I am astonished at how the mainstream (read: liberal) media continues to promote a totally incorrect narrative about the outcome of the 2016 election and has now produced one of their champion big-mouth spielers, Michael Moore, to promote the same nonsense again.
If you’re addicted to politics like I am, every four years you also get addicted to political polls. And since my undergraduate minor was stat, beginning in August I begin every day by looking at the numbers and trying to figure out whether the polls are really saying what they appear to say.
Right now what they appear to say is that Joe is ahead in the national popular vote by somewhere between 3 and 13 percent. Wait a minute, you say, all the aggregate pollsters show Joe with a lead of 8 or 9 points, somewhere around 50-51% for Biden, 42-43% for Trump. But if you read the fine print at the bottom of the page, you’ll notice that virtually every poll says something about having a ‘margin of error’ of 5 percent. If you deduct 5% from Joe’s number he’s down to 48%. Add 5% to Trump’s numbers and he’s up to 45%. Get it? Good.
A 48% to 45% margin for the popular vote is exactly how things ended up for Hillary and Trump in 2016. But that’s the easy part. Now things get a little more complicated.
You’ll notice that every poll says that the respondents were either ‘registered’ voters or ‘likely’ voters, but never both. The registered polls tend to be earlier in the season, the polls answered by likely voters are mostly what starts to be published right around now. I guess this is because asking someone whether they plan to engage in any particular activity four months before it is scheduled to take place, is asking them to make a prediction about their own behavior which may or may not actually occur.
I happen to think that grouping voters in either category is basically a waste of time, if only because the fact that someone says they are intending to vote doesn’t mean that when they show up they will actually spend more than two seconds thinking about which lever to pull down. And I have yet to see any pre-election poll which asks respondents to divulge just how much time – hours, minutes, seconds – they have spent thinking about how they are going to vote.
Then there’s a bigger problem when we look at the daily voting trends published by aggregators like Silver’s 538, 270towin, Real Clear Politics (RCP) or Huffington Post. Very few pollsters run their polls more than once a week, sometimes even less frequently than that. So unless you aggregate the results of numerous polls together, you won’t have any new data to publish except once a week. Which means your website will go stale very quickly, which means your clicks will start dropping like flies.
On the other hand, if you aggregate a whole bunch of polls every week, how do you know that the pollsters aren’t measuring responses by using duplicate answers from the same respondents, whether they even know it or not? If you’re an aggregator, how do you adjust the numbers to take into account an unintended bias that will impact your trends from duplicate counts? You can’t.
I try to deal with these problems by trusting one pollster who polls very frequently, in this case I reference Morning Consult, which claims to run a national poll every day. Here’s their aggregate national poll from May through today:
Joe is at 51%, Trump at 43%. Note how little the results have changed over the last 90 days. I’m hardly the first person to notice that the numbers for both candidates have been basically unchanged over this period of time. In 2016, Hillary was under 42% on July 1st, pulled back up to 45.7% at the beginning of August, was just over 42% as September came around and moved between 45% and 46% over the last 30 days. Here’s how Clinton and Trump looked from the beginning of June:
I have left the numbers for Johnson and Stein off the graph, but note that not only does this graph show much greater day-to-day variation for Clinton and Trump, but more than 13% of the queried voters said they wouldn’t vote for either of them at the end of the campaign. Right now the Sedaris dog-shit number for 2020 in half of what it was in 2016.
That’s where things stand at the national level but it’s the state-level polls that we still need to see. That’s tomorrow’s column. Stay tuned.
Now that both parties have competing tickets from which we can choose who will occupy the White House (and the Vice President’s mansion) for the next four years, I’m going to spend some time trying to figure out what the pre-election polls really tell us, as well as what they don’t.
I’m doing this in response to the Trump campaign’s narrative that Biden’s consistent lead in both the national, aggregate polls and the in-play state polls is nothing more than a combination of: a) mainstream-media lying, and, b) an under-representation of pro-Trump enthusiasm which will easily close the gap. This latter narrative, of course, being a riff on how Trump has ignited and enlarged a political ‘movement’ to ‘make America great again,’ the likes of which have never previously been seen.
In certain respects, Trump’s 2016 campaign was a very different and unique approach to national political campaigns. He held large, in-person rallies every day, sometimes two or even three daily mass events in multiple states. He promoted these rallies with an aggressive, social media assault which was never matched or even anticipated by the Hillary campaign. And he cemented together an independent media ‘team’ comprised of FOX noisemakers like Hannity, Carlson and Ingraham, AM shock-jocks like Limbaugh and Beck (plus local wannabees), all of whom said exactly whatever they were told to say via faxes from Trump’s headquarters and the RNC.
Most important, he made sure that everyone who attended his rallies was told again and again that they were part of a new and important ‘movement,’ (people like to think of themselves as coming together to create something special) and that they were also members of an ‘oppressed minority,’ i.e., folks ‘left behind’ by the un-American elitists who had sold the country out to Deep State enemies both here and abroad. And in case you didn’t know it, people love to feel that they are members of an oppressed, minority group.
