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Are political polls accurate? CA recall study of 20 polls says...NEVER TRUST POLLS AGAIN!
RealClearPolitics.com & original material ^ | 10/21/03 | Wolfstar

Posted on 10/21/2003 12:23:07 AM PDT by Wolfstar

Ah, the omnipresent poll. The media punditocracy is addicted to using polls to tell us what "the American people feel" (never think) about everything from a president's so-called approval rating, to how a candidate's chances stack up against others in a race, to our "feelings" about various policy and social issues. Although the public has absolutely no way to evaluate the vast majority of polls for accuracy, most of us simply accept them as incontrovertible indicators of truth. Why? The answer probably is because we're told that polls are "scientific" since they use statistical-type analysis, and most of us tend to equate science with a search for objective truth.

Despite the scientific patina of a Margin of Error, how does one incontrovertibly prove a poll to be accurate? For nearly all polls, the answer is that it can't be done. In the political realm, only polls taken closest to an election can be compared for accuracy to the actual results of real voters expressing their real attitudes at the ballot box.

Nevertheless, the public is conditioned not to look too closely at the accuracy of polls. We're told polls are "just a snapshot in time." So we learn to shrug when there are big swings in, say, a president's "approval ratings" from one month to the next even though nothing particularly new happened during that time. Despite the fact that only a handful of polls close to elections can be verified against objective results of real votes, polls affect our society in several ways. The worst is that many politicians, hanging on their every nuance, too often make crucial policy decisions based on polls wielded like clubs by the media and special-interest groups.

So what's the truth about polls? Few in the public have the time or resources to do an in-depth study in an attempt to answer that question, while those who butter their bread on the back of polls have no incentive to do so. Ah, but fate stepped in this year in the form of the California Recall and provided an excellent opportunity to do a case study of multiple polls taken in a highly compressed period of time. Since all poll results in this study were obtained relatively close to Election Day, a comparison to actual election results is not only easier, but also more instructive than, say, an apples-to-oranges comparison of a year's worth of "approval ratings" to an election outcome.

This study encompasses 20 polls taken by nine polling organizations between Aug. 7 and Oct. 5, 2003. It looks at the five most-watched poll questions — those which purported to measure the percent of vote for:

Because there are 20 polls and five questions, this study encompasses 100 individual results. When analyzed by several criteria, such as poll date and accuracy for each of the five questions, an eye-popping picture of polling precision — or lack thereof — comes into sharp focus. Note that "accurate" in this study means: (1) a poll result within that poll's MOE, and (2) as compared to the actual election results. "Inaccurate" or "wrong" means a poll result outside that poll's MOE as compared to the actuals.

Q: Are political polls accurate?
A: Based on this study, the answer is: While some results for some questions in a multi-query poll may be accurate, most polls, when taken in their entirety, are not. Here's why: Of the 100 individual question results, more than half (57) were wrong (outside their MOE's), as compared to the actual election results.

However, the stunning fact is that only 1 poll in 20 gave accurate results across-the-board for all five questions. This was the last poll taken by Survey USA from Oct. 3-5. Only 4 of 20 got both the Yes and No on recall questions right, while only that last Survey USA poll gave accurate Candidate results. In other words:

Looking at accuracy another way, of the 100 individual question results, less than half (43) were right within their poll MOE's. Most (67) under-estimated the actual election results, and only seven poll questions called that election result precisely.

Q: Does averaging several polls over a period of time give a more accurate picture?
A: Some pollsters, reporters and others who rely on them believe either a tracking poll, or an average of several polls taken over a period of time, are the best methods of obtaining an accurate picture of public attitudes. Due to the compressed two-month recall campaign, all 20 polls, taken together, constitute a form of tracking poll. Yet, as already noted, their often wildly inaccurate results only contributed to a false week-to-week perception of the race. So would averaging the results of all 20 polls give a more accurate picture? The answer based on this study is a qualified yes. Here's why. First, all 20 MOE's were averaged to establish a baseline, which works out to ±3.6%.

Q: Is the Margin of Error (MOE) really useful in assessing a poll's accuracy?
A: Based on this study, the answer is a resounding NO! The smallest MOE given was ±2%; the largest ±5.6%. Interestingly, ±2% was for one of the earliest, most inaccurate polls, while ±5.6% was for the last and most accurate.

Q: Do polls become more accurate closer to an election?
A: The broad answer is a qualified yes — qualified because, in this study, the polls were inconsistent on this question. Results for some questions in early polls were quite accurate, while some late poll results were very inaccurate. However, the trend was to become more accurate closer to the election.

