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On Polls - Good Bad and Ugly From A Campaign Warrior - Part 1, What Real Pollsters Do
Self | 10/25/12 | Self

Posted on 10/25/2012 6:47:37 PM PDT by GOPFlack

Part I: Real Pollsters Who Work for Campaigns

As we enter the homestretch of this election and we all hang by every thread of polling data, I thought I would share some insights into polling data that I have gleaned from being involved in elections for the past 26 years. Some of this content has been provided by smart posters here, and by other folks like Jay Cost at the Weekly Standard. But some content might surprise you and hopefully allow you to discern between good polls and bad ones, when to be concerned, when to be skeptical and above all what some of the quality pollsters do to get as close to the truth as possible and where even they admit they make mistakes.

First, let me lay out the difference between pollsters who want the truth and those who want to drive news cycles for media clients. Most of the best Democrat and GOP pollsters are people you have scantly heard about because their clients are not news outlets, but are instead campaigns, party committees and outside groups who need to target their spending and messaging. None of these firms do media polls. Rarely will they release their results publicly unless it is to counter a series of poorly done media polls at the client’s request. They are paid to be accurate and to tell the truth. Being on MSNBC or Fox is not how they make their living. It is no coincidence that most of these guys, Democrat or Republican generally come back with almost identical numbers when they go in the field at the same time. Why do you think the two POTUS campaigns schedule their stops in the same state? Both campaigns have roughly the same numbers on a nightly basis. Lying to your client could cost said pollster work down the road, especially if the sunshine pumping causes decisions that lead to a loss. An old pollster friend has told me many times in races – they (the Dems) see the same thing we do.

Private C&E pollsters have a few things in common that they believe in – no robo calls, live interviews only, a tight likely voter screen and crosstab questions to figure out where you are doing well or poorly, test messages, or to see where you have work to do. Certain pollsters that are also very familiar with certain states or regions have some things they will and won’t do in order to avoid quirks in particular areas they have picked up through years of experience. In addition, they prefer to use their own interviewers or a subcontractor with very good training for their interviewers – usually someone they have worked for years. You would be surprised how a poorly trained interviewer can get a bad batch of results in a hurry. Simply reading a screen as you enter data points is not foolproof if the interviewer is a flat out stupid, poorly trained or incompetent.

For example, I live in Virginia. Tuesday night a pollster called me on my landline. I didn’t immediately pick up on the name of the firm so I decided to answer to see if was in fact some sort of push poll. After the first two questions, I could tell it was a poll run by a campaign. Then, based on the lack of message testing, I could tell it was a tracking poll two questions later. They even threw Virgil Goode in there on the unaided ballot just to be on the safe side. At the end of the call, the interviewer disclosed that under Virginia law she was required to tell me that the poll was conducted by Romney for President. It was Romney’s Virginia track and it randomly pulled my number. I didn’t contaminate the sample, and they know this because I was required to answer who I voted for in the last election among other items. In the crosstabs, I will show up as a committed Republican, certain voter data point of which they will pull many when they do the breakdowns - just as Obama’s will find the same in his tracking. And both tracks will see some Democrats show up in the same manner. They expect it because it is a reality.

The interviewer was clearly well trained and was very clear spoken and professional. Contrast that interview with an interest group who called me with a poll a couple of weeks ago and the interviewer could barely speak English and had no clue what she was doing. Does anyone think that interviewer or pollster got much of any accurate data back? I’m highly doubtful.

A few other notes on private C&E pollsters – even before they track, or go in the field weekly in big races, they live by certain rules. One is never do a one night sample. The potential for contamination or a quirky result can be caused by any number of factors. Live interviews automatically reduce the sample size and simple higher standard deviation could skew your results. Most insist on two days if they aren’t tracking. Not only does it smooth out and reduce deviation, but it also can smooth out the case of a group fixated on a big sporting event, for example, that might actually tilt away or toward your candidate. That sounds silly, but you would be shocked at how little it takes to blow up a poll by 3 to 5 points in a hurry.