There’s only one little problem with this narrative. In 2004, the Republican candidate, who happened to be the incumbent, racked up 62,039,073 votes. Twelve years later, Trump’s ‘movement’ delivered 62,984,828 votes. Between those two elections, the U.S. population grew by 10 percent, the Trump campaign increased GOP turnout by a whole, big 1.5 percent. That’s some ‘movement.’ Yea, right.
One of the big problems in evaluating election polls is whether someone who supports a particular candidate will actually show up and vote on election day. It’s what is known in the polling industry as ‘registered’ versus ‘likely’ voters. When you’re still 3 months away from the date of vote, it’s too early to say for sure that someone who says he or she is voting for this or that candidate will actually appear on election day. So the polls conducted in August and September tend to use respondents from both groups. Once you get into the last 60 days or so, the ‘registered’ voters as poll respondents tend to disappear.
Allegedly, the shift away from registered voters and towards likely voters is done because the latter category tends to be biased in favor of blue voters. Gallup explains it like this: “For a long time in American politics, Republicans have represented those voters who are in the majority (or plurality) demographically. A voter who is white, straight, suburban, Christian, middle-aged and middle income is quite likely to be a Republican. However, a voter who deviates from that profile in some respect — for instance, by being black, Hispanic, gay, Jewish, an atheist, young or by having completed an education beyond an undergraduate degree — is likely to be a Democrat. The majority of Americans deviates from that profile in at least one of those respects. That’s part of why a larger share of Americans have long identified as Democrats rather than Republicans.”
The only problem with this analysis is that there were 12 national polls published a week or less before the 2016 election, and 11 of those polls used likely voters for their sample and every one of these polls had Clinton ahead by 3 to 7 points. And in fact, Hillary ended up by getting 4% more votes than Trump.
Which meant that the 2016 national polls were correct. Which is why tomorrow I’ll look at the 2016 state-level polls.
I’m sick and tired of Covid-19 and I’m just as sick and tired of Donald Trump. Unfortunately, to bring the former problem under control, we really need to get rid of Trump. The good news on that score, fortunately, is that the latter problem seems to be in the process of being handled by Trump himself. For all the talk about a new campaign direction, a big advertising blitz and of course the huge turnout at the rally at his Bedminster club, the bottom line is that the poll numbers have remained remarkably steady over the last week.
First the aggregate number. On July 22nd, Joe dropped down underneath 50% for the first time since June 12th. He just went back over 50% again and his lead is back to 8.3 – 50.1% versus 41.9%. Trump hasn’t been above 43% since the beginning of June, Biden has been at 48% or above since the beginning of March.
One more point about the aggregate national poll, if only because every time I think about the polls in 2016 I get spooked. On August 7, 2016 Hillary had a 7.5-point lead over Trump. This date also happened to be when the Democratic National Convention wrapped up. The next day she started to slip and by August 10th her lead had dwindled to less than 6 points. On April 12, Joe had a 3.4-point lead which was at 6 points on May 1st and has never been less than 7.5 points since that day.
Now let’s look at the crucial swing-state races, where at the moment Joe has 207 electoral votes locked up from the Communist states. Here’s how the current poll numbers from the 12 states whose voters will decide what happens on November 3rd:
Note that Joe has reached or is about to reach the coveted 50% mark in 5 of the 12 in-play states. Note that he is also tied or leading in 9 of those states. In order to get from the 207 Communist EV’s to the 270 that gets him over the top, Joe only needs Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and one other state. Even New Hampshire with its 4 measly EV’s gets him where he wants to go.
On the other hand, our wartime leader can only count right now on 128 EV’s from the red, or what Al Franken used to call, the ‘dumb’ states. So to continue his effort to make American great again, or be a wartime leader, or whatever this made-for-video clown pretends to be, he has to find 142 out of the 189 EV’s that appear to be up for grabs. Right now, he has 1-point leads in Texas, Georgia, and Iowa, which totals 60 EV’s. Trump with a 1-point lead in Texas?
Here’s the latest attempt by the Trump campaign to throw a life preserver into the water before their candidate sinks out of sight: “three months is a lifetime in politics, the presidency is a powerful platform and Biden will eventually have to face the spotlight of scrutiny.” This is from Howard Kurtz, who used to write about media for the Washington Post, but now spiels for Fox. I love how he says that Biden will have to face scrutiny, as if Trump and his toadies haven’t said something every hour of every day about Joe’s dementia, Joe’s crooked son, Joe’s financial ties to the Chinese thugs, so forth and so on.
Meanwhile, none of those attacks have seemed to gain Trump-o any traction at all. But that doesn’t mean the election is over and done. Please don’t sit back and take yourself out of the game. Please stay involved.