As already noted, the last poll was the only one that got all five questions right within its MOE. The following table shows the total poll questions that the first/last seven polls got right within each poll's MOE. An accuracy of 100% in this instance would be 35 questions right (7 polls x 5 questions). Note that just under twice as many question results were right in late polls than in early ones. Nevertheless, even the late polls (last two weeks) got less than half (49%) of the questions right.

First 7 polls (8/8 to 9/8)
x
Last 7 polls (9/24 to 10/5)

Question

# Poll Questions
Within MOE

x

Question

# Poll Questions
Within MOE

YES

2

x

YES

5

NO

1

x

NO

2

AS

0

x

AS

1

CB

1

x

CB

4

TC

5

x

TC

5

TOTAL

9 (26%)

x

TOTAL

17 (49%)

Q: Are political polls biased?
A: If any given poll is biased, the hard question to answer is whether or not it is due to ideology or methodology. Every expert on polling says that variables such as the way a question is worded; who the respondents are; the order of questions; even what time of day/week a poll is taken can create a bias. (Many polling organizations do not make their methodology public.) As the following demonstrates, an argument can be made either way for these California recall polls:

So are political polls biased? Whatever the answer, the staggeringly inaccurate polling for Schwarzenegger — and moderately inaccurate results for Bustamante — as compared to the surprisingly accurate, even slightly inflated results for McClintock certainly should raise a lot of eyebrows. Of the five poll questions in this study, results for Arnold Schwarzenegger were by far the most inaccurate, while those for Tom McClintock were the most accurate. Was there really a mid-to-late September surge for McClintock? Or, as many suspected, were the polling organizations trying to inflate impressions of his strength as compared to that for Schwarzenegger? And did the polls underestimate Bustamante's vote strength in order to boost Gray Davis? One would be tempted to say "yes" to these questions were it not for the fact that 90% of the polls also underestimated the No on recall vote.

Q: Which polling organization was the most accurate?
A: The following table speaks for itself, although the reader is encouraged to take particular note of the poor performance of two big national polls, Time/CNN and Gallup.

Polling Organization

# of Polls
Taken

Total # of Results
(# Polls x 5 Ques.)

# of Correct
Results

Percent
Correct

Knight Ridder

1

5

3

60%

Los Angeles Times

3

15

9

60%

Survey USA

5

25

13

52%

CA Chbr of Commerce

2

10

5

50%

Field Poll

3

15

7

47%

Time/CNN

1

5

2

40%

Public Policy Institute

2

10

3

30%

Gallup

2

10

1

10%

Stanford U.

1

5

0

0%

Q: What conclusions can be drawn from this study?
A: Even the most accurate polls in this study were wrong 40% of the time overall (based on above accuracy table). The accuracy of each of their internals was worse. So, when the national media tout polls from Gallup, Time/CNN, Newsweek, Zogby, and such about what "the American people feel" regarding something insubstantial like "presidential approval;" or whether or not they want to re-elect the president; or which issues are most important to them; or how a person who's name is all but unknown nationally suddenly becomes "the frontrunner" for a party's nomination, it's wise to keep three things in mind:

  1. There is no objective way to verify the accuracy of most polls.

  2. It is part of human nature to want to predict (thus control) the future. However, this study demonstrates unequivocally that, whether or not it's due to political bias or flawed methodology, polls often drastically misinform the public.

  3. Only 1 in 20 polls in this study got all five questions right. In other words, 95% polls were wrong on one or more of their questions. So when a pollster uses the technique of summing one individual internal question result to another in order to claim something about public opinion, all the pollster may be doing in reality is compounding errors. For example, when Zogby adds answers for, say, "fair" and "poor" together, if either the result for "fair," or the one for "poor," or both are wrong, all he is doing is compounding errors and giving false information to the media and public.

Notes for Tables of Results:

  1. The 20 polls and their MOE's were obtained through RealPolitics.com, and Google searches for those where the RealPolitics.com links no longer worked.
  2. Results are as of Oct. 20 with 100% of precincts reporting.
  3. Over/Under = number of points over (+n) or under (-n) the actual election result.

YES/NO Table Of Results:

Final Results

 

55%

 

 

45%

 

 

 

