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The. Polls. Have. Stopped Making. Any. Sense.
October 4, 2012 4:37 AM   Subscribe

“Maybe after the election I’ll have a better sense of the big picture,” he continues. “I do think I’ll probably try to learn statistics.”
"The. Polls. Have. Stopped. Making. Any. Sense." profiles Nate Silver of 538 and other polling innovations. Meanwhile, authentic polling nerds read the Princeton Election Consortium, pundits complain that "Political Scientists are Killing the Campaign 'Narrative'," and Peter Levine asks, "Would we better off without any horse-race polls?"
posted by anotherpanacea (89 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Would we better off without any horse-race polls?

Yes.
Absolutely.
Especially the seemingly "updated every 5 minutes" polls. It's a lot like stock market reports. When I was a kid, you only heard a stock market report at the end of the week, and it was a quick "The Dow Jones closed up/down x-points this week". Then, the reports started coming nightly. Then a couple of times a day. Then hourly. And, now, it's a continuous stream. I'll point out that the stock market (and the economy in general) have increasingly become an unmanageable basket-case in-step with the increasing availability of market updates.

Similarly, with election polls rapidly becoming a steady-stream throughout the campaigns, they no longer act as shadows of events, but the event themselves.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:51 AM on October 4, 2012 [12 favorites]


The hard part starts with getting people to answer the phone. Beginning that Friday night around six and then five more times over the course of the next two days—in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings—PPP called those 10,000 Ohioans; by Sunday night at eight, only 1,072 of them had been reached.

So they bug the hell out of people until only the most desperate for attention will even pick up the phone anymore AND they call at a time anyone with a life is busy and then they complain that what they get is "older and whiter than the electorate".

I even did a few polls a few years ago, hoping that it would show up a trace residue of sanity in some distant decimal point somewhere, but they so frequently turned out to be push polls that I gave even that up.

Polling by phone is dead. Maybe they could troll the unemployment lines, paying out $500 for a "season ticket" from each of a few thousand people.
posted by DU at 4:51 AM on October 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Polling by phone is dead.

Especially considering that polling-by-phone doesn't include cellphones.
posted by mhoye at 4:57 AM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


I knew it didn't include cellphones, but I never put that together with our landline ringing off the hook at all hours and the fact that I could make. it. stop. if we switched to mobile only.
posted by DU at 5:08 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I always answer political polls. It feels like part of my civic duty, like recycling!
posted by escabeche at 5:09 AM on October 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


A lot of the polls do include cellphones now.
posted by saturday_morning at 5:12 AM on October 4, 2012 [8 favorites]


It feels like part of my civic duty, like recycling!

But who is doing so helping, exactly?
posted by Jimbob at 5:15 AM on October 4, 2012


It feels like part of my civic duty...

And are you older and whiter than the electorate?
posted by DU at 5:19 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


If polling by phone is dead, we should see significant discrepancies between polling and results, no? But yet from what I've seen, well done late phone polls seem pretty close the final result.
posted by Bovine Love at 5:22 AM on October 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


TFA says that they weight certain respondents more heavily because of what they "know" about the demographics and turnout. But if a non-linear year pops up, it's going to be Dewey Defeats Truman.
posted by DU at 5:27 AM on October 4, 2012


Today, a good portion of Americans plan their lives—or at least their Twitter feeds—around the latest political numbers.

Huh?
posted by nathancaswell at 5:28 AM on October 4, 2012 [8 favorites]


We'd be better off without the electoral collage that makes so many votes worthless and makes strategy so important. See the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. We'd be better off with a ranked voting system like single transferable vote as well.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:33 AM on October 4, 2012 [12 favorites]


538 makes sense of complicated polls. Most of the time Nate Silver isn't scratching his head at all, he's making the best predictions in the business.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:42 AM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Pollsters remind me of meteorologists--people get mad when they're wrong every now and again, instead of being amazed that they usually get it right.
posted by box at 5:50 AM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


My electoral collage uses old cereal boxes cut into the shapes of the various states, with colored sequins to indicate which counties are leaning Republican or Democrat in the current presidential race. It is a work of art. The country is much better off for having it.
posted by Longtime Listener at 5:51 AM on October 4, 2012 [20 favorites]


Similarly, with election polls rapidly becoming a steady-stream throughout the campaigns, they no longer act as shadows of events, but the event themselves.

