close race.  But there is little evidence that the 76.3% of White voters in 2008 when combined with a probable return of the missing 1.7 million whites will make up only 72% of the electorate Team Obama needs to avoid a sizable Romney win on November 6.

ABC/Washington Post Poll Makes In-Kind Contribution to Obama Re-Election Efforts

Not to be outdone by the ludicrous NBC/WSJ/Marist Battleground State polls from last week, ABC/Washington Post reveal their national poll today showing President Obama with a 3-point lead 49 to 46. Mitt Romney leads among Independents by 6 points (48 to 42) and locks down his base more so than Obama — Reps support Romney 93 to 7 while Dems support Obama 91 to 8.  Yet Romney trails by 3.  How?  Incredibly, they polled 9% more Democrats than Republicans.  This is not a new phenomenon as I outlined in mid-September in the post “Obama’s National Lead Based Entirely on Over-Sampling Democrats.”  Today’s ABC/Washington Post poll is the crowning achievement this cycle in unrealistic national polls only 3 weeks out from the election.  But these types of advocacy “polling games” are nothing new.

The party identification in the survey is D +9 (Dem 35, Rep 26, Ind 33). This compares to 2008 when party ID was D +7 (Dem 39, Rep 32, Ind 29) and 2004 when party ID split evenly (Dem 37, Rep 37, Ind 26).  Making matters even worse, in their poll just over two weeks ago that survey had a party ID of D +3 (Dem 33, Rep 30, Ind 33).  Did the public tune in to Barack Obama’s debate performance and just have a groundswell of love for Democrat passivity and listlessness and embrace the Donkey Party? According to the Washington Post, pre-Debate the race was 48 to 46 in favor of Obama.  Post-debate the race is 49 to 46 in favor of Obama.  Must have been an uneventful debate right?  Here is over-the-top liberal Democrat Andrew Sullivan’s blog yesterday on post debate polls:

If anyone thought that the feisty Biden debate undid the massive damage the president did to himself in the first debate, the news isn’t great. Biden does seem to have reversed the speed of Obama’s free-fall but not the decline itself. Romney’s debate obliteration of Obama – something that, in my view, irreparably damages a sitting president – does not seem to be a bounce, but a resilient jump. It’s not going away by itself. That is: not a bounce.

Sullivan also provides a devastating chart showing the post-debate Romney surge in polls (red line) and Obama free fall (blue line):

But today the Washington Post and ABC see fit to publish a poll with Democrat affiliation 9 percentage points greater than Republicans. This blog has hammered the issue of party ID time and again. Basically there is a zero percent change the Democrat’s advantage at the polls in 2012 will be superior to their advantage in 2008. Here is what I wrote on October 1st when critiquing the large disparities in party identification:

In 2008 seven percent more Democrats than Republicans identified themselves as such on election day, well above the historic average of 3%. This was a big change from 2004 when party identification was evenly split between the Democrats and Republicans. But there were many reasons for the strong Democrat turnout that do not exist today. The top of the ticket was a historic candidate (first Black President), America had war and Bush fatigue, the financial meltdown created an anti-Republican wave, and his opponent wasn’t the strongest (good biography, bad and underfunded candidate). These factors led to a strong Democrat self-identification advantage at the voting booth in 2008. But in the 2012 election, none of the advantages outlined above are there for Obama and many of those factors are now largely working against the President: 8%+ unemployment for three years, sub-2% GDP, 23 million unemployed, Arab Spring blowing up and casting the historic vote in 2008 is yesterday’s news. Additionally the Romney campaign ground game has exceeded the McCain campaign across many metrics as much as 10- to 15-fold. Despite the stark changes in each of these factors, polling outfits thus far have consistently sampled an election turnout often greater than candidate Obama’s 2008 best-in-a-generation advantage.

Over the last month we have seen:

Interestingly many of these above trends actually show up in the ABC/Washington Post poll.  President Obama’s support among Non-Whites is a surprisingly low 73%.  His support is typically closer to 80% so this drop of is a major red flag in the President’s re-election efforts.  But this is where the Democrat over-sampling comes in to save the President.  I went to great lengths to demonstrate that these polls that over-sample Democrats are not simply over-sampling generic Democrats, these polls very specifically over-sample White Democrats.  And in this survey we see Barack Obama’s support among White voters at 43%, the same level he achieved in 2008. If that percentage was accurate Obama would almost certainly be re-elected.  Unfortunately for him that support level is not accurate based on the unrealistic disparity in party identification and the over-sampling of Democrats masks what is far more likely support for Obama among Whites closer to 36 or 37% as I explained in the previous post here.