Poll

Date

YES

+Over
-Under

Within MOE

NO

+Over
-Under

Within MOE

MOE

Survey USA

Oct. 3–5

57%

+2

Y

43%

-2

Y

±5.6%

Knight Ridder

Oct. 1–4

54%

-1

Y

41%

-4

N

±3%

Field Poll

Sep. 29–Oct. 1

57%

+2

Y

39%

-6

N

±4.8%

Survey USA

Sep. 28–30

61%

+6

N

39%

-6

N

±3.7%

Los Angeles Times

Sep. 25–29

56%

+1

Y

42%

-3

Y

±3%

Gallup

Sep. 25–27

63%

+8

N

35%

-10

N

±3%

CA Chbr of Commerce

Sep. 24–25

53%

-2

Y

41%

-4

N

±3.5%

Survey USA

Sep. 19–22

57%

+2

Y

42%

-3

Y

±3.5%

Public Policy Institute

Sep. 8–17

53%

-2

Y

42%

-3

Y

±3%

Los Angeles Times

Sep. 6–10

50%

-5

N

47%

+2

Y

±3%

Survey USA

Sep. 6–8

62%

+7

N

37%

-8

N

±3.7%

Field Poll

Sep. 4–7

55%

exact

Y

40%

-5

N

±4.5%

CA Chbr of Commerce

Sep. 1–4

52%

-3

Y

41%

-4

N

±3.1%

Stanford U.

Aug. 29–Sep.8

62%

+7

N

38%

-7

N

±3.4%

Survey USA

Aug. 23–25

64%

+9

N

35%

-10

N

±3.7%

Los Angeles Times

Aug. 16–21

50%

-5

N

45%

exact

Y

±3%

Field Poll

Aug. 10–13

58%

+3

Y

37%

-8

N

±5%

Public Policy Institute

Aug. 8–17

58%

+3

N

36%

-9

N

±2%

Time/CNN

Aug. 8

54%

-1

Y

35%

-10

N

±4.3%

Gallup

Aug. 7–10

69%

+14

N

26%

-19

N

±4%

Average of 20 polls

 

57%

+2

Y

39%

-6

N

3.6%

# Results within MOE

 

 

 

11

 

 

6

 

# Results outside MOE

 

 

 

9

 

 

14

 

# Same as actual

 

 

1

 

 

1

 

 

# Over actual

 

 

12

 

 

1

 

 

# Under actual

 

 

7

 

 

18

 

 

CANDIDATE Table Of Results:

Final Results

 

49%

 

 

32%

 

 

13%

 

 

 

Poll

Date

Arnold S.

AS +Over
-Under

Within MOE

Bustamante

CB +Over
-Under

Within MOE

McClintock

TM +Over
-Under

Within MOE

MOE

Survey USA

Oct. 3–5

46%

-3

Y

34%

+2

Y

13%

exact

Y

±5.6%

Knight Ridder

Oct. 1–4

37%

-12

N

29%

-3

Y

15%

+2

Y

±3%

Field Poll

Sep. 29–Oct. 1

36%

-13

N

26%

-6

N

16%

+3

Y

±4.8%

Survey USA

Sep. 28–30

45%

-4

N

28%

-4

N

16%

+3

Y

±3.7%

Los Angeles Times

Sep. 25–29

40%

-9

N

32%

exact

Y

15%

+2

Y

±3%

Gallup

Sep. 25–27

40%

-9

N

25%

-7

N

18%

+5

N

±3%

CA Chbr of Commerce

Sep. 24–25

35%

-14

N

31%

-1

Y

17%

+4

N

±3.5%

Survey USA

Sep. 19–22

39%

-10

N

32%

exact

Y

18%

+5

N

±3.5%

Public Policy Institute

Sep. 8–17

26%

-23

N

28%

-4

N

14%

+1

Y

±3%

Los Angeles Times

Sep. 6–10

25%

-24

N

30%

-2

Y

18%

+5

N

±3%

Survey USA

Sep. 6–8

39%

-10

N

29%

-3

Y

16%

+3

Y

±3.7%

Field Poll

Sep. 4–7

25%

-24

N

30%

-2

Y

13%

exact

Y

±4.5%

CA Chbr of Commerce

Sep. 1–4

28%

-21

N

33%

+1

Y

12%

-1

Y

±3.1%

Stanford U.

Aug. 29–Sep. 8

40%

-9

N

28%

-4

N

8%

-5

N

±3.4%

Survey USA

Aug. 23–25

45%

-4

N

29%

-3

Y

11%

-2

Y

±3.7%

Los Angeles Times

Aug. 16–21

22%

-27

N

35%

+3

Y

12%

-1

Y

±3%

Field Poll

Aug. 10–13

22%

-27

N

25%

-7

N

9%

-4

Y

±5%

Public Policy Institute

Aug. 8–17

23%

-26

N

18%

-14

N

5%

-8

N

±2%

Time/CNN

Aug. 8

25%

-24

N

15%

-17

N

9%

-4

Y

±4.3%

Gallup

Aug. 7–10

42%

-7

N

22%

-10

N

13%

exact

Y

±4%

Average of 20 polls

 

34%

-15

N

28%

-4

N

13%

exact

Y

3.6%

# Results within MOE

 

 

 

1

 

 

11

 

 

14

 

# Results outside MOE

 

 