And not just polls, but the whole "narrative" has become this crazy, self-conscious spectacle - moving away from a forum within which to have a conversation about significant, nationwide issues and instead focusing on the potshots and jabs the parties lob at one another. This morning I was listening to analysis of last night's debates and the reporter was going on about how Romney "came out on top" as Obama "seemed to be biting his tongue...looking down frequently, not meeting his opponents' eyes."

The election's just another goddamned sport.
posted by onwords at 5:57 AM on October 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


The problem I have with polling is that I've never been polled. Despite having voted in every single election since I turned eighteen, I've never been polled by any of the major polling firms. I get a ton of push-polls, and polls that have obviously been commissioned by a candidate or political action committee (I'm sorry--I've never heard of American Liberty Eagle Research Solutions) but I've never taken a call from Gallup/Quinnipiac/Rasmussen/etc.

Even though I know the whole point of polling is to find a representative sample of a larger population, I still can't help but feel somewhat alienated given how important polls have become at shaping campaign platforms and how frequently they're used as ersatz elections because, as selfish as it sounds, they didn't ask me for my opinion.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:58 AM on October 4, 2012 [8 favorites]


What did it mean that 15 percent of Ohio Republicans believed Romney deserved more credit than Obama for killing Osama bin Laden?
Wait, what now?
posted by fullerine at 5:59 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Economist: Asking the experts
But whom would the experts pick? To find out, The Economist polled hundreds of professional academic and business economists. Our main finding should hearten Mr Obama. By a large margin they rate his overall economic plan more highly than Mr Romney’s, credit him with a better grasp of economics, and think him more likely to appoint a good economic team (see chart). They do not hold the perpetually disappointing recovery against him; half of respondents graded his record as good or very good, compared with just 5% who said that about George Bush in our poll four years ago. “It all depends on the counterfactual,” said Justin Wolfers, an economist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, referring to how bad things might have been without the president’s emergency measures.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:02 AM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


What did it mean that 15 percent of Ohio Republicans believed Romney deserved more credit than Obama for killing Osama bin Laden?

Presumably it means that Romney, as a White Real American, actually wanted bin Laden dead whereas Obama, as a Black Muslim Fake American, didn't (but had to kill him anyway).
posted by DU at 6:02 AM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wait, what now?

The argument against democracy.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:04 AM on October 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


And are you older and whiter than the electorate?

Indeed I am!
posted by escabeche at 6:06 AM on October 4, 2012


Obama: "Stop handouts to Big Oil."
Romney: "Stop handouts to Big Bird."

posted by jeffburdges at 6:09 AM on October 4, 2012 [11 favorites]


And are you older and whiter than the electorate?

Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the voters are older and whiter than the electorate....
posted by chavenet at 6:10 AM on October 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


We've entered the age of Quantum Elections. The act of observing them is changing them.
posted by DigDoug at 6:12 AM on October 4, 2012 [17 favorites]


I prefer polling to narrative, because polling, at least in some tenuous way, reflects reality. Narrative is whatever story the gang of yahoos in the press corps decide to settle on and can usually be counted on to be more or less pure bullshit.
posted by Grimgrin at 6:13 AM on October 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


The hard part starts with getting people to answer the phone. Beginning that Friday night around six and then five more times over the course of the next two days—in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings—PPP called those 10,000 Ohioans; by Sunday night at eight, only 1,072 of them had been reached.

As an Ohioian, I can confirm that we're not answering unknown calls anymore. We usually only get one or two polling calls, but the number of calls we get from out of state campaign volunteers is beyond annoying.
posted by aenea at 6:20 AM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've been a registered voter for 40+ years and I have yet to be polled about anything.
posted by mareli at 6:21 AM on October 4, 2012


I still can't help but feel somewhat alienated given how important polls have become at shaping campaign platforms and how frequently they're used as ersatz elections because, as selfish as it sounds, they didn't ask me for my opinion.

However, I do appreciate your support.
posted by ersatz at 6:22 AM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Automated dialers are prohibited by law from calling cell phones, and, given the cost of making the call (two to three times as much as reaching a landline), live-operator pollsters are reluctant to call cell phones, too.

