Why The Polls Underestimated Obama’s Support

There’s been a lot of talk in the blogosphere today about why the polls underestimated Obama’s lead in the 2012 election. Obama won by four points while most polls showed him with a smaller lead. While those studying the polls in depth might find other reasons, I was not surprised as I had discussed possible reasons why the polls might be underestimating Obama’s lead prior to the election. These include under-counting Latinos and exclusive cell phone users. I also felt during the campaign that Obama had greater up-side potential than Romney if he could get his coalition out to vote. Since the election we have heard a lot about how good Obama’s ground game was, and how poor Romney’s was.

Pollsters adjust the raw numbers based upon their model of the actual voters. While conservatives accused the pollsters of being biased against Romney and predicting a higher percentage of Democrats in the electorate, the electorate in 2012 did turn out to be more favorable demographically to Obama than most predicted. Having a larger number of young and minority voters overlaps with the points I previously made about polls potentially underestimating Latino voters and cell phone users (who tend to be younger.) It certainly helped Obama that blacks turned out in a higher percentage than other minority groups. and possibly at a higher percentage than white voters.

Polls are also just a snapshot of a given point in time. The fact that Obama had a far better final week of the campaign might have given him a greater margin of victory than if the election was a week earlier. During the final week Obama benefited from favorable jobs numbers and favorable response to his handling of the storm hitting the east coast, including the pictures of him with Chris Christie.

Poll aggregation presented another issue when polls with different degrees of accuracy were lumped together:

Real Clear Politics began the practice of averaging polls before the 2002 midterm elections. RCP was joined by Pollster.com–which is now part of The Huffington Post–four years later. “Pollster started in 2006, and we were really building on what Real Clear Politics did,” founding Coeditor Mark Blumenthal said. The statistician Nate Silver began a similar practice in 2008, and his site, FiveThirtyEight, was acquired by The New York Times shortly thereafter. More recently, the left-leaning website Talking Points Memo started its PollTracker website before the 2012 election.

Each of these organizations differ in their approaches. Real Clear Politics does a more straightforward averaging of the most recent polls. TPM‘s PollTracker is an aggregation involving regression analysis that uses the most recent polls to project a trajectory for the race. FiveThirtyEight and HuffPost Pollster use polls, adjusting them for house effects–the degree to which a survey house’s polls lean consistently in one direction or another. FiveThirtyEight also uses non-survey data to project the election results.

All four of these outlets underestimated Obama’s margin of victory. Both Real Clear Politics and PollTracker had Obama ahead by only 0.7 percentage points in their final measurements. HuffPost Pollster had Obama leading by 1.5 points, while FiveThirtyEight was closest, showing Obama 2.5 points ahead of Romney in the last estimate. The aggregators that came closest to Obama’s overall winning margin were the ones that attempted to account for pollsters’ house effects.

Rasmussen threw off the average with its Republican bias, typically having a two percent house effect. It was easy to throw out Rasmussen. It was harder to feel comfortable ignoring Gallup, which also was more favorable to Republicans. Here is a Fordham University study ranked the polls.

1. PPP (D)
1. Daily Kos/SEIU/PPP
3. YouGov
4. Ipsos/Reuters
5. Purple Strategies
6. NBC/WSJ
6. CBS/NYT
6. YouGov/Economist
9. UPI/CVOTER
10. IBD/TIPP
11. Angus-Reid
12. ABC/WP
13. Pew Research
13. Hartford Courant/UConn
15. CNN/ORC
15. Monmouth/SurveyUSA
15. Politico/GWU/Battleground
15. FOX News
15. Washington Times/JZ Analytics
15. Newsmax/JZ Analytics
15. American Research Group
15. Gravis Marketing
23. Democracy Corps (D)
24. Rasmussen
24. Gallup
26. NPR
27. National Journal
28. AP/GfK

New York Magazine spoke to Public Policy Polling’s director about how he got it right:

When I talked to Tom Jensen, PPP’s director, this morning, he was understandably in the mood to gloat. “These supposed polling experts on the conservative side are morons,” Jensen crowed. “Jay Cost” — the Weekly Standard’s polling expert who’d waged a number-crunching war against PPP — “is an idiot.” But Jensen conceded that the secret to PPP’s success was what boiled down to a well informed but still not entirely empirical hunch. “We just projected that African-American, Hispanic, and young voter turnout would be as high in 2012 as it was in 2008, and we weighted our polls accordingly,” he explained. “When you look at polls that succeeded and those that failed that was the difference.” Given the methodological challenges currently confronting pollsters, those hunches are only going to prove more important. “The art part of polling, as opposed to the science part,” Jensen said, “is becoming a bigger and bigger part of the equation in having accurate polls.”