 

19

 

 

9

 

 

6

 

# Same as actual

 

 

0

 

 

2

 

 

3

 

 

# Over actual

 

 

0

 

 

3

 

 

10

 

 

# Under actual

 

 

20

 

 

15

 

 

7

 

 



TOPICS: Front Page News; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; US: California
KEYWORDS: california; catrans; poll; polls; recall; recallanalysis; study
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This study is original material created for the information and use of FreeRepublic.com readers and active participants. Please feel free to share the information with others.
1 posted on 10/21/2003 12:23:07 AM PDT by Wolfstar
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To: PhiKapMom
Pinging as promised.
2 posted on 10/21/2003 12:23:44 AM PDT by Wolfstar (NO SECURITY = NO ECONOMY)
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To: DrDeb
Ping, as discussed.
3 posted on 10/21/2003 12:25:40 AM PDT by Wolfstar (NO SECURITY = NO ECONOMY)
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To: KQQL
ping
4 posted on 10/21/2003 12:26:07 AM PDT by ambrose
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To: Sabertooth; ambrose
Pinging you because of your strong interest in the recall.
5 posted on 10/21/2003 12:26:46 AM PDT by Wolfstar (NO SECURITY = NO ECONOMY)
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To: Wolfstar; GOPJ; Pharmboy; reformed_democrat; RatherBiased.com; nopardons; Tamsey; Miss Marple; ...
Media Shenanigans / Schadenfreude ping
6 posted on 10/21/2003 12:28:45 AM PDT by Timesink
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To: Wolfstar
One question: People's opinions on things do change over time. Am I misinterpreting that you are, to some extent, arguing that polls taken two months before the election are somehow less valid because they did not end up matching with the final election results?
7 posted on 10/21/2003 12:36:16 AM PDT by Timesink
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To: Wolfstar
What is/are your background/credentials, in terms of statistcs, etc?
8 posted on 10/21/2003 12:46:56 AM PDT by KayEyeDoubleDee (const tag& constTagPassedByReference)
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To: Timesink
Nope. Voter surveys conducted AFTER the election showed most voters made up their minds a month ago. How come NONE of the polls caught this? This is another area where they didn't see voter behavior coming.
9 posted on 10/21/2003 12:47:55 AM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: goldstategop
Nope. Voter surveys conducted AFTER the election showed most voters made up their minds a month ago. How come NONE of the polls caught this?

Not to defend the pollsters, but if they didn't get the pre-election surveys right, why would the get the post-election surveys right?

(Actually, I guess that's not exactly a defense of the pollsters' abilities at all, is it? Hee hee.)

I'm also a total believer in the average person's inability to remember how they felt on an issue one week in the past compared to today, much less a month ago or more. Lots of people rationalize outcomes in their own minds after the fact.

10 posted on 10/21/2003 1:03:46 AM PDT by Timesink
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To: Timesink
The study focuses on the accuracy of polls, not on their validity. My underlying premise is that the accuracy of most polls can't be proven. The value of this study is that these 20 polls were taken during a compressed period of time much closer to the election they were predicting than, say, polls that compare President Bush to a generic, unnamed Democrat more than a year out from the 2004 election. It's easier to evaluate these 20 polls for accuracy against the election as compared to presidential "approval ratings," for example. How can anyone prove their accuracy? Against what benchmark? Can't be done.

For a more in-depth answer to your query, look at the question: Do polls become more accurate closer to an election? The answer is that, in this study, they trended toward more accuracy closer to the election, but not strongly. Even at the end, only one poll got all five questions right within it's MOE.

11 posted on 10/21/2003 1:09:43 AM PDT by Wolfstar (NO SECURITY = NO ECONOMY)
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To: KayEyeDoubleDee
None. I am a consumer of news and information who wants some means to evaluate ephemeral things like polls. However, one does not need a background in statistics to do the simple math required for this study. Either a result was within its poll's MOE or it was not as compared to the actual election results. Not rocket science. In fact, not science at all, but plain old-fashioned athritmatic and observation.
12 posted on 10/21/2003 1:12:54 AM PDT by Wolfstar (NO SECURITY = NO ECONOMY)
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To: KayEyeDoubleDee
Ooops, that should be "arithmetic" not the misspelled "arithmatic." I've been up waaay too late trying to get this posted. Time to hit the sack.
13 posted on 10/21/2003 1:18:23 AM PDT by Wolfstar (NO SECURITY = NO ECONOMY)
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To: Wolfstar
What a magnificent post. Bookmarked with appreciation and gratitude. Thank you, Wolfstar.
14 posted on 10/21/2003 1:29:06 AM PDT by onyx
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To: FairOpinion; South40; EggsAckley; BibChr; My2Cents; Poohbah; Smogger; doodlelady; annyokie; ...
POSSE ping TO FABULOUS AND INFORMATIVE POST.
15 posted on 10/21/2003 1:35:08 AM PDT by onyx
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To: Wolfstar
Either a result was within its poll's MOE or it was not as compared to the actual election results

I'm not trying to be a critic here, and I totally appreciate your efforts. However, I am almost positive that, for example, a MOE of 5% means something like "there is a 90% chance that the actual results will lie within +/-5% of the poll results." Anyway, something to think about.