Can anyone explain why it costs more for a polling firm to call a cell phone? Are they talking about the actual cost of placing the call being different than what it is for consumers? Or are they talking about extra expense involved in, say, procuring cell phone numbers.

I do wish the article had answered why SurveyUSA is consistently noticeably out of whack with everyone else.
posted by hoyland at 6:23 AM on October 4, 2012


Automated dialers are prohibited by law from calling cell phones...

That'll probably change pretty soon, because who makes the laws? The people that want accurate polls done.
posted by DU at 6:38 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Political Scientists are Killing the Campaign 'Narrative'

And nothing of value was lost.
posted by grouse at 6:40 AM on October 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Can anyone explain why it costs more for a polling firm to call a cell phone?

Simple. You can call a land line with an automated recording that tells you to punch 1 for Obama or 2 for Romney. Its illegal to do that with a cell phone. You have to use a person to do it. Rasumussen and PPP Polls have almost no employees.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:42 AM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


onwords: And not just polls, but the whole "narrative" has become this crazy, self-conscious spectacle - moving away from a forum within which to have a conversation about significant, nationwide issues and instead focusing on the potshots and jabs the parties lob at one another.

I never really understood this sentiment. If anything, there is more information about issues being traded than ever before in Presidential politics. We have two markedly different competing views on the direction of America, in fact, much better than some cycles where the candidates can't run fast enough into agreeing with each other. The most useless kind of campaign is one where the candidates can't stop agreeing with each other.

There has never been an election that was a pure exchange of ideas without potshots and jabs, and there never will be.

hoyland: Can anyone explain why it costs more for a polling firm to call a cell phone? Are they talking about the actual cost of placing the call being different than what it is for consumers? Or are they talking about extra expense involved in, say, procuring cell phone numbers.


The Telephone Communications Practices Act of 1991 (TCPA) prohibits the use of computer-assisted dialing to cell phones. For landlines, a predictive dialer will call many more phones than there are interviewers to increase efficiency, but cell phones must be dialed by hand. This is extremely slow, and you have to pay your interviewers for their time. Predictive dialers will skip right over non-answers and answering machines, but without them you have to sit through all the crap. Pollsters are exempt from many of the telecom regulations, but not this one.

RonButNotStupid: The problem I have with polling is that I've never been polled. Despite having voted in every single election since I turned eighteen, I've never been polled by any of the major polling firms. I get a ton of push-polls, and polls that have obviously been commissioned by a candidate or political action committee (I'm sorry--I've never heard of American Liberty Eagle Research Solutions) but I've never taken a call from Gallup/Quinnipiac/Rasmussen/etc.

The answer is statistics. Why don't I ever get called?

Candidate and organization commissioned polls are the major polling firms. Public horserace polls for the press are only a small part of the volume of polls released. Even with dozens of survey firms interviewing tens of thousands of people a night, your odds of being selected are still very low. Have you ever won the lottery?

The most interesting and useful polls are the ones you never see. The horserace toplines are often the least important question being asked. Without their internal polls, campaigns would not be able to get a sense of what issues or priorities are important to the whole electorate, and not just the squeaky wheels or the moneyed interests. It's by far the most efficient way to get the pulse of the public you are trying to serve.

grimgrim: I prefer polling to narrative, because polling, at least in some tenuous way, reflects reality. Narrative is whatever story the gang of yahoos in the press corps decide to settle on and can usually be counted on to be more or less pure bullshit.

Exactly. Our elections are now more data-driven than ever before, and it's one of the most exciting things I have ever been a part of.

DigDoug: We've entered the age of Quantum Elections. The act of observing them is changing them.

There's actually a kernel of truth to the Heisenberg Poll Principle for really small electorates. With response rates so low, larger and larger numbers are required to be called, and at least in a thin-turnout Congressional primary PPP thinks respondent fatigue may have caused their poll to go off the rails.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 6:43 AM on October 4, 2012 [8 favorites]


DU: That'll probably change pretty soon, because who makes the laws? The people that want accurate polls done.

If anything, the trend has been in the opposite direction. The automated cell phone dialer ban has been in place since 1991 and there are no bills on the horizon to change this. Some states have started restricting automated or live polls on their own, like New Hampshire.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 6:46 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


"That might sound like Nate Silver’s ultimate fantasy; he says he lives by the maxim the more data the better. But the truth is Silver is already growing a little tired of political polling. Part of the problem is he’s worn out by the nastiness."

