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Epilogue: So How did the US Polls do?

by Frank Schnittger Thu Nov 6th, 2008 at 11:00:14 AM EST

We've had a lot of debates here about possible Bradley effects, Shy Tory effects , refusals (to be interviewed), Cell-phone only households, early voting, likely voter models, and differential ground games and GOTV campaigns on the likely accuracy of opinion polls.  Certainly some of these phenomena may have effected the accuracy of individual polls which have been widely divergent on occasions.

However when you aggregate thousands of polls into one database the results seem to be altogether more accurate. fivethirtyeight.com alone has the results of over 2 Million interviews in its database and trends can be observed where consistent methodologies have been applied even if there remains some statistical noise and systemic bias in particular types of polls.

Pollster.co has just published a comparison of the provisional actual election results with the last opinion polls taken just before the election.


The biggest "mistakes" were in North Dakota and Arizona where there was relatively little polling in the first place.  There may also have been a slight last minute swing back to McCain in the most Republican leaning states after the last Opinion polls were taken.  Certainly, it is noticeable in the table above, that the more Democratic leaning swing states voted more Democratic than the last opinion polls, and ditto for the Republicans.

It is also important to note that we are dealing with provisional and incomplete vote counts in many cases - with absentee, provisional, and perhaps even early votes yet to be counted.  The provisional vote tallies for Georgia and Alaska, in particular, seem suspiciously low (much lower than 2004) with many votes apparently not yet counted or perhaps even having gone "missing".  If found, these may yet effect the important Senate votes there and tighten the Georgia Presidential vote considerably.

In general, Obama may have outperformed the Democratic Party with congressional Democratic pick-ups to date (Senate +6, House +19) very disappointing compared to earlier hopes.  Democrats may yet pick up Senate Seats in Alaska (after absentee votes are counted), Minnesota (after a recount) and Georgia (after a run-off election in December) and still reach their filibuster proof target of 60.  But it will be very tight and winning all three looks like a long-shot.  

So perhaps we can now finally put the "Bradley Effect" debate to bed.  I hold my hand up.  I predicted a 10+ Obama margin of victory based on what I thought were systemic polling errors due to under-sampling of cell-phone only households and a failure of many "likely voter" models to adequately account for the Obama ground game and the level of youth and minority enthusiasm for his candidacy.  Perhaps I was just plain wrong.  Perhaps the long lines (apparently disproportionately in Obama leaning areas) suppressed his vote somewhat.  Perhaps the likelihood of his victory suppressed his vote in later time-zone states.  Perhaps there was a last minute swing to McCain by voters worried about an Obama Presidency combined with strong Democratic majorities in House and Senate.  Perhaps the early votes haven't been counted in Georgia and he actually won the State or came much closer than reported.

Fortunately his margins were sufficient to overcome any suspicions about the fairness and integrity of the process.  Fortunately, the emergence of sites like Pollster.com and Fivethirtyeight.com have reduced the ability of partisan and dodgy polls to influence the narrative of the campaign.  Fortunately the emergence of the blogosphere has challenged the dominance of the MSM in framing the political discourse.

My thanks to all of you who have read, recommended and commented on this series of diaries.  I've certainly enjoyed following and taking part in the debate.  Lets hope the European Parliament Elections in June can generate similar interest and have as great an impact on the future direction of the EU.

Display:
Looks like we're going to come in at about O53-46M when the last of the returns come in.

To review:

(1) The Bradley Effect is bullshit (shocking),
(2) the Republicans-Don't-Answer-Pollsters "theory" turns out to have been wishful thinking on the part of wingers and pseudo-academics (shocking),
(3) pundits predictions that Latinos, Jews and working-class whites in the Rust Belt wouldn't vote for a black guy turned out to be laughably stupid (shocking),
(4) Chris Matthews and Tim Russert were both proven to be morons, as Obama could've lost the three big Rust Belt states and still won (I'm taking a bow on that one -- suck it, Tweety),
(5) Tweety and Timmeh were proven to be morons anyway, as Obama and Biden beat Gramps and Gidget like rented mules in the Rust Belt (including a nearly 2-to-1 margin in Scranton, PA, the most over-hyped city in the history of American politics),
(6) Old people in Florida luvs them sum Obama.

And hopefully the sizable concern troll inside Rachel Maddow has been killed once and for all.  God Almighty, she was nauseating in those last few days.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Nov 6th, 2008 at 12:05:01 PM EST
It would really be helpful to us yurpians if you could do a diary with links explaining who all these MSM commentators are.  I watch almost no TV - much less US TV, and was shocked when I looked at some FOX (between ad breaks on CNN) on election night at just how old and boring they were.  I thought at least they would be slick and provocative.  What little I've seen of Rachel Maddow made her seem intelligent by comparison.  Olbermann too strident for his own good.  Jon Stewart (I think) not half as funny as he thinks he is.  Don't even know who) Tweety and Timmeh are.  Is there a rogue's gallery I can review anywhere, or should I just go to Wikipedia for an idiots guide to each one?