16 posted on 10/21/2003 1:40:03 AM PDT by KayEyeDoubleDee (const tag& constTagPassedByReference)
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To: Wolfstar
Wow, the LAT got 60%? I know 20% (the Schwarzenegger vote predictions) was always wrong, and many FReepers recognized that, but I didn't know their results on the other four questions were so (relatively) accurate.

If someone analyzed the actual error (instead of categorizing right/wrong), the LAT probably would not be in the top two, since their Schwarzenegger predictions were very far from the actual results.

Thanks for summarizing the results and sharing with us all!

17 posted on 10/21/2003 1:49:50 AM PDT by heleny
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To: KayEyeDoubleDee
a MOE of 5% means something like "there is a 90% chance that the actual results will lie within +/-5% of the poll results."

Some of the polls stated something like that, but the newspapers or TV news charts often simply say the MOE was 5%, and it's often left out entirely in oral TV/radio news.

Maybe they couldn't predict the dynamics of the actual voters this time, because voters were motivated in ways not typical of the usual elections. If they had realized this, the polls should have claimed an 80% or lower accuracy.

18 posted on 10/21/2003 1:55:29 AM PDT by heleny
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Some polls allowed for an "undecided" category, while some may have pushed the respondents to choose yes/no or to tell their preference in the candidate question. I don't know what effect on the accuracy removing the undecideds might have.
19 posted on 10/21/2003 2:01:50 AM PDT by heleny
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To: Timesink
you said
"Lots of people rationalize outcomes in their own minds after the fact."

Truer words were never spoken.
20 posted on 10/21/2003 2:32:39 AM PDT by RatSlayer
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To: Wolfstar
you said
"The study focuses on the accuracy of polls, not on their validity. My underlying premise is that the accuracy of most polls can't be proven."

While I applaud your effort, your study is invalid. To do a valid study of your premise, you would have to study the results of polling in a few hundred elections, or at least a couple of dozen elections, not one.

Your study is an extreme case of cherry picking the data. I'm not alleging it was intentional, just that you happened to pick an election in which the unusual voter turnout almost guaranteed inaccurate polls.

Actually, to avoid any charges of cherry picking the data, you should really identify a couple of thousand elections for which you can get some polling data and the election results. Then let a computer program do a random drawing of the couple of hundred elections which will be your study sample. Only at this point, do you actually go out and collect the data. This way someone cannot accuse you of knowing which elections to include in the random drawing.

Since polls are entirely dependant on the demographic choices made by the pollsters, Obviously, in an election such as the recall, where a large percentage of first time voters cast ballots, the odds of the polls being wrong are greatly increased.

An interesting study would be to determine why the demographics of that one poll yielded good results. But, that would take inside information.
21 posted on 10/21/2003 3:01:42 AM PDT by RatSlayer
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To: Wolfstar
Nice! Thanks for all you do.










22 posted on 10/21/2003 3:20:45 AM PDT by Marie Antoinette (Caaaarefully poke the toothpick through the plastic...)
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To: Wolfstar
I think your analysis is mathematically flawed. Trouble with independent events and all that. For instance, "YES" and "NO" are not independent. The stated margin of error (MOE) in a poll is purely the 95-percentile sampling error. It is only a statement of the uncertainty attributable to a finite sample size.

The bigger problem with polls is systematic error. People who take time to talk to pollsters (I'm not one of them) are not representative of the population. An honest poll works to suppress systematic error, there are so-called "push polls" designed to produce a certain result where every attempt is made to build in systemic error.

