Category Archives: Polls

How Public Policy Polling Hilariously Proved That People Lie To Pollsters

via Business Insider: 

CIA Director Leon Panetta

Public Policy Polling, the firm that consistently asks the quirkiest and most provocative questions, offered in its latest national survey a revealing way to prove that, well, people will lie to make themselves seem more knowledgeable.

PPP tested people’s reaction to the Simpson-Bowles plan to reduce the national deficit. It found that overall, respondents had a positive view of the plan, despite an overwhelming 60 percent that did not offer an opinion.

To compare, the firm also gau ged the reaction to the so-called “Panetta-Burns plan,” which isn’t a real plan. It’s based on a mythical combination of Leon Panetta, the current Secretary of Defense and former chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, and Conrad Burns, a former Republican Senator from Montana.

Despite the fact that there is no such thing as the “Panetta-Burns” plan, 25 percent of respondents offered an opinion on it. Eight percent said they view it favorably, while 17 percent said they do not have a favorable opinion of the “plan.”

This has led to a snarky Twitter hashtag, in which users speculate on the mythical proposals in “Panetta-Burns.”


Panetta Burns




Panetta Burns




Panetta Burns


REVEALED: The Horribly Skewed Internal Polling That Made Mitt Romney Think He Would Win

via Business Insider: 


Until the very end, Mitt Romney and his campaign believed he was going to win the election. The New Republic’s Noam Schieber details this morning why Romney’s team thought that: They had a set of very off-the-mark swing state internal polls that lined up to a Romney victory.

The two particularly brutal examples are from Colorado and New Hampshire, where Romney’s internal polling gave him at least a 3-point lead in each state. He lost each state by at least 5 points.

In New Hampshire, the Romney internal polls’ two-day average put him up 3.5 points on Obama. He lost the state in a blowout:


New Hampshire Obama Romney

Business Insider


In Colorado, it was much of the same story:


Colorado Obama Romney

Business Insider


These two states, combined with good Iowa polling and the assumption by the campaign that Romney would win Virginia and Florida, provided Romney with optimism going into Election Day.

So what happened? Schieber writes that the Romney campaign made some of the same flawed assumptions about the polls that turned out to be wrong:

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. “The Colorado Latino vote was extraordinarily challenging,” Newhouse told me. “As it was in Florida.”

Read the full New Republic story here >


Exclusive: The Internal Polls That Made Mitt Romney Think He’d Win

via The New Republic: 

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 thatRomney 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.

The numbers include internal polls conducted on Saturday, November 3, and Sunday, November 4, for Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Iowa, Colorado, and New Hampshire. According to Newhouse, the campaign polled daily, then combined the results into two-day averages. The numbers for each day along with the averages are displayed in the chart below, followed by the actual result in each state:

The first thing you notice is that New Hampshire and Colorado are pretty far off the mark. In New Hampshire, the final internal polling average has Romney up 3.5 points, whereas he lost by 5.6. In Colorado, the final internal polling average has Romney up 2.5 points; he lost by 5.4. “I’m not sure what the answer is,” Newhouse told me, explaining that his polls were a lot more accurate in most of the other swing states. “The only ones we had that really seemed to be off were Colorado—a state that even Obama’s people tweeted they thought it was going to be one of their closest states—and the New Hampshire numbers, which seemed to bounce a lot during the campaign.”

This is mostly true, but not entirely. Set aside Florida and Virginia, for which I don’t have internal poll numbers, but which the campaign apparently believed it was poised to win. Among those I do have, the Iowa number is also questionable, showing the race tied even though Romney ended up losing by almost 6 points. If Romney’s internal polling number in Iowa was roughly accurate, it would imply that Obama won every single undecided voter in the state, something that’s highly unlikely. (Newhouse didn’t respond when I emailed him a follow-up question about Iowa.)