Please Share

Person of the Year: Barack Obama

cover.digital version.indd

This was a rather obvious choice in an election year. As Time points out, Obama is “the first Democrat in more than 75 years to get a majority of the popular vote twice. Only five other Presidents have done that in all of U.S. history.” Time‘s explanation:

There are many reasons for this, but the biggest by far are the nation’s changing demographics and Obama’s unique ability to capitalize on them. When his name is on the ballot, the next America — a younger, more diverse America — turns out at the polls. In 2008, blacks voted at the same rate as whites for the first time in history, and Latinos broke turnout records. The early numbers suggest that both groups did it again in 2012, even in nonbattleground states, where the Obama forces were far less organized. When minorities vote, that means young people do too, because the next America is far more diverse than the last. And when all that happens, Obama wins. He got 71% of Latinos, 93% of blacks, 73% of Asians and 60% of those under 30.

They left out the more important fact that Obama ran against a Republican Party which has moved to the extreme right and very well might never again be able to win a national election until the party changes. (Some Republican apologists might counter by claims that John McCain and Mitt Romney are moderates but in reality both ran on platforms which were bat-shit crazy, even if the Republicans do have even worse lunatics among their ranks.)
Time’s interview with Obama gives indications we are living in a world which the authoritarian right just cannot handle. Obama took time to announce his support for gay marriage, but we may have reached a tipping point where any candidate who does not support marriage equality would be seen in the same light as someone who didn’t support interracial marriage. Obama is more conservative than many of his supporters on drugs, and it is a disappointment that he is not ending the drug war, but at least does not intend to use government resources for prosecution of marijuana users:

I have a couple of policy questions growing out of that shift. Do you expect your administration will join the gay marriage cases at the Supreme Court?

We are looking at the cases right now. I’ve already been very clear about DOMA, so there is no doubt that we would continue the position we’re on, that DOMA is unconstitutional and should be struck down. And I think the Prop-8 case, because the briefs are still being written, I should probably be careful about making any specific comments on it.

One of the other big things that happened in the election was in Washington State and Colorado, marijuana for recreational use was legalized. And, again, the same base — the younger people, more progressive people are in favor of that. Is a recreational marijuana user who is following state law someone who should be a federal law enforcement priority?

No. And I think what the Justice Department has consistently asserted is that it’s got finite resources. Our focus has to be on threats to safety, threats to property. When it comes to drug enforcement, big-time drug dealers, folks who are preying on our kids, those who are engaging in violence — that has to be our focus.

Now, obviously, you’ve got a challenge, which is federal laws that are still on the books making marijuana a Class I drug that is subject to significant penalties, and you’ve got state laws now that say it’s legal. We’re going to have to have a conversation about how to reconcile that, because it puts the Department of Justice and the U.S. attorneys in a pretty tough position; they don’t want to look like they’re nullifying laws that are on the books; their job is to carry out the laws of the federal government. On the other hand, I think not only have these states indicated that they’ve got a different view, but what’s also true isthat the public as a whole — even those who don’t necessarily agree with decriminalization of marijuana — don’t think that this should be a top priority for law enforcement.

So this will be something that we navigate over the next several months and next several years. I think that the broader lesson to draw here is that substance abuse is a big problem in oursociety, and we should be doing everything we can to prevent our kids from being trapped by substance abuse. I think a law enforcement model alone, or an emphasis on a law enforcement strategy and not enough emphasis on the public health approach and treatment has not yielded the kind of results that I think we would like. And we’re going to have to have a serious discussion about that.

