Polls Archives

Thoughts on the 2015 Election Results

Not a huge number of results, but some results were huge in this off-year election day.

The “hugest” could be considered the election of a Republican Tea Partier as governor of Kentucky.

Matt Bevin, a Republican political novice, wealthy Louisville businessman and Tea Party favorite, was elected Kentucky’s next governor on Tuesday and swept fellow Republicans into statewide office with him. The stunning victory heralds a new era in a state where Democrats have held the governor’s mansion for all but four of the last 44 years.

In beating his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Jack Conway, by almost nine percentage points, Mr. Bevin, 48, shocked people in his own party, who believed that the climate in Kentucky was ripe for a Republican but feared that Mr. Bevin, a charismatic conservative with a go-it-alone style, was too far out of the mainstream and too inexperienced to win.

A few things about this. First, I have noted before that when Democrats get to run places like the big cities of Chicago, Detroit and Baltimore for decades, with few to no Republicans in that time, and when we see these cities crumbling when they have this free hand, it’s hard to understand why the voters in those cities keep electing folks from the same party over and over. It’s like they think that the same guys who got them into this hole can now dig them out of it using the same shovels. I’m hoping that this signals a change in the voters of Kentucky; that they’ve finally said, “Enough is enough.”

Bevin, as noted above in the NY Times article, was a Tea-Party-type. The Republican establishment was concerned that he was too conservative, or “too far out of the mainstream” to win. It appears that perhaps the “mainstream” isn’t necessarily where those pundits think it is. It may be running more to the political Right.

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    What’s Your Opinion of Opinion Polling?

    The science of polling the general public has had its good and bad times, and it appears it’s going through one of those rough patches at the moment. A friend of mine refers to polls as “cricket races”; basically a snapshot of where things are in a particular race, that has as much bearing on our lives as a race amongst crickets. If it’s a slow news day, release the results from a poll, and call it news.

    Some might put the word “science” in the phrase “science of polling” in scare quotes, not convinced that it’s much of a science at all. I do have some respect for those whose lives are in various statistical occupations. It seems like a black art, but, for example, one pharmaceutical client I worked for years ago had a Quality Assurance group that tested the products coming into the warehouse before they could be shipped out, and they explained quite a bit to me.  I couldn’t relate what they said now – I really can’t remember it all – but basically, given a good random sample, they could give you a good reading on whether or not the batch that just came in was good enough to ship out. Yeah, the only way to be totally sure was to test it all, but to get close enough to 100% sure without going overboard, there was a lot of science backing up their procedures.

    Sampling people, on the other hand, is nowhere near as straightforward as sampling pharmaceuticals. People can say one thing, and yet do another. Which apparently happened in a big way over in the UK recently, when the conservative Tories trounced the liberal Labor Party in national elections, gaining their first outright majority since 1992. This even though Nate Silver, the US polling expert, had a look at all the UK polls and proclaimed that a Tory win of a majority of seats in Parliament was “vanishingly small when the polls closed – around 1 in 500.”

    So much for that prediction. But the predictive value of polls is lessened when the pollsters themselves hide some of their results. It happened in the UK, and it happens quite a bit, apparently. No pollster wants to publish results that wind up being way out of line with those from other polls. No one wants to be the outlier, but that’s what happened in the UK. A last-minute poll by one group got the percentages virtually dead on to what the voting results were, but they didn’t publish it, “chickening out”, as the group’s CEO explained. It’s a herd mentality that we see in news coverage as well.

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      Tea Party "Terrorists"

      [This is part of the script from the latest episode of my podcast, "Consider This!"]

      A Rasmussen poll release on June 27th found that 26% of Obama voters think Tea Partiers are a bigger terror threat than radical Muslims. Fred Thompson asked in a tweet, “So… how many people were killed by exploding Constitutions?”

        Back with more topics than I’ve ever squeezed into 10 minutes or less, “Consider This!” is back with a new episode.

        A friend of mine posted a graphic of Sen. Bernie Sanders with a  quote from him extolling the results of Social Security, with the tag, “Social Security has done exactly what it was designed to do.” Well sure, in the short term, big government social programs always look good. Think of how Social Security looked in the first 5 or 10 years. People who had paid little or nothing into it got monthly checks from the government. Wonderful.

