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Polling Fiascos

  1. Jan 8, 2008 #1

    russ_watters

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    I know some people still think the 2004 election was stolen, but have people been paying attention to the laughably silly polling going on in the current presidential election? It seems like the media has learned nothing since the 2000 election night debacle where they flipped back and forth between Bush and Gore.

    A few days ago, Obama was reported to have a thirteen! percentage point lead over Clinton, and Clinton appears to have won by 4%, a swing of 17%. When they are that far off, it shows how utterly useless such polling is. Even the exit polls showed Obama with a small lead.

    It makes for an interesting race when things are so chaotic, but I hope people keep the poll results in proper perspective.

    http://blogs.usatoday.com/onpolitics/2008/01/the-dems-surpri.html
     
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  3. Jan 9, 2008 #2

    Gokul43201

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    You had to pick the poll that gave Obama the biggest lead, didn't you? If you average over the 7 major polls that were conducted on the 5th and 6th, they gave Obama an 8% lead over Clinton (38% to Clinton's 30%).

    Source: realclearpolitics.com

    With 96% of precincts reporting, Clinton has a 2% lead over Obama (39% to Obama's 37%).

    I see now that exit polls actually had been pretty accurate.

    From CNN exit polls: Clinton 38.7%, Obama 36.6%, Edwards 16.7%
    Latest count (96% done): Clinton 39%, Obama 37%, Edwards 17%

    The exit polls were dead on!

    http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/primaries/results/epolls/index.html#NHDEM

    So the exit polls were extremely accurate, but the pre-election polling was off by about 10%, which is quite terrible. My guess for what caused the difference: more women turned up to vote for Clinton than expected, and more independents voted in the Republican primary, for McCain (pre-election polling had McCain with 32%, but he's won 37%).
     
  4. Jan 9, 2008 #3

    Ivan Seeking

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    It seems that many people made up their minds today. This may have played a roll in the pre-election polling error.

    Yes, the derivation showing that a Bush victory was a statistical impossibility was based on exit polls.
     
  5. Jan 9, 2008 #4

    Gokul43201

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    I doubt this made any real difference. From the exit poll data, it appears that about 39% of those that made up their minds today picked Clinton, and that's no different from those that had made up their minds earlier.
     
  6. Jan 10, 2008 #5

    russ_watters

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    Sorry, I'm a USA Today reader and USA Today/Gallup's poll was one of two that had Obama winning by 13%.
    Exit polls reported during the day are not corrected for the demographic shifts (because they don't know what they are yet), but the final exit polls are. That's how the exit polls during the day can be inaccurate but the final exit poll is accurate. The exit polls reported during the day did not agree with the results. This was one of the accusations made about the 2004 election, that the exit polls were "fixed". In reality, that's standard procedure because the exit polls aren't really meant to predict the winner (yet they still use them that way), but only to discuss who voted for who and why. It's also the main reason why the 2000 election was called prematurely for Gore.
    Here's some post-mortem:
    http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/2008-01-09-polls_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2008
  7. Jan 10, 2008 #6

    russ_watters

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    The pollsters themselves disagree (and I don't just mean what they say, the VNS itself was disbanded for that failure) - the non-expert who wrote that analysis misused the data, but in any case the point of this thread isn't to dig up the past. Here's some info written prior to the New Hampshire primary:
    http://www.pollster.com/blogs/looking_for_new_hampshire_exit.php

    I actually was in school in 1999 and took a class called "Public Opinion and Propaganda", taught by a fairly prominent public opinion polling expert (he didn't earn his living teaching). He warned us then that the pre-election polls at primary time were pretty much useless, even right up to the days before the election. The landscape is just too chaotic for them to be stable. And those polls taken in theh spring and summer, a year and a half before the election - they're good only for a laugh at how seriously the media takes them.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2008
  8. Jan 10, 2008 #7
  9. Jan 10, 2008 #8

    Gokul43201

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    Okay, that explains it. I could've sworn that I'd previously seen the CNN exit poll say that Obama was up by 1% (I said as much in the other thread and had to delete it later when I saw the numbers again).
     
  10. Jan 10, 2008 #9

    russ_watters

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    Yeah - the link in the OP is to an election night blog that says exactly that.
     
  11. Jan 15, 2008 #10

    ShawnD

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    From falc39's link, I'm surprised how well Ron Paul did. He was polling within the margin of error for quite a while, but he beat Giuliani in NH.stat. :biggrin:

    Is there a reason US primaries are all done on different dates for different states? Doesn't that sort of eliminate a significant chunk of democracy when you're allowed to see how the votes are going before you vote? It looks like <democrat> is going to win in that party, so I will vote for <republican> because of <reason>.
     
  12. Jan 15, 2008 #11

    Evo

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    The NH finals were Giuliani 8.5% & Paul at 7.7%
     
  13. Jan 15, 2008 #12

    ShawnD

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    Votes counted by hand:
    Paul - 3,431
    Giuliani - 3,038
     
  14. Jan 15, 2008 #13

    Evo

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    That's not representative of the entire state and are meaningless, or are you be facetious?

    Candidate Vote % Delegates
    John McCain 88,466 37.1% 7
    Mitt Romney 75,343 31.6 4
    Mike Huckabee 26,768 11.2 1
    Rudolph W. Giuliani 20,395 8.5 0
    Ron Paul 18,303 7.7 0
    Others 5,099 2.1 0
    Fred D. Thompson 2,886 1.2 0
    Duncan Hunter 1,220 0.5 0
    Tom Tancredo 68 0.0 0
     
  15. Jan 15, 2008 #14

    ShawnD

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    The whole reason for doing a hand count is that it's decided the machines themselves cannot be trusted. This is like when your doctor tells you something is wrong and you ask for a second opinion; you don't ask that same doctor to give you his opinion the second time as well.
     
  16. Jan 15, 2008 #15

    Gokul43201

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    Don't believe that's the case here. Some small fraction of the polling locations did not use the voting machines. Votes would be hand counted only at those specific places. The majority of the votes cast were indeed machine counted.
     
  17. Jan 15, 2008 #16

    Evo

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    Those aren't recounts, they are places where the tallying was done by hand, it's not a representation of the state wide voting.

    There is going to be a recount, I doubt much will change. Either way Paul is dead as far as the Presidential race goes.
     
  18. Jan 16, 2008 #17

    russ_watters

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    Yes, I agree that that's a flaw in the primary system. It's a big part of the reason for the issue in this thread: momentum affects the outcomes of future primaries.

    However, you can't vote for either party in most primaries, just one. And few people will actually switch their registration to vote in the other party's primary (though it does happen occasionally).
     
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