If this is true, and the (hyperbolic) assertion in the article that he was the the runner-up winner in Obama's 2008 campaign, then I find interesting parallels to how Obama appeared in the first debate. Worn out by the nastiness.

The fact that Nate Silver posted his post-debate blog article at 2am in the morning following the debate sounds like he's burning the midnight oil as well.
posted by panaceanot at 6:48 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Automated dialers are prohibited by law from calling cell phones, and, given the cost of
> making the call (two to three times as much as reaching a landline), live-operator pollsters
> are reluctant to call cell phones, too.

It's not at all unusual to get a call on my cell that consists entirely of Please hold the line for an important message while presumably a "we hooked a live 'un" alarm goes off somewhere. I did hold the line just once out of curiosity and found it was a consumer-product opinion poll. I have a feeling laws against robo-dialing cell numbers are going the way of laws against water running downhill, i.e. heading for being universally ignored. What's to keep robo-dialers from being located in Moldova, and what could be done about them if they were?
posted by jfuller at 6:53 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I refuse to trust any polls and pundits whose remuneration is based on their ability to craft controversies and promote horse races. Just another form of bull$h*t reality television.
posted by incandissonance at 7:01 AM on October 4, 2012


To be honest, I could stand for Nate Silver to back off of the Presidential election which has been pretty boring so far and focus more on the Senate races, which are almost as important and are much more in doubt.
posted by Copronymus at 7:11 AM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wait, what now?

Ah, the crazification factor...
posted by Drexen at 7:16 AM on October 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Unfortunately the Senate races with the possible exception of the Missouri contest between Akin and McCaskill which is interesting from a trainwreck perspective seem to no be getting the same sort of data points that the presidential polls are providing. Yeah we are still getting some data but many senate races have woefully little public polling available and Nate is shying away from internal polling this election season.

The truth of the matter is that Romney needs a massive degree of momentum in the next month in order to close the gap. Winning undecided voters (which are a vanishingly small % of the electorate in battleground states) by a large margin isn't enough he needs to both win undecided likely voters and depress Obama GOTV efforts.

Maybe a concerted media narrative will be able to move the needle but Obama's electoral vote lead is getting brutal to the point where basically he just needs to win a single remaining battleground state in order to get re-elected.
posted by vuron at 7:19 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


For downballot coverage I wholeheartedly recommend the Daily Kos Elections feed, brought to you by the guys once behind Swing State Project. Every House and Senate race with a news item, poll, or ad pops up in a digestible, one-stop format, something I have not seen publicly from any other outlet.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 7:25 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


bull$h*t

Huh? What? I'm confused! What word is this?
posted by grubi at 7:35 AM on October 4, 2012


Shit. I just realized I'm older and whiter than the electorate. I don't think of myself as older and whiter than the electorate, but I am.

Also, Nate Silver is a lot younger than I imagined him. And thinner. And less bearded. And less rabbinical.
posted by ook at 7:35 AM on October 4, 2012


Simple. You can call a land line with an automated recording that tells you to punch 1 for Obama or 2 for Romney. Its illegal to do that with a cell phone. You have to use a person to do it. Rasumussen and PPP Polls have almost no employees.

Apparently I'm an idiot and got so distracted by the fact it doesn't cost more to phone a cell phone that I forgot the beginning of the sentence I was talking about.
posted by hoyland at 7:36 AM on October 4, 2012


Only indirectly related to polls, but one of the things that irks me about Nate Silver and the rest of the poll-watching community is when they cite Intrade ominously whenever something goes bad for a particular candidate or party and the bettors respond. I don't see why Intrade is even worth mentioning most of the time since the people participating don't generally have access to inside information that gives them a predictive edge--it seems like they just react to the latest information available, exactly as you might expect, and unless I'm missing something, there's nothing particularly insightful about that.
posted by Kosh at 7:38 AM on October 4, 2012


The idea is that because you are betting your money with Intrade it tells you what the people involved actually believe rather than what they say they believe. It filters out spin.
posted by Justinian at 7:41 AM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


. I don't see why Intrade is even worth mentioning most of the time since the people participating don't generally have access to inside information that gives them a predictive edge--it seems like they just react to the latest information available, exactly as you might expect, and unless I'm missing something, there's nothing particularly insightful about that.