For example, a veteran GOP pollster told me once that he never polls the South or certain Midwestern states on Wednesday. The reason is because prayer groups and or Wednesday congregation will automatically cause an under sampling of his client’s core supporters. While that may not matter in California, it does matter in many states – including, by the way, Virginia from Fredericksburg South. To further make that point, Scott Rasmussen, who I have great respect for and I think does a great job given the technology he deploys (and I will discuss him in detail in the next section), often misses on state polls when he does a big batch on a single night in one state. I don’t know how many nightly calls he is making in Virginia on his normal swing state track. But obviously he took an extra heavy batch in Virginia on Wednesday for the results he released Thursday. He showed Romney up two among likely voters. Truth is he most likely under sampled Romney’s support by a couple because of the Southern Wednesday night anomaly. Romney has overwhelming rural and non - core DC metro support in areas where many churchgoers still meet on Wednesday night. Sample size can compensate here but not totally.

In addition, professional campaign pollsters do not, ever, reweight their results to anticipate some magical party ID change. They want to know who is voting, for whom they are voting, and why. That is why a poll done even in June will be at least a two night poll with a tight screen in order to reduce error and get a clear idea of what is really going on for the campaign. They don’t usually do registered voters unless to see if the base is motivated or demoralized and usually only very early in the campaign. If something moves in likely voter make up later they will ultimately pick it up quickly.

The takeaway – (other than beware of Wednesday samples in some states understating GOP support), this is how the guys who get paid for accuracy do it. Depending on your reaction, I will be happy to delve into Part II – bad media pollsters, hacks, and the good and bad on robo polling - including why Rasmussen is the only one of those you should pay any attention to.

Thanks for your indulgence. Hope this helps.


TOPICS: FReeper Editorial; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; Your Opinion/Questions
KEYWORDS: election; internalpolls; internals; poll2012; polling; pollingscience; polls; polls2012; vanity
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1 posted on 10/25/2012 6:47:37 PM PDT by GOPFlack
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To: GOPFlack

Can you ping me when you come out with Part II?


2 posted on 10/25/2012 6:53:59 PM PDT by Hero
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To: GOPFlack

A rare and insightful post. Thank you for posting this.


3 posted on 10/25/2012 6:55:06 PM PDT by TheRhinelander
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To: GOPFlack

Great info. I have been wanting to hear what really goes on behind the scenes in the real polling world. Thank you


4 posted on 10/25/2012 6:57:28 PM PDT by gswilder
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To: Hero

Will do. Ping on.


5 posted on 10/25/2012 6:57:30 PM PDT by GOPFlack
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To: GOPFlack
Depending on your reaction, I will be happy to delve into Part II

Excellent stuff. You damn well better delve into part II, you can't end with a tease. Lol.

6 posted on 10/25/2012 7:03:36 PM PDT by fhayek
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To: GOPFlack

Great insight, please ping me also for part two.


7 posted on 10/25/2012 7:05:18 PM PDT by crosslink (Moderates should play in the middle of a busy street)
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To: GOPFlack

Thanks for the post. More to think about.


8 posted on 10/25/2012 7:05:56 PM PDT by Red Steel
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To: GOPFlack

Great info. Waiting for part 2.

Thanks.


9 posted on 10/25/2012 7:06:38 PM PDT by gunnut
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To: GOPFlack

nice thanks! I would love to hear your thoughts on the miniscule rate of response to telephone polls.


10 posted on 10/25/2012 7:08:53 PM PDT by jjw
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To: GOPFlack

I, too look forward to Part II.


11 posted on 10/25/2012 7:09:01 PM PDT by Sans-Culotte ( Pray for Obama- Psalm 109:8)
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To: GOPFlack
Great info. I have always wanted to know more about how real polling works. Looking forward to Part 2.

Thank you.
12 posted on 10/25/2012 7:10:47 PM PDT by Dan in Wichita
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To: GOPFlack

Thanks. Ping me too.


13 posted on 10/25/2012 7:13:04 PM PDT by ironman
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To: jjw

Will be covered later. thanks


14 posted on 10/25/2012 7:13:12 PM PDT by GOPFlack
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To: GOPFlack

likewise please


15 posted on 10/25/2012 7:13:17 PM PDT by gotribe (He's a mack-daddy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AV415yit7Zg)
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To: GOPFlack

Thanks. Ping me too.