There are many pictures worth viewing accompanying the articles:
Obama Clinton
Obama Spiderman
Obama from Behind
Obama Chicago
obama white house
Obama Families 911 Victims
Obama Bo
Obama 3D Glasses
Please Share

Inflated Bills From Romney Campaign–Dishonesty or Incompetence?

For some reason I don’t find it to be at all surprising that the Romney campaign ripped off news organizations:

In a coda to the often contentious relationship between Mitt Romney’s staff and the press, news outlets are preparing to file a formal complaint to the Romney campaign contesting some of the seemingly inflated charges that were billed to them from the campaign trail.

It is standard procedure for presidential campaigns to arrange and prepay for meals, bus travel, and charter flights, then bill the news outlets afterward for their share of the cost. In order to travel with the candidate, reporters and their editors must agree upfront to pay for the cost of the trips, as determined by the campaign.

But many of the bills from the Romney campaign — which have continued to trickle in since Election Day — are much higher than during other campaigns.

For example, on Oct. 11, each reporter was charged $812 for a meal and a rented “holding” space, where the press waited before moving to the next event. On Oct. 18, the bill for a similar set of expenses was $461. And on the night of the vice presidential debate, the campaign planned a “viewing party” for the reporters with Romney, complete with a large rented room with a patio, massage tables, fresh cut flowers, and lots of food and booze. One campaign aide told BuzzFeed that campaign officials’ orders were to “go big” — a nice gesture, perhaps, but one that wasn’t discussed with every media outlet.

I might buy the explanation that this was due to incompetence on the part of the campaign rather than dishonesty:

One campaign aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the bills were not artificially inflated, but rather the product of a generally mismanaged campaign. The aide said the advance team — which was tasked with arranging meals and accommodations for the press — failed to communicate with other elements of the campaign and consistently spent more money than necessary.

Indeed, reporters on the trail grew accustomed to having five or six catered meals offered to them every day, with long tables full of food awaiting them at each campaign stop. The meals often went untouched and were sometimes consumed by campaign staff. It remains unclear whether those aides shouldered some of the costs of the meals.

In another case of apparent overspending, the campaign rented four “mini-busses,” seating 20 to 30 people apiece, to transport the press after a campaign event in Pennsylvania. According to an aide, the total cost was around $5,000 — divided among just 23 reporters.

An aide said they raised concerns about the costs early on — once media outlets began complaining about the outsize bills — but senior campaign officials dismissed them.

Perhaps Mittens should pick up the bills.

Please Share

PolitiFact Lie of the Year: Romney Campaign Ad On Jeeps To Be Made In China

Mitt Romney may have lost the presidential election but he does hold the title for running the most dishonest campaign in modern history. To add to his accomplishments in this area, PolitiFact has awarded him their Lie of the Year:

It was a lie told in the critical state of Ohio in the final days of a close campaign — that Jeep was moving its U.S. production to China. It originated with a conservative blogger, who twisted an accurate news story into a falsehood. Then it picked up steam when the Drudge Report ran with it. Even though Jeep’s parent company gave a quick and clear denial, Mitt Romney repeated it and his campaign turned it into a TV ad.

And they stood by the claim, even as the media and the public expressed collective outrage against something so obviously false.

People often say that politicians don’t pay a price for deception, but this time was different: A flood of negative press coverage rained down on the Romney campaign, and he failed to turn the tide in Ohio, the most important state in the presidential election.

PolitiFact has selected Romney’s claim that Barack Obama “sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China” at the cost of American jobs as the 2012 Lie of the Year.

Romney lied so frequently that it is hard to choose just one lie. This was a good choice as it was a blatant lie which Romney repeated despite considerable media coverage of the fact that he was lying. It is a perfect example for an outfit such as PolitFact to use in that it highlights the role of fact checkers in exposing a lie which wound up hurting the lying candidate. However if I were to choose the Lie of the Year I would choose one which the Factcheckers exposed with far less success–the distortion of Obama’s didn’t build it statement. While Obama was speaking of government infrastructure which businesses benefit from, the Romney campaign twisted this to claim that Obama was saying that businessmen did not build their own business. I would give this lie the award because of the audacity of the lie and the frequency with which Republicans repeated it. This including making this lie the theme of the Republican convention in 2012.