Wisdom of the crowd.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 7:44 AM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


'Put your money where your mouth is" is such a weird rationalle for validating an action, as if parting with imaginary credits makes your decision making process sound.
posted by panaceanot at 7:51 AM on October 4, 2012


Hollywood Upstairs Medical College The answer is statistics. Why don't I ever get called?

I think you entirely missed the point I made in my second paragraph. Yes, I know it's statistics, and I know that I'm represented in the sample of a poll, but that doesn't make up for the fact that not ever having been polled leaves me feeling disconnected from the polling process because I've never had the chance to participate in it.

Polls have an influence on campaigns that is second only to the actual elections, and yet they're an inherently exclusive process limited to a small numbers of select people. It's rather like how we let the population of New Hampshire decide who the nominee for a political party will be except that in the case of political polls, we at least try to make sure the population of New Hampshire is a randomly selected representative sample of the nation.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:55 AM on October 4, 2012


Can't speak for other poll watchers but Nate Silver often calls out the Intrade market when he thinks they are wrong.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 7:57 AM on October 4, 2012


Stuff is brewing about that CNN snap poll after the debate last night:

According to the breakout, all the people surveyed are white, 50+, and from the South. Are they being serious with this?

Oh, and mostly male to boot. I haven't looked into this in depth, but at a glance it doesn't look good. Anybody seen more about this?
posted by gimonca at 7:59 AM on October 4, 2012


Obama is still at 1/4 at William Hill.
posted by ersatz at 7:59 AM on October 4, 2012


RonButNotStupid, I see what you mean now.

The extreme version of what you say is the process used by Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party to select presidential candidates. Instead of a primary, they use a poll average to determine a Condorcet winner.

Frankly, I'm not sure how people put up with that.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 8:09 AM on October 4, 2012


My favorite Nate Silver quote:

"I don't particularly like politics that much. I definitely like elections, as they're fun to forecast and to watch evolve, but I don't particularly like the day to day of politics or some of the people who end up getting involved."

Was that ever true. I love elections more than anything in the world, and campaign politics attracts some of the smartest, most driven, most principled people I have ever met. I'm proud to be part of our democratic system, and the idea that we can boil down the sentiments, feelings, hopes and desires of hundreds of millions of people into a government that reflects them in some way.

On the other hand, I have met some of the most contemptuous traitors I have ever seen. I have met paste-chewing brown nosers that played the people-skills ropes to make their way to the top. I have seen rank disloyalty and treason from the feckless, and all manner of unprincipled bullshit.

But such is the nature of life: people problems corrupt. I wouldn't give it up for the world.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 8:16 AM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


DU: Automated dialers are prohibited by law from calling cell phones...

That'll probably change pretty soon, because who makes the laws? The people that want accurate polls done TO SELL YOU SHIT.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:21 AM on October 4, 2012


If polling by phone is dead, we should see significant discrepancies between polling and results, no? But yet from what I've seen, well done late phone polls seem pretty close the final result.

My understanding is that they adjust the heck out of the raw numbers using prior poll & election data to reduce the discrepancies.

Then we start hearing stuff like: "You, supporter, ignore poll X! The adjustments over-represent the enemy!"
posted by cosmic.osmo at 8:24 AM on October 4, 2012


From Drexen's link:

John: You realize this leads to there being over 30 million crazy people in the US?
Tyrone: Does that seem wrong?
John: ... a bit low, actually.

posted by MtDewd at 8:34 AM on October 4, 2012


wikipedia brown boy detective: Can't speak for other poll watchers but Nate Silver often calls out the Intrade market when he thinks they are wrong.
Could be he does (I don't follow him), but that article is really about the fallacy of putting faith in a poll taken just after a party convention, which is conventional wisdom anyway.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:35 AM on October 4, 2012


always answer political polls. It feels like part of my civic duty, like recycling!
posted by Fizz at 8:41 AM on October 4, 2012


(Regarding the CNN snap poll, TPM says further investigation shows it's not as weird as it sounds.)
posted by gimonca at 8:42 AM on October 4, 2012


I don't see why Intrade is even worth mentioning most of the time since the people participating don't generally have access to inside information that gives them a predictive edge--it seems like they just react to the latest information available, exactly as you might expect, and unless I'm missing something, there's nothing particularly insightful about that.