To illustrate MOE: If there are one million red balls and one million black balls and you draw 1000 balls "at random" the 95-percentile sampling error is about 31. This means 95% of the time you draw between 468-532 red (or black) balls, even though the though the "expected" number is 500. Given that you drew 47% red balls (with a MOE of 3.1%) you would also report 532 black balls with the same MOE. The two events are not independent.
23 posted on 10/21/2003 3:33:11 AM PDT by Lonesome in Massachussets (Uday and Qusay and Idi-ay are ead-day)
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To: Wolfstar
Wow! Bump and THANKS for all your hard work! I understand that you are evaluating the polls only on the terms of their own stated accuracy (MOE), and not their validity. I'm still not sure about the dynamics of a push poll (LATimes) on the actual result, for example. Some of the number shifts were due to external situations (Indian gaming money, the Arnold smear, and candidates dropping out), while others were probably due to forcing a vote in the survery, and not allowing an "undecided" response. And I would LOVE to see the internal polls from each party or candidate to see how they tracked with the public polls.
24 posted on 10/21/2003 5:03:08 AM PDT by alwaysconservative (95% of the California pre-election polls were wrong. You gotta love it!)
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To: Wolfstar
But, but … how will we know how to vote if the talking heads don’t tell us who is the favorite?
25 posted on 10/21/2003 5:12:29 AM PDT by R. Scott
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To: Wolfstar
Polling today is part of the political corruption in this country. Years ago, polls were used to find out what people think. Today, with the introduction of demographics, polls are used to influence the voting public. You can find a group of people (demographic) who will respond in a certain way to a certain wording of the questions. If the result is not exactly what you want, you alter the wording of question and run the poll again. This is repeated until you get the percentages to come out and that is the result that gets published. When you see a poll it's important to look at who commissioned it. You usually know what the results are going to be when ABC, CBS, Time, CNN, MSNBC, Newsweak, and any other liberal organization is paying the bills.
26 posted on 10/21/2003 5:27:49 AM PDT by OrioleFan
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To: Wolfstar
Thanks for your excellent work in this thread.
27 posted on 10/21/2003 6:58:05 AM PDT by Grampa Dave (Get a free FR coffee mug! Donate $10 monthly to Free Republic or 34 cents/day!)
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To: BibChr
bookmark
28 posted on 10/21/2003 7:05:09 AM PDT by BibChr ("...behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them?" [Jer. 8:9])
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To: onyx
Thanks, Onyx. The more informed we are, the better.
29 posted on 10/21/2003 7:34:43 AM PDT by Wolfstar (NO SECURITY = NO ECONOMY)
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To: Lonesome in Massachussets
An honest poll works to suppress systematic error, there are so-called "push polls" designed to produce a certain result where every attempt is made to build in systemic error.

But what is a push poll anyway?

Fundamentally, what people label a push poll isn't a poll at all. A push poll is political telemarketing masquerading as a poll. No one is really collecting information. No one will analyze the data. You can tell a push poll because it is very short, even too short. (It has to be very short to reach tens of thousands of potential voters, one by one). It will not include any demographic questions. The "interviewer" will sometimes ask to speak to a specific voter by name. And, of course, a push poll will contain negative information - sometimes truthful, sometimes not - about the opponent.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2000/02/14/politics/main160398.shtml

30 posted on 10/21/2003 7:37:13 AM PDT by JohnnyZ (Red Sox in 2004)
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To: KayEyeDoubleDee
A margin of error gives a pollster a plus or minus swing within which he can claim to be right. A typical MOE is +/- 3% of the percentage the pollster arrives at for a candidate or issue. Let's use an example of 45% +/- 3%. The pollster can claim to be right if the percent of the vote comes out at 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, or 48 percent.
31 posted on 10/21/2003 7:40:29 AM PDT by Wolfstar (NO SECURITY = NO ECONOMY)
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To: Wolfstar
Thanks for your work. I've wondered (mostly kiddingly) whether polling should be outlawed.

Dan
(c8
32 posted on 10/21/2003 7:55:22 AM PDT by BibChr ("...behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them?" [Jer. 8:9])
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To: RatSlayer
Thanks for your reply. I appreciate it. First, I didn't pick the polls. They were the organizations doing polling on the recall. RealPolitics.com followed and listed them during the entire recall campaign. I simply took their list and tested the accuracy of the data the pollsters came up with against the actual election results.

Second, it is entirely random from several points of view, not the least of which is the unforeseen nature of the event, which set up a situation that was less influenced by media and other manipulation that may be typical in most elections.

Third, if polling is scientific, it should not matter if voter turnout is "unusual." Either pollsters can go out and accurately determine answers to their questions, or they can't.

You wrote: "Since polls are entirely dependant on the demographic choices made by the pollsters, Obviously, in an election such as the recall, where a large percentage of first time voters cast ballots, the odds of the polls being wrong are greatly increased." The whole point of my study is to challenge that very notion.

I challenge the notion that polls are at all scientific. Again, either pollsters can go out and accurately determine answers to their questions, or they can't. Why do they need ideal conditions? It's always the exception that proves the rule. So it seems to me that the unusual conditions of this recall were the perfect opportunity for pollsters to show their stuff. Yet they failed pretty convincingly.