Please Share

Quote of the Day

“Earlier today Mitt Romney was spotted on a Costco shopping spree. Romney ended up buying 14 Costcos.” –Jimmy Fallon

Please Share

Quote of the Day: Conan On The Obama/Romney Lunch

“President Obama had lunch with Mitt Romney. There was an awkward moment when Romney looked around and said, ‘So how much do you want for the place.'” –Conan O’Brien

Please Share

The Danger Of The Republican Denial Of Reality

With the conservative movement now firmly under the control of ideological fanatics, the most significant difference between liberals and conservatives is basing opinions (and ultimately public policy) on facts versus ideological wishes. The conservative denial of facts has been seen in many areas, such as false belief of threat of WMD in Iraq justifying war to their mischaracterization of the Affordable Care Act as a government takeover of health care. The recent election highlighted this difference when liberal predictions of the election based upon objective information proved to be far more accurate that conservative predictions which ignored facts. Besides ignoring actual polling data, Romney also showed he was out of touch with reality with his view on the 47 percent and his post-election claim that Democrats voted based upon wanting to get things.

While liberals typically saw the odds as being well in Obama’s favor, we also realized that Romney could have won provided that he out-performed the polls in several swing states.  In contrast, many conservatives acted confident of a Romney landslide, with Romney being so confident of victory that he had prepared a victory speech but no concession speech. Noam Scheiber obtained Romney’s internal polls which led to this over confidence. Objective observers felt odds were in Obama’s favor because he had many routes to victory even should he lose some of the states which were close. Romney’s belief in victory was based upon an unrealistic belief he was leading in six of the close states (with Obama winning five), but this still would have placed place Romney three votes short of winning. To actually win, he would also have had to win in Ohio where his polls underestimated his deficit but still had Romney behind:

Together, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Iowa go most of the way toward explaining why the Romney campaign believed it was so well-positioned. When combined with North Carolina, Florida, and Virginia—the trio of states the Romney campaign assumed were largely in the bag—Romney would bank 267 electoral votes, only three shy of the magic number. Furthermore, according to Newhouse, the campaign’s final internal polls had Romney down a mere two points in Ohio—a state that would have put him comfortably over the top—and Team Romney generally believed it had momentum in the final few days of the race. (You see hints of this momentum when you compare the Saturday numbers in each state with the Sunday numbers. Romney gains in five out of the six states, though Newhouse cautions not to make too much of this since the numbers can bounce around wildly on any given day.) While none of this should have been grounds for the sublime optimism that leads you to eschew a concession speech—two points is still a ton to make up in a state like Ohio in 48 hours—you see how the campaign might conclude that the pieces were falling into place.

I could see Romney using such an argument before the election to motivate his voters, who might not have turned out if they realized how unlikely it was for Romney to win. I could see this providing some optimism. It is a different matter for Romney to actually believe he would win based upon these polls which were out of line with more objective data. Nate Silver found that internal polls have typically favored the candidate commissioning the polls by six percent over more objective polls. Even the Nate Silver haters on the right should understand the idea that pollsters might be biased towards whoever was signing their paychecks, or do they have a fantasy of a perfect market in polls? Perhaps they believe that Adam Smith’s invisible hand will intervene to correct any errors by those hired to conduct internal polls.

Steve M points out the danger of extending this mind set to government decisions:

… this is the kind of hubris that leads to Iraq-style quagmires: you believe everything that confirms your worldview and disbelieve everything that doesn’t; you get pleasing data stovepiped to yourself, draw conclusions you like, then bump those conclusions even more in your own deluded head.

Can you imagine Romney and his crew in a situation that affected us rather than themselves? What would they have done to America, given the chance, with this kind of power-of-positive-thinking nonsense driving their decision-making?

Romney was supposed to be the data-driven business genius — but maybe the business in which he made his fortune is so rigged in favor of the dealmakers that you don’t have to be particularly good at it to get stinking rich. Maybe he’s just not that bright, even in the area that’s supposedly his strength.