I agree with this. Regular markets are pooling the disparate information from lots of different people. The Intrade market is just a bunch of people all giving their opinion about the same information.
posted by straight at 8:47 AM on October 4, 2012


"'The polls are just being used as another tool of voter suppression,' Rush Limbaugh recently warned his listeners."

Anyone know the non-poll forms of voter suppression he has discussed? (Really trying (and probably failing) not to grind, but just found this statement interesting)
posted by kurumi at 8:48 AM on October 4, 2012


Would we better off without any horse-race polls? Yes. Absolutely.

We'd be massively better off without horse-race reporting. For most news and 'news'1 outlets, horse-race reporting occupies far more time/space than reportage of facts about the candidate, the candidates' history, positions, statements, behavior, voting record, etc. It should take some effort to be an informed voter, but it's getting ridiculously difficult.

1 ' ' indicates airquotes
posted by theora55 at 9:51 AM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: Robo-Dialers From Moldova:
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:53 AM on October 4, 2012


The BCS is about to run out of steam, why not put them in charge of ranking only two "blesssed" candidates. We're basically getting LSU vs Bama every four years now anyway.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 9:59 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


We'd be better off without the electoral collage that makes so many votes worthless and makes strategy so important.
I'm pretty sure that the importance of strategy in voting is a mathematical consequence of our elections not being oppressive or dictatorial, not of the electoral college.

It's ridiculous that our polls don't all ask for ranked and/or approval-based responses in addition to just "who are you planning to vote for", though. The actual election might have constitutional restrictions, but what's the media's excuse?
posted by roystgnr at 10:02 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hollywood Upstairs Medical College: If anything, there is more information about issues being traded than ever before in Presidential politics.

I agree with you about this, but I'll also second theora55's comment about horse-race reporting. The media's obligation to entertain has seen sober and meaningful discussion give way to sports analogies ("Obama no Ali in Debate: The Atlantic).
posted by onwords at 10:30 AM on October 4, 2012


We're basically getting LSU vs Bama every four years now anyway.

This year its more like LDS vs 'bama.
posted by straight at 11:39 AM on October 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


On the question of we'd be better off without horserace polls I'm inclined to agree with Thorzdad when he says Yes. Absolutely. Which is why I think we should all outright lie when asked who we'll vote for. If nothing else, it'll make election night a hell of a lot more entertaining to watch.
posted by JHarris at 11:42 AM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Aren't polls an important defense against vote-counting shenanigans? They at least set a sort of limit to how drastically you can cheat without raising huge red flags.
posted by straight at 11:59 AM on October 4, 2012


Exit polls particularly are useful to determine if there are shenanigans. Without them, it's hard to determine if fraud has happened. The horserace polls also serve as a somewhat less conclusive fraud test.

As long as FPTP is in force, especially in multi-candidate primaries, polls are one of the few ways for a rational voter to determine whether they are wasting their vote or not.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 12:18 PM on October 4, 2012


I never got polled about anything for many years.

This is the first presidential election year that I've lived in a swing state, and my home phone is ringing off the hook. I refuse to participate. If the caller is a live operator, I waste their time by answering their questions with puns and riddles. If the caller is a robot, I mash on the keypad to try to get an operator. (Usually robot says, "sorry, I'm too stupid to help you," and disconnects.)

"Respondent fatigue" indeed. I'm tired just thinking about it.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 1:02 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't the pollsters realize that Republican vote suppression and voter fraud efforts are going to cut way down on the 'underrepresented' minority voters? That's the reason the Right Wing Media Machine is pushing the "biased polls" meme. If Romney is within 5 points in the polls on Election Day, he'll have it in the bag. And no, the polls will provide no defense against shenanigans with the same Supreme Court that decided "Bush vs. Gore". ("Did we say this case should not be taken as precedent? Gee whiz...")
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:12 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The vote suppression efforts are being dismantled. Florida's? Ordered to put tens of thousands back on the rolls. Pennsylvania's? Not allowed to use the ID law until after the election. These laws are a violation of civil rights and the lawyers are out in force. Let's not panic here.
posted by grubi at 1:15 PM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


If Romney is within 5 points in the polls on Election Day, he'll have it in the bag.