Fourth, my premise, which is completely true, is that there is no objective way for the general public to verify the accuracy of most polls. This study is fully accurate within its own data. I made it a point to emphasize that what conclusions can be drawn are based on this study. Sure it would be nice to have the time and resources you describe, with hundreds of elections and polls to study and computer programs to sift through them, etc. But who in the general public has access to such resources?

The study shows what it shows, without artifice, and with a simple methodology that anyone can follow.

33 posted on 10/21/2003 8:10:48 AM PDT by Wolfstar (NO SECURITY = NO ECONOMY)
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To: Marie Antoinette; Jim Robinson
You are most welcome. Thanks to Jim Robinson for giving us all the opportunity to have such dialogues.
34 posted on 10/21/2003 8:12:02 AM PDT by Wolfstar (NO SECURITY = NO ECONOMY)
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To: Lonesome in Massachussets
MOE's are given as PLUS or MINUS a percentage. So that I don't have to repeat myself, please be kind enough to see my posts #31 and #33 on this thread. Now, I don't claim to be a whizbang mathemetician. I try to reduce things down to a place where I can understand it, and assume that if I understand it, most others will, too.

If someone tells me they offer, say, a 45% prediction of something occuring, plus or minus 3%, that tells me they give themselves a range of seven percentage points within which they can claim to be right. Given an objective actual against which to compare the prediction, I can then see whether or not it was accurate. Very simple. Very clear. Very straightforward. The numbers speak for themselves.

35 posted on 10/21/2003 8:20:43 AM PDT by Wolfstar (NO SECURITY = NO ECONOMY)
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To: alwaysconservative
Hi, "AC." Thanks for adding your thoughts to this thread. Either pollsters can turn out an accurate product, or they can't. An unusual and unexpected event like the recall should have been an ideal opportunity for them to show their stuff, but they didn't. So how on earth are we in the general public supposed to know when they are accurate and when they are not? Your post buys into all the analysis of the situation the media fed us. That's fine. But what I'm doing is challenging the entire pollster/media edifice.
36 posted on 10/21/2003 8:28:25 AM PDT by Wolfstar (NO SECURITY = NO ECONOMY)
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To: R. Scott
Exactly!
37 posted on 10/21/2003 8:29:06 AM PDT by Wolfstar (NO SECURITY = NO ECONOMY)
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To: OrioleFan
Polling today is part of the political corruption in this country.

Truer words were never spoken — er, written. :-)

People are free to accept or reject the results of this case study. But I would hope most would allow their assumptions about polling to be challenged a bit.

38 posted on 10/21/2003 8:31:21 AM PDT by Wolfstar (NO SECURITY = NO ECONOMY)
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To: Grampa Dave
Good morning, Grampa Dave. I appreciate your kindness. Just hoping to shake up a few cherished notions about polling.
39 posted on 10/21/2003 8:32:43 AM PDT by Wolfstar (NO SECURITY = NO ECONOMY)
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To: BibChr
You are most welcome. Sometimes I wonder the same thing myself, LOL! Actually, what I've wondered for a long time are things like who invented "presidential approval ratings" and such, why, and how on earth can I trust something that I have no way to test for accuracy. The recall gave me such an opportunity. Most enlightening.
40 posted on 10/21/2003 8:37:00 AM PDT by Wolfstar (NO SECURITY = NO ECONOMY)
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To: Wolfstar
There is another aspect of these polls that can't be studied.

I was retired during the 2000 elections. It was amazing how often I got calls from pollers during the time before the election.

Later when the data showed that GW would win (before the dead rat votes and illegal alien votes were counted), my interviews got really short.

It went something like this, "Are you a registered republican, democrat or independent?"

When I answered a registered Republican, the next question was often, "Would you describe yourself as a liberal, moderate or conservative Republican?"

After I answered "A conservative Republican." That was usually the end of the interview. I was never polled.
41 posted on 10/21/2003 8:37:28 AM PDT by Grampa Dave (Get a free FR coffee mug! Donate $10 monthly to Free Republic or 34 cents/day!)
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To: Wolfstar
Lots of time, energy and money spent on polls and this post. All I can say is: DUH!
42 posted on 10/21/2003 8:40:35 AM PDT by ampat
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To: Wolfstar
Oh, I agree with YOUR conclusions, not those of the media! Actually, the point I was trying to make (and apparently not doing a very good job of it!) was to question whether or not "push polls", which I consider to be invalid, should be included in this tally, since their purpose was NOT to measure a random voter response, but to push or telemarket a certain view. It was not a legitimate poll in the sense of what you are evaluating, even if it was accurate on a couple of points. It's the difference of "proving" something with anecdotal evidence or legitimate scientific methodology.
43 posted on 10/21/2003 8:48:00 AM PDT by alwaysconservative (95% of the California pre-election polls were wrong. You gotta love it!)
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To: Wolfstar
This post has been added to the… California In Transition- Must read Threads!