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Nov 6th, 2008 at 12:56:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tweety is Chris Matthews.  You undoubtedly saw him Tuesday if you watched any of MSNBC's streaming coverage.

Timmeh is Tim Russert, who died earlier this year but was the host of Meet the Press, which is sort of the Big Dawg of the Sunday talk shows.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Nov 6th, 2008 at 01:14:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks.  We're not used to news anchors taking explicit partisan positions here, although you can often guess their sympathies. I'm old school and would prefer the news to present the facts and let people make up their own minds...

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Nov 6th, 2008 at 01:24:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... less do that ... cable "news" should always be written in irony quotes, only a minority are news shows in that sense of the phrase.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Nov 6th, 2008 at 01:56:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Daily Kos: Lots of missing votes

AK - 29% fewer votes than 2004
CA - 18% fewer votes than 2004
OR - 19% fewer votes than 2004
WA - 19% fewer votes than 2004

For comparison, look at NC:

NC - ~22% MORE votes than 2004

Most states that seem to have counted all their votes are about 10% higher than 2004 (which is consistent with expected total votes of ~135M).

Which other states had increased turnout?

GA - 19% MORE votes than 2004 (and I think some early votes are still missing)
IN - 12% MORE votes than 2004
NV - 19% MORE votes than 2004
SC - 20% MORE votes than 2004
VA - 12% MORE votes than 2004

Other states also seem to be odd, with the following 6 being the only states where Obama did worse than Kerry:

WV - 5% fewer votes than 2004, and Obama did worse by 1%. Have the early votes been counted?
OK - flat with 2004 and Obama matched Kerry (Did OK have early voting?)
AR - 4% MORE votes than 2004, and Obama did worse than Kerry by 6%. (Did AR have early voting?)
LA - 2% MORE votes than 2004, and Obama did worse by 2.6%. (Did LA have early voting, or did all the Democrats leave after Katrina?)
MA - Obama did worse by 1%, but this was Kerry's home state.

In every other state, Obama received a higher percent of the vote than Kerry (even DC, 93% for Obama vs 89% for Kerry).

So what's the point?

In CA, still likely to be 2.5M votes to count. Some of the counties with the biggest drop from 2004 to 2008 are Mendocino, Monterey, San Bernardino, San Francisco, Solano, and Sutter. So the vote on prop 8 will get closer when these absentee / early votes get counted.

AK still has a LOT of votes to count. Begich may still pull it off.

Obama's margin will continue to climb, and may hit 10 million by the time all the votes are counted. His percent margin may also get closer to 8%.

Question: Which states had early voting that may not have been counted yet?

In other words Obama's margin will continue to climb as more early and absentee votes are counted, and his overall margin of victory may have been reduced by west coast voters not bothering to vote when an Obama victory seemed assured.  My +10% victory margin prediction may not have been all that far off after all...

Why are there so many votes still unaccounted for?

How good is the custody of early/absentee votes?

Why is there so little newsflow on this?

Vote McCain for war without gain

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Nov 6th, 2008 at 06:42:55 PM EST
The western states are still counting. They're a bit slower than the rest. For various reasons (they say it's because of the mail-in ballots but it could be sloth if you ask me). You'll note that these are all western states.

The Begich campaign told Kos that there were 60-75 thousand votes left to be counted. That's in a state with 663 thousand residents.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Nov 6th, 2008 at 07:06:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm still quaint and old fasioned and like it so you dont declare the results till the votes have all been counted....

plus like my results declaring by an official counter rather than a partisan TV station.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 03:03:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm even more old fashioned and don't like any results being declared (however provisional) until polls have closed in every state.  I would even ban opinion polls in the last 48hours.  There is far too much perceptions management going on under the guise of free information.

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 04:28:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The western states do not exactly have much value in terms of perceptions management. The management of perceptions can otherwise swing both ways. The perception of a democratic victory may well have depressed Republican turnout in states like New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, while depressing Democratic turnout in Alaska.

I agree on banning polls, preferably in the entire last week before the election.

In the end, Americans have a more radical conception of freedom of speech than we do. So they arrange their democracy accordingly. It's not a topic I feel very deeply about, as long as it's going on over there and not here in Europe.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 05:43:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Nov 6th, 2008 at 07:09:25 PM EST


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