        John Hawkins at the blog Right Wing News polled conservative bloggers on who the GOP should choose at their 2016 nominee. The short answer? Marco Rubio was the clear winner. He was followed by Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal and Paul Ryan. The two who topped the list of those they least wanted to see on the ticket were Jeb Bush and Chris Christie. Then John asked, want to see something scary?

        The government recently modified its determination of which states have the worst poverty rates. The new measure incorporates a controversial calculation of relative equality that demotes states that have wide gaps between wealthy people and people with less than one-third of state residents’ average income. This income gap is something that liberals have spoken out against, and believe they have an answer to. But with this new measure included, it’s interesting to see what state dropped to the rock bottom of the survey; California.

        A government report released Monday warned that a sudden increase in taxes would result in lower consumer spending next year, and some analysts wondered if the concerns about what could happen might crimp spending throughout the rest of the holiday season. Um, yeah. The Obama administration is just now figuring out what conservatives have been saying, well, pretty much for a generation. In other news, the sky is indeed blue, and math still works.

        Click here for show notes, feedback options, ways to subscribe to the podcast, or just listen to it on the web page itself.

          Friday Link Wrap-up

          Death panels. "A 29-year-old woman will die without a new drug that the NHS is refusing to provide despite the manufacturer offering it to her for free, it emerged today." When Sarah Palin talked about death panels under ObamaCare, it wasn’t a prediction; it was a description of socialized medicine.

          Extremism on abortion. "Obama and his party this fall are waging a political culture war, tagging Mitt Romney and his party as scary radicals on abortion and women’s issues. But for more than a decade in public office, Obama has fought a legislative culture war, holding abortion in higher regard than freedom of conscience or even basic respect for human dignity." Who’s the extremist, again?

          Watching the polls, or not. "I think Mitt Romney is likely to win next Tuesday. For two reasons:  (1) Romney leads among voters on trust to get the economy going again.  (2) Romney leads among independents." Jay Cost looks at history and the independents; he doesn’t just number-crunch.

          Unions.  "[Utility] Crews from Huntsville [Alabama], as well as Decatur Utilities and Joe Wheeler out of Trinity headed up there this week, but Derrick Moore, one of the Decatur workers, said they were told by crews in New Jersey that they can’t do any work there since they’re not union employees." When membership means more than helping people.

          And another reminder that you can give to the Salvation Army for Sandy disaster relief.

            Polling Data vs Reality

            Hugh Hewitt interviewed Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Polls, about some of their recent presidential election poll data. It’s a short interview, but Hugh makes the point that, if the Democrat-to-Republican ratio isn’t close enough to what you’d expect in the upcoming election, then the information is suspect. An excerpt:

            HH: Now what I don’t understand this, so educate me on it, if Democrats only had a three point advantage in Florida in the final turnout measurement in 2008, but in your poll they have a nine point turnout advantage, why is that not a source of skepticism for people?

            PB: Well, I mean, clearly there will be some people who are skeptics. This is how we’ve always done our polls. Our record is very good in terms of accuracy. Again, remember, we’re asking people what they consider themselves at the time we call them.

            HH: But I don’t know how that goes to the issue, Peter, so help me. I’m not being argumentative, I really want to know. Why would guys run a poll with nine percent more Democrats than Republicans when that percentage advantage, I mean, if you’re trying to tell people how the state is going to go, I don’t think this is particularly helpful, because you’ve oversampled Democrats, right?

            PB: But we didn’t set out to oversample Democrats. We did our normal, random digit dial way of calling people. And there were, these are likely voters. They had to pass a screen. Because it’s a presidential year, it’s not a particularly heavy screen.

            HH: And so if, in fact, you had gotten a hundred Democrats out of a hundred respondents that answered, would you think that poll was reliable?

            PB: Probably not at 100 out of 100.

            HH: Okay, so if it was 75 out of 100…

            PB: Well, I mean…

            HH: I mean, when does it become unreliable? You know you’ve just put your foot on the slope, so I’m going to push you down it. When does it become unreliable?

            PB: Like the Supreme Court and pornography, you know it when you see it.

            "You know it when you see it?" This from a guy who makes his living by hyper-analyzing numbers? Yes, a lot will depend on the actual ratio that turn up on election day, but statistics are adjusted all the time to account for other factors and make all things equal (or as equal as they can be). Why not this factor?

            Maybe someone can educate me on this, but just the use of the phrase "you know it when you see it" from a statistician really makes me question the confidence I have in his numbers.

