August 2, 2008

Summer Polls and An Offended Cat

Well, THIS explains what all those McCarthy-ites--oops, McSame-ers -- oops, Fair and Balanced Supporters of the Republican Candidate, John McCain are blathering on and on about.
Have you noticed the fact that you can't swing a dead cat these days [ouch! I just got a claw embedded in my ankle!] without hitting some republican who's quoting this poll or that one?

So, I went looking for some polling data all on my own to see if I could make sense of it all and found this commentary on summer polls. This guy doesn't seem to have an ax to grind about one candidate or another. He's just reporting on polling in the summertime. Period.

Now I'm being repeatedly nipped on the toes. [Jake! Stop it, already!]

So, you read this article while I go make nice with Jake who took offense at my reference to deceased felines for some reason. Sheesh!
[[ Jake! Even candidates for president mis-speak, sometimes! I didn't mean it that way! Honest!]]
This from

What's wrong with these summertime presidential polls?
-- by Richard Dunham

You could get whiplash just trying to read the most recent presidential campaign polls. In the past week, we've seen one poll (Gallup) declaring that John McCain is leading the race by 4 percentage points. But if you were watching CNN, you'd learn that its poll has Barack Obama ahead by 7 percentage points.

In between, we have a 1-point Obama lead (Fox/Opinion Dynamics), 2 points (Rasmussen Reports) and 5 points (Pew Research Center).

Polling in seven key swing states by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute finds Obama's lead shrinking. But CNN is showing the Illinois Democrat's lead growing.

What in the name of President Kerry is going on here?

Here are our five top factors that are giving American pollsters midsummer fits:

1. Summertime polls are notoriously unreliable. People go on vacation, so the samples used by pollsters are sometimes not representative of the population. Fewer young people are at home in the summer. And many voters are thinking of the beach -- or paying for that next tank of gas -- rather than making a final decision on their local congressional race (or even the presidential contest).

"It's just not a good time to poll," said Clay Richards, associate director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

2. More people use cell phones in the summer. Pollsters have been bedeviled in recent years by the increasing number of Americans, particularly younger adults, who use mobile units as their primary -- or sometimes only -- telephones.

Some pollsters rely entirely on land lines, some have a formula for taking into account people without old-fashioned service. This alone can skew the results. Add to that the fact that more people are away from their home phones (where most pollsters call) and you have a recipe for disaster.

3. Pollsters are surveying different audiences. Some summertime polls measure all adults, some measure registered voters, some try to guess who is a likely voter in November. After Labor Day, just about every poll focuses on likely voters, so it's more valid to compare one poll to another. If you do that in the summertime, you're asking for trouble.

4. Nobody knows who's going to vote in November. Even the polls that claim to measure likely voters aren't the same. All use a formula called a "screen" based on answers to several questions. Some polls base their likely-voter screen on whether a person has voted in recent elections. Others base it on the person's enthusiasm level about the current election. Some Democrats argue that current screens undercount young voters, first-time voters and charged-up anti-Bush voters. As independent pollster John Zogby says, all polling mixes art and science. There's no scientific formula that can perfectly predict who will show up to vote.

5. Blame it on cable. The insatiable appetite of 24/7 cable news, the Internet and the blogosphere have accelerated the trend toward covering new poll results like a new inning in a baseball game.

Yesterday, Obama, 51-42. Today, McCain, 49-45. Tomorrow ... stay tuned!

Trouble is, we're really mixing apples and oranges here. It's fine to compare trends in the same poll over time. If several polls reflect the same trend, it's probably true. But the cable talking heads breathlessly read the latest polls as if they are reality TV.

Sorry, folks. They are just snapshots in time -- imperfect snapshots, as we've explained above. All polls are not the same. We should not mix and match polls at will.

What's more, treating poll results like a nonstop sporting event is not only bad journalism, it's just plain dumb.