16 posted on 10/25/2012 7:14:52 PM PDT by ironman
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To: GOPFlack
Certain pollsters that are also very familiar with certain states or regions have some things they will and won’t do in order to avoid quirks in particular areas they have picked up through years of experience.

In this regard it should be noted that Neil Newhouse, Romney's pollster, has a massive amount of experience polling in OH going back at least 20 years.
17 posted on 10/25/2012 7:15:32 PM PDT by tanknetter
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To: GOPFlack

Great stuff, please keep me on the ping list for part II.


18 posted on 10/25/2012 7:16:29 PM PDT by Deo et Patria
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To: GOPFlack

I look forward to Part II...


19 posted on 10/25/2012 7:16:41 PM PDT by 103198
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To: gotribe

In for part 2! This is very interesting, thank you for posting it.


20 posted on 10/25/2012 7:17:49 PM PDT by LizardQueen (The world is not out to get you, except in the sense that the world is out to get everyone.)
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To: GOPFlack

Please add me as well, thank you


21 posted on 10/25/2012 7:20:57 PM PDT by Enigo54 (Hank Reardon was right)
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To: GOPFlack

Very very interesting. {lease ping me for part 2 thxs


22 posted on 10/25/2012 7:25:41 PM PDT by bubman
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To: Hero

Ping me for Part II, great stuff!


23 posted on 10/25/2012 7:27:22 PM PDT by bcatwilly (West Virginia is Romney/Ryan Country!)
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To: GOPFlack

Excellent analysis. I would really like to see part 2 when it becomes available.


24 posted on 10/25/2012 7:29:53 PM PDT by Bridesheadfan
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To: GOPFlack

Sorry, haven’t posted in a long time, meant to reply for ping from GOPFlack :)


25 posted on 10/25/2012 7:31:01 PM PDT by bcatwilly (West Virginia is Romney/Ryan Country!)
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To: GOPFlack
Fascinating.

Please ping me for part ll. Thanks

26 posted on 10/25/2012 7:31:29 PM PDT by CaptainK (...please make it stop. Shake a can of pennies at it.)
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To: GOPFlack

I would love to hear Part II.


27 posted on 10/25/2012 7:33:20 PM PDT by MWestMom ("And those that cried appease, appease were hung by those they tried to please" - Horace Mann)
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To: GOPFlack

Thank you for this information. It is very interesting.

Looking forward to part II


28 posted on 10/25/2012 7:33:50 PM PDT by BlessingsofLiberty (Remember Brian Terry...)
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To: GOPFlack

It’s so good to see this information. Really tells us what is going on. Would love to see part II:)


29 posted on 10/25/2012 7:41:10 PM PDT by Beowulf9
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To: GOPFlack

Thanks for this. Please ping me when you do part 2 etc.


30 posted on 10/25/2012 7:54:17 PM PDT by Thane_Banquo (Support hate crime laws: Because some victims are more equal than others.)
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To: GOPFlack

Add me to your ping list - and Thanks!


31 posted on 10/25/2012 8:02:25 PM PDT by Ron C.
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To: GOPFlack

Very interesting! Thanks. Looking forward to the next section.


32 posted on 10/25/2012 8:03:56 PM PDT by America_Right (I am no longer the 53%. Unemployment sucks! Time to write a book...)
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To: GOPFlack

If you have a ping list please add me for Part 2

Thanks, Irish


33 posted on 10/25/2012 8:09:35 PM PDT by Irish Eyes
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To: GOPFlack

But who even answers these calls?


34 posted on 10/25/2012 8:11:16 PM PDT by HereInTheHeartland (Encourage all of your Democrat friends to get out and vote on November 7th, the stakes are high.)
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To: HereInTheHeartland

Good question. I will do my best to answer how, as Iowahawk always calls “9% response rate” at the end when I discuss modern polling problems.