Despite the mountain of evidence above completely undermining the unrealistic voter turnout models presented by ABC, the Washington Post and others, major news organizations pass off these unserious polls as credible when neither sense nor reason supports such claims.  Today’s disaster is only the latest example of major news organizations weakening the public’s trust by publishing fantastical polls whose sole purpose is to advocate for one candidate over the other.

Hiding the Decline: What Polls Over-Sampling Democrats Mask

The over-sampling of Democrats in today’s polls most likely hides a sharp decline in support for President Obama among White voters. If President Obama’s support level among White voters dips a single percent or two below 40, his road to re-election would be in jeopardy. The national polling results today showing President Obama with support levels among Whites between 40-44% likely over-sample support for President Obama by 4% to 8% among this demographic. Poll re-weighting by race achieves an accurate demographic make-up for the United States in 2012 but almost certainly a wholly unrealistic split between self-identified Democrats and Republicans. Because the accurate re-weighting of polls by race often achieves political splits that are not credible, polling organizations give rise to accusations of bias when in reality better selected sample inputs would most likely achieve more credible end results but also meaningfully worse results for the President.

Problems with polls

The majority of polling critiques this election cycle focus almost exclusively on the amount of Democrats versus Republicans surveyed with the observation invariably there are far too many Democrats in the sample. There is much in dispute around this complaint because most polling organizations do not weight polls by the party identification of respondents. Polling organizations argue the disproportionately high amount of Democrats sampled draws a sharp inference there are more Democrats in the overall electorate, not just in the sample size. While it is possible and even probable there are a few more self-identified Democrats in the American electorate (the average in elections since 1984 is 3% more Democrats), the great dispute is the unusually large disparity of Democrats showing up in today’s polls, often as much as 7 to 12% higher than Republicans among the respondents. There are many reasons to challenge this conclusion which I will discuss later, but if we assume these polls have too many Democrats, an interesting phenomenon appears among which Democrats are oversampled.

Most polling methodologies, including how polls are weighted once responses are collected, mirror the Gallup Organization who has been the standard bearer in the US for over 75 years. According to the organization, “After Gallup collects and processes survey data, each respondent is assigned a weight so that the demographic characteristics of the total weighted sample of respondents match the latest estimates of the demographic characteristics of the adult population available from the U.S. Census Bureau. Gallup weights data to census estimates for gender, race, age, educational attainment, and region.” Based on explanations like this there is little reason to suspect intentional political bias in the disparate party weighting, especially when they do not re-weight polls by party identification. Importantly, though, they do re-weight polls by race. This gives rise to some curious issues regarding support levels for the President today.

Racial demographics and voting preference in the US

In the 2008 election, the racial breakdown of the national voting public was 74% White, 12% Black, 9% Hispanic, 2% Asian, 3% Other. When a survey is conducted polling organization re-weight the respondent answers to ensure the each of these groups has accurate representation in the final results. Most national polls reflect this reality usually within a 1% variation for any group.

If you look how each one of these groups vote, you find outsized rates of support for Obama among the non-White groups: Blacks ~95%, Hispanics ~70, Asians ~65%. These levels of support for Democrats are consistent with most modern elections although President Obama has been able to boost these levels slightly above historic averages. In aggregate, non-White support for Obama is roughly 80% in nearly every survey. At the same time Obama, like Democrat Presidential candidates before him, struggles with the White vote. In these same polls, Obama typically averages 40-44% support among White voters. His 2008 support level was 43% and it is widely believed by the Obama campaign among others that he needs support of at least 40% Whites to win the election.

Low potential for over-sampling non-White support for Obama

If we consider the idea that polling today has large over-samples of Democrats, the consistently high percentage of support for Obama among non-Whites makes it almost impossible to over-sample minority groups. First there is not a lot of room for support increases and second, data on the voting trends in non-White groups is often achieved through demographic specific polling of solely Blacks or Hispanics for example. Hence, any over-samples in the non-White demographic would meaningfully alter the already high levels of support for Obama and reveal itself as inconsistent with independent polling. Additionally, any over-samples in the non-White demographic would almost certainly change the racial make-up of the survey and set off red-flags to anyone scrutinizing polls. Therefore it is highly unlikely over-sampled Democrat polls contain an excess amount of non-White voters.

