On “Poll Averages”

Now with 13% more cowbell.

For those paying attention, “poll averages” is the new buzz term. Nobody in the blogosphere is talking about it yet, but it is a significant change from previous elections. Do you remember the talk of “poll averages” with Bush-Kerry or Bush-Gore or Clinton-Dole? Yeah, me neither. Yet, everywhere you go online anymore Journolists are talking about poll averages and what a dead heat this race is. It’s the biggest bunch baloney I’ve ever seen as far as polls are concerned. I suspect it’s an attempt to provide Obama an assist by making this race look closer than it actually is. The press has gotten slightly more subtle at helping him out this year that they were in 2008. Now that you’ve read this, it should be a cinch for you to start picking up on this trend.

But I challenge this notion with a buzz phrase I’d like to see take off: The Walker Margin. The Walker Margin is 7%, which is the margin by which he won, while the exit polls showed a dead heat. This discrepancy still has not been explored fully since it happened. Some of the pre-race polls saw this margin coming, but in the final days before the election, a desperate attempt was made to rewrite this narrative. The noise on the manufactured narrative got ratcheted way up on election day, as report after report showed the race a dead heat according to exit polls.

Evolution is fast in politics.

This trend was immediately adopted by the Obama campaign, which benefited from the Bloomberg outlier poll that showed Obama with a 13 point lead. This is when the attention shifted from individual polls to “poll averages.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why. Since then, polls have been all over the place. When they are averaged, the polls do indeed show a dead heat. Thus the media’s adoption of “poll averages” as the new norm. It paints such a rosy picture for their man Obama.

Increasingly, I’m looking at the popular vote, and I’m not alone. I’m also looking at behavior. Let’s be clear: games are being played by pollsters and the people reporting on them. The truth is not being shared with the public, and a comparative study of polls from now & 2008 while watching the behavior of candidates may well give the clearest picture yet.

Team Obama’s desperate Gift Registry idea (so outlandish it got covered by Snopes) and the conference call to big donors yesterday that was shared with the media (a big ass deal, ftr) both suggest that Obama’s internals are making him desperate and blue. On the other hand, Team Romney’s/conservative’s apparent willingness to continue to play political games via Twitter and other social media suggest he feels he has time to waste, and is busy building bungalows in Obama’s and his supporter’s heads in which he can live rent-free. Psychological warfare is a powerful tool.

With this reality, following polls or poll averages is a futile waste of time. From an earlier link:

All of this time and effort spent parsing state-level polls would be better spent more closely examining the national polling data, particularly looking at how the candidates are performing now compared with Obama and John McCain in 2008, and examining how likely the members of specific (and potentially decisive) demographic groups are to actually vote.

This feels right to me. And since I’m on record as saying that Team Obama will not be able to turn out their base or their new recruits from 2008 in the same numbers, a comparative study coupled with an intuitive understanding of the behavior of the candidates seems likeliest to give a fuller picture.

This thing is not over yet, not by a longshot. Despite what Journolists are telling you, the SCOTUS decision on healthcare is far more likely to give Romney a boost than it is Obama, no matter what instant (and I predict short lived) boost it may offer him. On that issue, the media has it wrong too: It’s not the middle class that will be hurt as much it is the working class, and Obama already has problems with them. The middle class will care when the bill kicks in, well after the election, and they begin to lose their job-secured insurance with no attendant bump in pay, or when they find out the limits the bill has placed on their healthcare choices. But that’s a matter for another post. I’m curious to know if other readers have been noticing this move to “poll averages” and what they think of it.

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10 comments on “On “Poll Averages”

  1. myiq2xu says:

    Please cross-post this. You wrote the post I’ve been meaning to write.

  2. angienc says:

    I’ve been noticing all the talk about polling averages too & have remarked (to myself) that these b.s. polls are being done for only one reason — to pump up Obama’s “national average.” The most recent b.s. one is the Bloomberg one you point to but in prior months there were others. These polls are “outliers” precisely because if you look at the cross tabs (not “reported” but which are released) you will see unjustifiable over-sampling of Dems & under-sampling of Reps. (btw, cross tabs for the other polls also show over/under-sampling but not to the extent the outlier polls like the Bloomberg one).

    I also agree, poll averages, especially “national poll averages” (which are also being consistently talked up in the media) don’t mean squat — not just because of the over/under sampling going on in these polls, but because we don’t run an election based on a national average. We have the Electoral College — and don’t listen to what any of the EC critics say — this was an ingenious method by our founding fathers, otherwise, only about 5 states of 50 would be picking the POTUS. That is *not* proper representation. If you want to look at polls to get a better feel for the race, look at only the “swing state” ones — you still have to pay attention to the cross tabs & ignore “averages” because even those that are not “outliers” with blatant over/under sampling are still engaging in some over/under sampling to help Obama — but what goes on in those states is more likely to reflect the true state of the race — and Romney is closing the gap in all of them, even the ones showing Obama “up” and, more telling, Obama isn’t at 50% in any of them — individual polls or “averaged” polls. If he can only get to 47% with over/under-sampling, that isn’t good news.

    I also agree — things like the outlandish event registry, the pathetic, leaked phone call and Obama’s failure to even mention his “big SCOTUS win” in his Saturday national address — shows that not only is the SCOTUS decision not good news for Obama (despite whatever short-lived “dead cat bounce” he may get from it) but that his internals (with “real” numbers) must really suck. The most amusing thing to me, though, is that it probably has not dawned for one second on Obama that the reason he isn’t getting more money from these donors who “maxed out last time” is that it is because his record of failure has left people without the money to donate — he really does see this as “personal” (i.e.,”Why are those selfish meanies not giving to me! They must not know how important it is and think I’m a lock for re-election!”) As always with Obama, it isn’t that the product — him– is bad & being rejected, it is just “bad messaging.” Good luck with that.

    • I agree with just about everything you said. Regarding the Walker Margin, my strategy has been to cut in almost half, and add 4 points to Romney’s column for polls that don’t have outrageous cross-tabs. I add the full seven for when they do. That’s how to apply the Walker Margin and get a better picture of what’s happening.

  3. […] Cross-posted from P&L. Rate this:Share this:FacebookTwitterDiggRedditStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  4. Excellent! I’m passing this along –

  5. […] the polls, which I’d already started to tune out once they switched to the ridiculous “poll averaging.” Then he lays out some of his (admittedly also intuitive) reasons pretty convincingly: Here […]

  6. […] the polls, which I’d already started to tune out once they switched to the ridiculous “poll averaging.” Then he lays out some of his (admittedly also intuitive) reasons pretty convincingly: Here […]

  7. […] going on. But I warned you earlier this year about the folly of the new-fangled fashion, polling averages. They’re designed to muddy the waters, because Team Obama needs the waters to be […]

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