Want on our daily or major news ping lists? Freepmail DoctorZin

44 posted on 10/21/2003 8:55:51 AM PDT by DoctorZIn
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To: Wolfstar
The article seems almost as inaccurate as the polls in some ways. For example, the yes-no vote are described as though they were independent variables rather than correlated. The MOE's are incorrectly described for multiple choice polls (although the polls themselves probably do just as badly.) Additionally, the MOE only describes the statistical error in the sample; polling (as pointed out by the pollsters) is subject to greater error through systematic effects such as question wording, etc.
45 posted on 10/21/2003 8:58:16 AM PDT by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch is der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: Wolfstar
Back on August 12, in my article "Nuts and Bolts in California," I not only successfully predicted all the results of the California recall election, I also predicted the incompetent struggle to understand what happened, after the polls were proven grossly inaccurate. (In all fairness, I missed exactly one prediction. I wrote that there would be one extra Republican candidate whose vote totals would not effect the outcome of the election. But I thought that hoeless Republican would be Bill Simon, rather than Tom McClintock.) I am curious about the methodology of RealClearPolitics. The only three polls that were close to the final pattern of this election across the board were conducted by Stanford University. For some reason, the source claims they did only one. They did three. And the reason they were closer than all the others to the final result is that THEY USED THE ACTUAL CALIFORNIA BALLOT rather than phone questions, to gauge the intentions of the potential voters.

The Editors of RealClearPolitics are usually pretty sharp cookies. But on this unique election, with the evidence in their hands, they are still missing the boat. Big time.

Congressman Billybob

Latest column, "Three People who Have it Coming," discussion thread. IF YOU WANT A FREEPER IN CONGRESS, CLICK HERE.

46 posted on 10/21/2003 9:32:56 AM PDT by Congressman Billybob (www.ArmorforCongress.com Visit. Join. Help. Please.)
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To: Wolfstar
Thanks for a very interesting analysis. I'll pass it on. Thanks again.
47 posted on 10/21/2003 9:36:31 AM PDT by Saundra Duffy (For victory & freedom!!!)
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To: Wolfstar
Excellent work. For long time Freepers, the inaccuracy of polls is well known. The MOE of a poll is greatly misunderstood by the public. MOE refers only to the precision of the poll and has nothing to do with the poll's accuracy. Technically precision is a measure of how a particular polling methodology will give the same result if conducted over and over again. For instance if a polling company conducted the same poll three times on the same day, each of the three polls should give the same results within the MOE. Accuracy on the other hand refers to whether or not a particular measurement (poll) is correct or gets the right answer. Precision (MOE) has nothing to do with accuracy. For a poll to be accurate, the polling sample must be unbiased, meaning the people polled must be statistically representative of the actual electorate. Pollsters realize that they never have a truly unbiased sample. Consequently, they try to compensate for the bias inherent in their methodology, but fudging the raw poll results, by correction factors. The only way for a pollster to determine these correction factors is to do the same analysis you have done on their own polls.

In conclusion polls are not to be trusted. Polls with an MOE of 3% may be inaccurate by 20% and the public has no way of knowing the accuracy of a poll until after the election. Tracking polls have some limited value in showing trends, because movement from one candidate to another is somewhat independent of the sample bias and of the pollster's correction factors. Only the direction of the trend is somewhat reliable, since the magnitude of the trend is dependent on the sample bias and the pollster's correction factors. Unfortunately, trends are often only a few percentage points and therefore are under the polls MOE making them meaningless.
48 posted on 10/21/2003 9:52:12 AM PDT by Pres Raygun
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To: Grampa Dave
Your personal experience is echoed in one way or another by many, many people. I think many of us are intuitively suspicious of polls, but we go along with them partly because we enjoy trying to predict the future, and partly because we're told they are "scientific."

Why is it that between the late 1700's and the mid 1900's, Americans managed to elect all sorts of people to all sorts of positions without polls? Yet these days, we seem more dependent on them than ever. We are like people using a crutch when it isn't necessary. Well, a good challenge every now and again never hurt any institution.

49 posted on 10/21/2003 10:01:09 AM PDT by Wolfstar (NO SECURITY = NO ECONOMY)
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To: Wolfstar
Phoney poll and/or skewed results have been a major tool for the Rats for over a generation.

The recall of Davis and election of Arnold pulled back the curtain on this tool re the LA Slimes and other fishwraps in California.
50 posted on 10/21/2003 10:04:55 AM PDT by Grampa Dave (Get a free FR coffee mug! Donate $10 monthly to Free Republic or 34 cents/day!)
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