White Democrats

This leaves only White Democrats as the over-represented respondent in these polls that arguably over-sample Democrats. If the average in election turnout since 1984 is 3% more Democrats and these polls have 7 to 11% more Democrats, that means the polls specifically have 4 to 8% more White Democrats surveyed in their likely voter results. The problem for the Obama campaign is if his support level among White voters (74% of the voting public) is between 40%-44% and that support is based on a sampling that over-states his support 4 to 8%, his real level of support is probably closer to 36% or 37%. This is meaningfully below the campaign’s own magic level of 40% and is a huge danger zone for any Presidential candidate no matter how much anyone may spin the demographic changes in today’s America.

Hiding the decline

The issue with the suspect polling internals and media embrace of the figures is the consistent lead for Obama would be immediately challenged if his support levels dropped dramatically among the outlined racial groups. Support levels of 60% among Hispanics (9% of the voting public) or 80% among Blacks (12% of the public) would jump off the page to poll watchers. The same holds true for support levels of 36/37% among Whites (74% of the voting public). It would be near impossible for Obama to win the Presidency with support levels like the ones I just outlined. Unfortunately support for President Obama among White voters has declined from 43% in 2008 to apparently as low as 36%-37% in today’s polls absent unrealistically high levels of self-identified Democrats. With White voters making up 73-74% of the electorate and support levels in the upper 30s, it is inconceivable President Obama has the advantage these polls lead readers to believe. But the results largely go unchallenged in the media despite the impractical internal party identification make-up.

Polling bias and Party identification

When we reflect on accusations of bias in polling based on party identification, it seems hard to justify when most organizations do not adjust their polls based on this metric. These organizations do, however, run the risk of confirmation bias where the media and polling firms have a predilection towards one candidate and upon achieving results they agree with fail to challenge outlier data like unrealistic Democrat turnout levels in 2012. Inconvenient poll compositions like the fantastical party identification of respondents shake the credibility of desired outcomes but no explanation is given for such oddities. This leaves more fair-minded poll watchers uneasy with the factual reporting on data with obvious internal issues while partisans react more strongly with bias accusations not substantiated based on the available data. The over-sampling of Democrats may not be showing the bias of polling organizations but it is likely hiding the decline of dwindling White support for Obama.

This only raises the question of where the polling firms are getting their samples from — possibly heavy Democrat districts — because the end results are party identification breakdowns unrealistic in today’s electorate. In 2008 seven percent more Democrats than Republicans identified themselves as such on election day, well above the historic average of 3%. This was a big change from 2004 when party identification was evenly split between the Democrats and Republicans. But there were many reasons for the strong Democrat turnout that do not exist today. The top of the ticket was a historic candidate (first Black President), America had war and Bush fatigue, the financial meltdown created an anti-Republican wave, and his opponent wasn’t the strongest (good biography, bad and underfunded candidate). These factors led to a strong Democrat self-identification advantage at the voting booth in 2008. But in the 2012 election, none of the advantages outlined above are there for Obama and many of those factors are now largely working against the President: 8%+ unemployment for three years, sub-2% GDP, 23 million unemployed, Arab Spring blowing up and casting the historic vote in 2008 is yesterday’s news. Additionally the Romney campaign ground game has exceeded the McCain campaign across many metrics as much as 10- to 15-fold.

Despite the stark changes in each of these factors, polling outfits thus far have consistently sampled an election turnout often greater than candidate Obama’s 2008 best-in-a-generation advantage.

That means something else is going on. But the polling organizations shrug their shoulders and have been found to say the losers in the results are just crying sour grapes. This is even though their sample outcomes have party identification splits unrealistic beyond any stretch of reason. Sadly no credible defense is given for the unusual party split in these results which gives rise to charges of bias whether intentional or accidental. If the polling firms believe today’s electorate will exceed the incredible 2008 advantage Obama achieved they should make the argument to justify results that contain suspect internal data. But they would also have to explain why the 2008 election gave Democrats massive majorities in the House of Representatives yet today’s electorate will likely return massive majorities in the House to Republicans. It defies all logic. But very likely due to “confirmation bias” the media and polling organizations report favorable results for President Obama without challenge.

There are many explanations for odd internal data in polls as well as the built in accuracy issues that come with the very nature of polling. As Michael Barone writes, “it’s getting much harder for pollsters to get people to respond to interviews. The Pew Research Center reports that it’s getting only 9 percent of the people it contacts to respond to its questions. That’s compared with 36 percent in 1997.” But consistently unrealistic sample outputs give rise to greater scrutiny from the polling outfits and media organizations who report the results uncritically for whatever their reasons may be.