Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Why Romney's Pollsters Were Wrong

Noam Scheiber of The New Republic at Tnr.com, in an essay, "Exclusive: The Internal Polls That Made Mitt Romney Think He'd Win," described the foolish internal polling that led Romney and his fellow Severe Conservatives to believe that they would run away with the Election of 2012:

"It’s no secret that the Romney campaign believed it was headed for victory on Election Day. A handful of outlets havereported that Team Romney’s internal polling showed North Carolina, Florida, and Virginia moving safely into his column and that it put him ahead in a few other swing states. When combined with Ohio, where the internal polling had him close, Romney was on track to secure all the electoral votes he needed to win the White House. The confidence in these numbers was such that Romney even passed on writing a concession speech, at least before the crotchety assignment-desk known as “reality” finally weighed in.



"Less well-known, however, are the details of the polls that led Romney to believe he was so close to the presidency. Which other swing states did Romney believe he was leading in, and by how much? What did they tell him about where to spend his final hours of campaigning? Why was his team so sanguine about its own polling, even though it often parted company with the publicly available data? In an exclusive to The New Republic, a Romney aide has provided the campaign’s final internal polling numbers for six key states, along with additional breakdowns of the data, which the aide obtained from the campaign’s chief pollster, Neil Newhouse. Newhouse himself then discussed the numbers with TNR.

"If the internal polls are correct, roughly 80 percent of undecided voters actually broke toward Obama.

"Newhouse and some of his colleagues have said that the biggest flaw in their polling was the failure to predict the demographic composition of the electorate. Broadly speaking, the people who showed up to vote on November 6 were younger and less white than Team Romney anticipated, and far more Democratic as a result."

"This point can be overstated. For example, New Hampshire and Iowa are both predominantly white states, and Obama won both whites and older voters in each of them. Likewise, whatever the challenges of polling Latinos, they were only 14 percent of the electorate in Colorado. It would be a stretch to say they explain most of the error in a Romney poll that was off by 8 percentage points overall in the state.

"Still, the data I obtained did reveal symptoms of the 'compositional' problem Newhouse cites. For example, Newhouse asked voters how interested they were in the election on a scale of 1 to 10, then kept track of how Romney was faring against Obama among those who were most interested (that is, the 8s, 9s, and 10s). In the chart below, I’ve displayed the final Obama-Romney margins for people who described themselves as 8-10s, along with those who described themselves as 10s:

"What’s striking is how much better Romney does among those with the greatest interest in the campaign. If you look at Colorado and New Hampshire in particular, Romney is running up big margins among even the 8-10s, which Newhouse said routinely accounted for 80-90 percent of the sample in his internal polling. (In New Hampshire, the 8-10s represented 88 percent of the sample.) Newhouse said the reason the campaign broke out these numbers is that it helped them “try to gauge intensity.” But it also led them astray—it led them to assume that voter intensity was driving Romney’s leads. And it reflected a flaw in their polls. The people who told the campaign they were 8s, 9s, or 10s were a smaller share of the November 6 electorate than the 80-90 percent they accounted for in Romney’s polls--partly because Newhouse and his colleagues underestimated the number of young people, African Americans, and Latinos who wound up voting."



"During the final days of this campaign, only the most loyal partisans were picking up their phones when pollsters called—everyone else seemed to have had enough. (The pollster notes that this isn’t a general feature of campaigns; it just happened to be true of this one.) That would have exaggerated the influence of partisans generally. And if, on top of that, your poll already skewed toward Romney, then it would have amplified the Republican partisans even more than the Democratic ones and produced the appearance of momentum."

"In retrospect, of course, there wasn’t any momentum to speak of, at least not toward Romney. How is it that Newhouse’s polls detected momentum nonetheless? One Democratic pollster I spoke with offered the following theory: During the final days of this campaign, only the most loyal partisans were picking up their phones when pollsters called—everyone else seemed to have had enough. (The pollster notes that this isn’t a general feature of campaigns; it just happened to be true of this one.) That would have exaggerated the influence of partisans generally. And if, on top of that, your poll already skewed toward Romney, then it would have amplified the Republican partisans even more than the Democratic ones and produced the appearance of momentum.

"Newhouse rejected the theory when I suggested it. 'There’s no evidence to indicate that’s true, that only partisans pick up the phone [late in the campaign],' he said, adding, 'I’d argue we didn’t have much of a house effect [i.e., unexplained skew].' When pressed on why many of his final numbers showed an erroneous uptick for Romney, he offered that 'it may be a function of Sunday polling”—a valid concern given that many pollsters are wary of polling on weekends.'




"Whatever the case, it’s clear that Romney’s closest aides and confidants interpreted the numbers quite literally. One Romney aide told me that he ran into Tagg Romney, the candidate’s eldest son, as the results came in on election night. 'He looked like he was in a complete state of shock,” the aide said. “[As if] these numbers cannot be real.'"

This isn't the first time that pollsters were wrong, though it doesn't happen that often.  When polling was in it's infance, Gallup predicted that Dewey would beat Truman.  What makes this polling debacle significant is that Conservatives were brazen in their comments leading up to the election, not bothering to hide their true beliefs this time.  Such is the arrogance of those out of touch with the people, such is the arrogance of the greediest of our wealthy class that they disdained to hide their core beliefs from the electorate.

It will be interesting to see if the Conservatives go back to the lying that typlified their former campaigning, or whether they will ignore this year's loss and continue to spew forth their message of Feudalism For All.








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“Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than
you seem, and smarter than you think. Christopher Robin to Pooh”


A. A. Milne quotes (English writer, creator of Winnie-the-Pooh, 1882-1956


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