That having been said, we'll be back next week with more poll numbers and analysis for you. Some of us just can't break our addiction to polls.
OK, I got to the bottom of the problem. My reference to a dead cat wasn't it. At least, that wasn't ALL he was offended by:
First, he was upset at my calling rethugs 'Fair and Balanced.' [So I explained the finer nuances of sarcasm.]
Second, he was upset by the 'dead cat' remark. [And I explained idiomatic speech.]
And, then, he took offense at his second billing in the title.
But, he was at least somewhat mollified when I explained that this is a POLITICAL blog and promised to give him top billing whenever he is mentioned at Scattershot Thoughts [after I signed a document to that effect with the blood from my ankle.]
So, we're all OK over here, now. For the moment, at least.


an average patriot said...

Hell McCain is a new wave Republican. While being the worse ever he puts forward a facade of a penny pinching compassionate conservative. I am personally so sick of the conflicting information. You know, it depends on who is taking the poll and the results they want as to what they ask.
Still have your toes?

PoliShifter said...

Well McCain has Rove on his side now and for better and worse they are making headway.

Republicans and Conservatives won't be voting "For" McCain...they will be voting "Against" Obama and that's the best McCain can hope for.

I fear McCain is going to pull this out...especially now that the Republicans are busy puring voter registration rolls all across the country. Coincidently most of the voters being purged are minorities.

Now since Obama says he will support some offshore oil drilling (the oil co's have after all 70 million acres of offshore lease they REFUSE to drill on) and won't do town hall meetings with McCain, the Republicans are in a tizzy over "Flip-Flop".

Rememer the 2004 Kerry "Flip Flop" campaign was in part what sunk him along with the swift boaters.

Never mind that McCain has flip flopped 100 times more than does not matter.

After watching the media fail to report recently who was targeted in those Anthrax attacks (LIBERALS Pat Leahy, Tom Daschle, Tom Brokaw) and why (to get the Patriot Act passed) I have no more faith in any of this.

I expect McCain to win, the bombs to drop on Iran, and to just continue further down the rat hole of America's Destruction.

two crows said...

hi, Jim--
compassionate? are we talking about the same guy here? the guy who flip-flopped on TORTURE of all things, saying one thing in front of the cameras and something else entirely in the notorious back-room? THAT John McCain?
my toes are still attached, thanks for asking.

two crows said...

hi, Poli--
'Republicans and Conservatives won't be voting "For" McCain...they will be voting "Against" Obama and that's the best McCain can hope for.'

so often, these days, that's all anyone gets. the current election is the first time in living memory that a large group of people didn't seem to be holding their noses as they went to the polls.
still, most pols don't care-- so long as they win.
oh. my. god. purges? say it ain't so, Poli!
not again! WHAT is with these people???
well, I guess we know what's with them. they're ideologues who will not be swayed. they perceive themselves as the saviors and the rest of us as not knowing what we want. so they'll tell us.
and they'll trample us to death in the process. heaven help us all.

and, OF COURSE they're targeting minorities. they're most likely to vote Dem and they have the least clout when it comes to protesting being purged.

believe it or not, this is the best news available in your comment. this is business as usual-- even as far back as the 19th century. and, despite their best efforts, we got some pretty good [as well as pretty bad] presidents along the way, anyhow.

as to the flip-flop campaign -- the O is getting good marks on that, so I hear. both left and right on McLaughlin, for instance, gave him high marks on his quick rebuttals against McSame's attacks [comparing him favorably to Kerry] saying he learned from Kerry NOT to try to stay above the fray but to wade right in.

I'm still hoping he can pull it off. not that I'm all that gung ho Obama. he's certainly better than McSame.
his SCOTUS would certainly be different -- and THAT'S what matters most right now.

why won't Obama do town-halls with McSame? O would run rings around Mc!

Distributorcap said...

more and more i think mccain will pull this out....

rove will make sure and will his biggest base - the entire MSM

as for polls - you dont want to get me (whoe works with polls for a living) started about how inaccurate and irresponsible they have become

Brother Tim said...

Consider yourself lucky you don't have a weasel chompin' at ya. ;)