Back here in the reality based community we realize this is not even remotely true.
posted by Justinian at 3:16 PM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


My first job ever was doing phone surveys. Sometimes political polling, sometimes market research. It was quite horrible. So, once in a while I take pity on the person calling for one, and talk to them.

Sometimes the job was really sad. You'd get some elderly person just desperate to talk. "If the election were held today..." "Oh, my husband used to worry about that, but he's gone now and... [litany of human suffering]"

And my supervisor would be gesticulating to make me squeeze an answer out of this person and move on.
posted by thelonius at 3:43 PM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Exit polls particularly are useful to determine if there are shenanigans. Without them, it's hard to determine if fraud has happened.

But conversely, they can also be used to cast doubt on legitimate results that don't match up to expectations. I am greatly concerned about the possibility of that happening, if not this year, then soon.
posted by JHarris at 6:53 PM on October 4, 2012


The vote suppression efforts are being dismantled. Florida's? Ordered to put tens of thousands back on the rolls. Pennsylvania's? Not allowed to use the ID law until after the election. These laws are a violation of civil rights and the lawyers are out in force. Let's not panic here.

I am the lead organizer for a non-partisan voter protection effort in the county I live in, and part of a statewide coalition working on the same. In the September primary, we had groups sending poll observers into polling places and doing things like challenging voters bringing voting assistance to the polls, speaking to poll workers or others in Spanish, videotaping voters at the check-in table, and just generally creating a hostile and intimidating environment in certain polling places and running elections officials ragged in an election where turnout was less than 8%.

Another group flyered public housing projects and the cars outside of urban polling places with lit telling people that they needed to bring ID to vote (we're not a voter ID state) and then listing forms of documentation that wouldn't count for proving residency (which some inactive voters have to do). That same group posted up outside of at least one urban polling place in this city and stopped people outside of a polling location to request that they show them their IDs.

In the past few days, we've also had multiple reports of phone calls from NJ phone numbers targeting voters in poor and minority neighborhoods, telling them their polling places have been moved (and giving an erroneous address), telling them that Election Day has been moved, or telling them that they will be deported if they show up at the polls "without proper documentation".

So yes, voter ID is being pushed back upon in some places, but take it from someone on the front-lines: Voter suppression is alive and well.
posted by rollbiz at 7:30 PM on October 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


rollbiz, how infuriating. Isn't that tampering with elections? Isn't that a big-name crime?
posted by JHarris at 8:35 PM on October 4, 2012


Some of the smaller potatoes folks are quite likely closer than they think to being nailed for specific violations to election law.

Unfortunately, some of the largest and worst violations are being done with ample cover or across jurisdiction lines, which makes it very difficult to pin down. Fighting against that stuff is still possible and indeed that's my job right now, but getting violations tracked down and pinpointed to the extent that they can be prosecuted is a serious challenge...
posted by rollbiz at 12:03 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


We were able to get some particularly bad actors escorted from the polls by the police last time around. Next time, I'm hoping it's with their hands cuffed behind their backs.
posted by rollbiz at 12:05 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really can't understand how that could possibly in any way be tolerated.

In Australia, even official campaign workers can't come closer than a certain distance from the polling place.

But then, voting is compulsory in Australia, so just try to tell someone to go home, I guess...
posted by Jimbob at 12:18 AM on October 6, 2012


538: OCT 5 - Day After Debate, Strong Swing State Polls For Romney
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:37 AM on October 6, 2012


Romney's promis to get Big Bird TV spot
posted by jeffburdges at 4:39 AM on October 10, 2012


So... What's with the sudden influx of "Nate Silber sucks!" opinion pieces?
posted by Artw at 12:55 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because he has a reputation for being right, and is saying something inconvenient to Republicans.
posted by JHarris at 11:27 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the other thread that would seem to be the case, but like a lot of sudden right wing obsessions it's weirdly co-ordinated.
posted by Artw at 11:33 AM on October 30, 2012


From the other thread that would seem to be the case, but like a lot of sudden right wing obsessions it's weirdly co-ordinated.

I wouldn't doubt there's a talking point about it, designed to keep up contribution levels. The Republicans are probably rolling in dough right now from people like the Koch Brothers, but they'll probably only keep handing over money so long as there's a good chance Romney gets in.
posted by JHarris at 1:37 PM on October 30, 2012


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