Please Share

Bruce Bartlett on Reality vs. The Conservative Movement

The conservative movement suffers from being dominated by extremists who drive out anyone who does not agree with all the counter-to-fact and irrational views which they now hold (which are very similar to the extremist views which William F. Buckley, Jr. purged from the conservative movement in the 1960’s.) Bruce Bartlett, who worked in the Reagan Administration, has found that it is not possible to simultaneously look at reality and be welcomed by other conservatives:

I’m not going to beat around the bush and pretend I don’t have a vested interest here. Frankly, I think I’m at ground zero in the saga of Republicans closing their eyes to any facts or evidence that conflict with their dogma. Rather than listen to me, they threw me under a bus. To this day, I don’t think they understand that my motives were to help them avoid the permanent decline that now seems inevitable.

Bartlett described his days in the conservative movement. His earliest disagreements were criticism of the second Bush administration, along with Congressional Republicans, from the right for their fiscal irresponsibility. This led to him writing the book, Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy.  While MSNBC sometimes criticizes Obama from the left, the right wing noise machine didn’t have room for dissident views on the right:

Among the interesting reactions to my book is that I was banned from Fox News. My publicist was told that orders had come down from on high that it was to receive no publicity whatsoever, not even attacks. Whoever gave that order was smart; attacks from the right would have sold books. Being ignored was poison for sales.

I later learned that the order to ignore me extended throughout Rupert Murdoch’s empire. For example, I stopped being quoted in the Wall Street Journal.* Awhile back, a reporter who left the Journal confirmed to me that the paper had given her orders not to mention me. Other dissident conservatives, such as David Frum and Andrew Sullivan, have told me that they are banned from Fox as well. More epistemic closure.

Bartlett’s analysis of the economy after the economic crash found him agreeing with Paul Krugman, and disagreeing with the right’s mischaracterization of Obama as a socialist:

Annoyingly, however, I found myself joined at the hip to Paul Krugman, whose analysis was identical to my own. I had previously viewed Krugman as an intellectual enemy and attacked him rather colorfully in an old column that he still remembers.

For the record, no one has been more correct in his analysis and prescriptions for the economy’s problems than Paul Krugman. The blind hatred for him on the right simply pushed me further away from my old allies and comrades.

The final line for me to cross in complete alienation from the right was my recognition that Obama is not a leftist. In fact, he’s barely a liberal—and only because the political spectrum has moved so far to the right that moderate Republicans from the past are now considered hardcore leftists by right-wing standards today. Viewed in historical context, I see Obama as actually being on the center-right.

He understands that the conservative echo chamber is largely responsible for Romney’s loss:

At least a few conservatives now recognize that Republicans suffer for epistemic closure. They were genuinely shocked at Romney’s loss because they ignored every poll not produced by a right-wing pollster such as Rasmussen or approved by right-wing pundits such as the perpetually wrong Dick Morris. Living in the Fox News cocoon, most Republicans had no clue that they were losing or that their ideas were both stupid and politically unpopular.

I am disinclined to think that Republicans are yet ready for a serious questioning of their philosophy or strategy. They comfort themselves with the fact that they held the House (due to gerrymandering) and think that just improving their get-out-the-vote system and throwing a few bones to the Latino community will fix their problem. There appears to be no recognition that their defects are far, far deeper and will require serious introspection and rethinking of how Republicans can win going forward. The alternative is permanent loss of the White House and probably the Senate as well, which means they can only temporarily block Democratic initiatives and never advance their own.

I’ve paid a heavy price, both personal and financial, for my evolution from comfortably within the Republican Party and conservative movement to a less than comfortable position somewhere on the center-left. Honest to God, I am not a liberal or a Democrat. But these days, they are the only people who will listen to me. When Republicans and conservatives once again start asking my opinion, I will know they are on the road to recovery.

Please Share

Why You Should Be Thankful That Barack Obama Was Reelected

Addicting Info has a rather long list of reasons to be thankful that Obama was reelected, accompanied by links.

Please Share

Happy Thanksgiving

Today we can be thankful that George Bush isn’t in the White House and that Mitt Romney, the man who wanted to return to his policies, was defeated.

Here’s a trip back to a past Thanksgiving in the Bartlet White House:

The pardoning of the turkey:

Please Share