35 posted on 10/25/2012 8:21:24 PM PDT by GOPFlack
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To: GOPFlack

Please ping me too regarding Part II.

BTW, I have often suspected many of the things that you said, namely that internal, private campaign pollsters would have to be looking for the actual truth and therefore would be going about things entirely differently than the publicly published pollsters, who for the most part look to me like they are paid to try to influence an election rather than actually predict it. Basically, it seems to me that the private polls are analogous to astronomy and the public polls are analogous to astrology: the former is an a scientific attempt at explaining the universe and the latter is for consumption of the weak-minded, or in the best case, for entertainment purposes only.


36 posted on 10/25/2012 8:36:15 PM PDT by catnipman (Cat Nipman: Vote Republican in 2012 and only be called racist one more time!)
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To: GOPFlack

Great work and thank you! Can’t wait for Part 2!


37 posted on 10/25/2012 8:41:54 PM PDT by Tuxedo (Nate Silver is Obama's Love Monkey)
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To: HereInTheHeartland

I do now, at least sometimes. I always lie.


38 posted on 10/25/2012 8:46:18 PM PDT by wrencher
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To: catnipman

I love the info about Wednesday night polls. So logical. Please ping me for Part 2


39 posted on 10/25/2012 8:55:40 PM PDT by Adventure gal
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To: GOPFlack

Ping Please.

The more we know, the more effective we can be.

Educating this forum is an investment in the future. Thanks.

What is your estimate of the election result? I am guessing Romney @ 53%.

Obama Must Be Defeated!


40 posted on 10/25/2012 9:10:04 PM PDT by BeauBo
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To: GOPFlack

Please ping me to subsequent parts.

Thank you.


41 posted on 10/25/2012 9:55:19 PM PDT by RobinOfKingston (The instinct toward liberalism is located in the part of the brain called the rectal lobe.)
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To: GOPFlack

What published polls do you think are worth paying attention to?


42 posted on 10/25/2012 10:40:52 PM PDT by TomEwall
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To: GOPFlack; SeekAndFind; LS; Perdogg; napscoordinator; God luvs America; nutmeg; SoFloFreeper; ...

Poll ping. Interesting read.


43 posted on 10/25/2012 10:44:34 PM PDT by Jet Jaguar (The pundits have forgotten the 2010 elections.)
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To: GOPFlack

Please add me to the Part II list.


44 posted on 10/25/2012 10:46:33 PM PDT by Jet Jaguar (The pundits have forgotten the 2010 elections.)
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To: GOPFlack

Great analysis! Would love a ping for part 2 :-)


45 posted on 10/25/2012 11:43:21 PM PDT by VRWCer ( They will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. - ML King)
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To: GOPFlack

Great analysis! Would love a ping for part 2 :-)


46 posted on 10/25/2012 11:43:41 PM PDT by VRWCer ( They will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. - ML King)
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To: GOPFlack

Good information, thank you. I look forward to reading part II.


47 posted on 10/25/2012 11:56:50 PM PDT by 1035rep (Obama: "I killed Bin Laden" ...you didn't do that. Somebody else made that happen.)
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To: GOPFlack

Thanks a lot, and I’d love to read further installments. This is really appreciated and helpful.

I just had a trusting neophyte friend, who sincerely, but inaccurately, believes I’m knowledgeable about all things political ask me about whether she should be worried about the current polling numbers for Romney; does he have a real chance. I was able to give her a bit about over/under sampling, the trending vs spot numbers, comparisons to previous races, and so forth; but there’s too much I don’t know myself.


48 posted on 10/26/2012 2:44:46 AM PDT by ApplegateRanch (Love me, love my guns!©)
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To: GOPFlack
"Private C&E pollsters have a few things in common that they believe in – no robo calls, live interviews only,..."

Rasmussen uses robo calls and his results are consistently at the top. In fact he was the most accurate in 2008 and I believe in 2004 as well.

49 posted on 10/26/2012 2:44:59 AM PDT by Lacey2
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To: GOPFlack

Please ping me when you do part II. It helped me tremendously.


50 posted on 10/26/2012 2:47:45 AM PDT by carton253
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