Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Polls are worthless

I'm seeing panic among some sky is falling types on the right because Karl Rove apparently ran his mouth about the electoral vote count right now. I missed exactly what he said outside of Romney currently likely losing, but that's presumably based on polls.

Polls are worthless. To be specific, polls at this time are worthless.That's not meant as an insult to pollsters, but it is impossible to accurately measure the opinion of voters - in August or early September - for the October/November election. The reason is simple. People do not vote in the general election during the month of August. They vote in October or November. Possibly early September if the absentees are out early. This year, voting in the August primary started around June 26th. Absentees are as high as 34% of the vote these days and campaigns that don't have absentee programs are usually DOA. 

If you look at Real Clear Politics, you'll find a large number of polling archives.  

John Kerry lead in August polling. John McCain lead for a brief period in some September polling. He never lead after the bailout.

Don't forget margin of error. If you have a margin of error of four, and have Obama up 4 nationally as the current polls have it, it could be a tie, and still be within the margin of error. The last group of polls had this.


RCP Average8/2 - 8/13----47.743.7Obama +4.0
Rasmussen Tracking8/11 - 8/131500 LV3.04447Romney +3
Gallup Tracking8/6 - 8/123050 RV2.04646Tie
Politico/GWU/Battleground8/5 - 8/91000 LV3.14847Obama +1
CNN/Opinion Research8/7 - 8/8911 RV3.55245Obama +7
IBD/CSM/TIPP8/3 - 8/10828 RV3.54639Obama +7
FOX News8/5 - 8/7930 RV3.04940Obama +9
Reuters/Ipsos8/2 - 8/61014 RV3.44942Obama +7

Now there could be two major reasons for the discrepancies.

A. There was possibly major movement towards Romney. Obama could have been up big in early August and losing this week. That's if all of those polls are accurate. The lesson from that? August doesn't matter much.
B. Inaccurate measuring of samples. Possible. Which way? We won't know until October/November.

Even if polls are done right, the variances could be from Obama+12 in Fox (doubtful - Romney won't do worse than McCain) to Romney up 6 in Rasmussen (also doubtful right now). There could also be from top to bottom Tie, Tie, Tie, Obama +3.5, Obama +3.5, Obama +6, and Obama +3.6 with minor movement with the Paul Ryan VP pick and gas prices going up again. That's plausible, and all within the margin of error - if the election was August 14th. It's not. Tarp bailouts wern't on anybody's minds back on August 14th of 2008.

You had at this time in 2008, McCain trailing, announcing Palin as his pick, and taking the lead in September until the bailout took the focus away from energy which was becoming a big issue at this point during the last campaign. On the same note, the McCain campaign ground game sucked while Obama basically ran the Bush 2004 campaign and improved on it. In hindsight, that McCain lead in September was a mile wide and an inch thick. It was obvious he was going nowhere when he not only quit Michigan, but worse - his staffer announced it to the world. It is to this day, one of the stupidest things I've seen in politics right behind McCotter's petitions.

Now's not the time to panic. Too many things can happen. While I'm rather lukewarm about voting for Romney (anybody but Obama, Holder, Sebelius, Napoliantano, Sunstein, etc) I'll say one thing about his campaign. He's organized. Romney has had strong organization as long as I've seen his campaign. That goes back in 2008 which was planned in 2006 through today. I've seen the Romney staffer in the county almost as much as I've seen the victory center director. I've seen other plans start now instead of October. I don't think Romney's going to be outworked or out organized. 

The actual campaign is just starting now. The August primary is done and it is now general election season. Labor Day is in about four weeks, and things really start to heat up then. The actual election starts in about a month and three weeks with the first of the absentees, and ends almost exactly two months and four weeks from now.

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