              "Smart" Diplomacy

              All that goodwill that George W. Bush squandered, especially in the Muslim world, was going to be returned under Obama. Yeah, right.

              Today’s eye-opening IBOPE Zogby International poll for the Arab American Institute Foundation should be a wake-up call to the White House on its failing foreign policy. After two and a half years of bashing Israel, appeasing rogue regimes such as Iran and Syria, and promising a new era of relations with the Muslim world, Washington is now less popular in major Arab countries than it was when George W. Bush was in the White House.

              The poll surveys Arab opinion in six countries: Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, and reveals that “Arabs see the Obama Administration’s handling of most Middle East policy issues as having made no contribution to improving US-Arab relations. Only on the issue of the “no-fly zone over Libya” do a majority of Saudis and plurality of Lebanese see a positive contribution.”

              I don’t think Obama ever said how it was going to be different; he merely declared it would be so. Well, it’s different, just not in the way those who voted for him expected.


                New Record Low, Part 2 (No, Still Not Temperature)

                This time we’re talking about Congressional approval ratings.  From Gallup:

                Americans’ assessment of Congress has hit a new low, with 13% saying they approve of the way Congress is handling its job. The 83% disapproval rating is also the worst Gallup has measured in more than 30 years of tracking congressional job performance.

                There was a spike up in the approval rating when the Democrats took over Congress, but it’s been downhill since then.  Guess they squandered their goodwill.

                  New Record Low (No, Not Temperature)

                  We’re talking about support for ObamaCare.

                  The law’s never been popular, with support peaking at just 48 percent in November 2009. Today it’s slipped to 43 percent, numerically its lowest in ABC/Post polling. (It was about the same, 44 percent, a year ago.) Fifty-two percent are opposed, and that 9-point gap in favor of opposition is its largest on record since the latest debate over health care reform began in earnest in summer 2009.

                  More also continue to “strongly” oppose the law than to strongly support it, 37 percent to 22 percent.

                  What to do about it is another question: People who don’t support the law fragment on how to proceed, with a plurality in this group, 38 percent, saying they’d rather wait and see before deciding on a direction. Among the rest, 30 percent would repeal parts of the law, while about as many, 29 percent, favor repealing all of it.

                  Wait and see for what, exactly, is not discussed.  But clearly the federal government, and the Democrats in particular, were not representing their constituents when they forced this through. 

                    Friday Link Wrap-up

                    Isn’t government supposed to enforce the laws it makes?   Well, it looks like the Obama administration has a bit more leeway.

                    How’s that Gitmo-closing promise coming along, 5 months after its due date?  "The House Armed Services Committee has dealt a blow to President Obama’s hopes to shutter the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, by unanimously approving legislation that would prohibit creating a detention center inside the United States."  Aren’t there one or two Democrats on that committee?

                    The Hollywood Left just loves their socialists.

                    American filmmaker Oliver Stone said Friday he deeply admires Hugo Chavez but suggested the Venezuelan president might consider talking a bit less on television.

                    Promoting his new documentary "South of the Border" in Caracas, Stone heaped praise on Chavez, saying he is leading a movement for "social transformation" in Latin American. The film features informal interviews by Stone with Chavez and six allied leftist presidents, from Bolivia’s Evo Morales to Cuba’s Raul Castro.

                    "I admire Hugo. I like him very much as a person. I can say one thing. … He shouldn’t be on television all the time," Stone said at a news conference. "As a director I say you don’t want to be overpowering. And I think he is sometimes that way."

                    (We’re not entirely sure whether Stone said "director" or "dictator" at the end there.  Either can be overpowering.)

                    When the director of the Congressional Budget Office directly refutes cost-saving claims of the President and his Budget Director, it’s worth noting.  Even the NY Times (finally) notices.

                    How’s that "smart diplomacy" workin’ for ya’?  Please remember; speeches are no substitute for sound policy.

                    Marry a Jew, lose your citizenship.  Can armbands with the Star of David be far behind?  Tell me again, who are the bad guys in the Middle East peace situation?

                    How did the pollsters do predicting the recent primary results?  About as good as expected, which isn’t saying much.  And the Daily Kos fired its official pollster, Research 2000.  Turns out they skewed left.  Now who would have thought that?  This time, however, it was downright embarrassing. 

                    And finally, Chuck Asay on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  (Click for a larger image.)

                    Chuck Asay

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