Together, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Iowa go most of the way toward explaining why the Romney campaign believed it was so well-positioned. When combined with North Carolina, Florida, and Virginia—the trio of states the Romney campaign assumed were largely in the bag—Romney would bank 267 electoral votes, only three shy of the magic number. Furthermore, according to Newhouse, the campaign’s final internal polls had Romney down a mere two points in Ohio—a state that would have put him comfortably over the top—and Team Romney generally believed it had momentum in the final few days of the race. (You see hints of this momentum when you compare the Saturday numbers in each state with the Sunday numbers. Romney gains in five out of the six states, though Newhouse cautions not to make too much of this since the numbers can bounce around wildly on any given day.) While none of this should have been grounds for the sublime optimism that leads you to eschew a concession speech—two points is stilla ton to make up in a state like Ohio in 48 hours—you see how the campaign might conclude that the pieces were falling into place.

Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota are also of interest. Although internal campaign numbers for these states are much closer to the actual results than they are in the other three states (and very close to the final public polls), they at the very least reflect a flaw in the campaign’s assumption that undecided voters would break Romney’s way. If the internal polls are correct, roughly 80 percent of undecided voters actually broke toward Obama.

That aside, the numbers also explain why Romney decided to visit Pennsylvania on Election Day rather than, say, Wisconsin (both states that could have put him over 270 electoral votes had he failed to win Ohio). Pennsylvania, in addition to being a state that neither candidate had spent much time or money in (meaning there would presumably be a higher return on a candidate visit there), actually looked more winnable for Romney than Wisconsin in the final hours of the race.

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. “The Colorado Latino vote was extraordinarily challenging,” Newhouse told me. “As it was in Florida.”

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.

The second big problem with Romney’s internal polls has to do with the supposed momentum I alluded to earlier. Newhouse told me his numbers showed Romney stalling out around the time of Hurricane Sandy the week before the election, then recovering in the final few days of the race. “We thought we had in the last 72 hours of campaign … made up some ground from the challenging messaging period during the hurricane,” he said. It was the kind of momentum that could have made Ohio look doable even though Romney’s internal poll showed him down two points over the weekend. With the wind at their backs, even Pennsylvania may have seemed realistic with a three-point deficit Sunday night.

In some cases, the momentum appeared to be rather stark. Newhouse told me that the poll the campaign took in New Hampshire on Thursday, November 1, showed Romney down 45-48. On Sunday, it showed him up 50-43—a ten-point swing. New Hampshire turned out to be an especially volatile state, as Newhouse mentioned. And even without that, numbers often jump around arbitrarily on any given day. “You rule out any huge movement. It just doesn’t work that way,” said Newhouse. But, he conceded, “You begin to think maybe there is some movement” in the face of these kinds of numbers. “We had good earned media.” Indeed, even if you take two-day averages, Romney was down 1.5 points in New Hampshire after Thursday’s poll, according to Newhouse,but up 3.5 after Sunday’s poll—a five-point uptick from the post-Sandy low-point.

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.”

EXPOSED: Here Are The Tricks That Fox News Uses To Manipulate Statistics On Its Graphics

via Business Insider: 


Jeff Leek at Simply Statistics has a great post that explains how Fox News presents data in a really tricky way.

A lot of the issue comes in the way the data is presented. While most of the time the data is grounded in fact, by skewing the axes, using the wrong kind of chart, or just changing where the points should be on the graph, Fox is able to change the way that the information is interpreted.

As one example, Leek points out this pie chart. When you add up the numbers, it exceeds 100 percent, making a pie chart a poor choice.




In this Fox News chart, the axis starts at 34%. When looked at it this way, it appears that taxes will be five times higher than they are now if the cuts expire. In reality, that isn’t the case:



Here’s one of the biggest instances of skewed results. Look at the values at each of the points:



Now, look at it like this:



By expanding the scope of the Y-axis and strangely changing the placement of a number of points, Fox News presented the unemployment rate as stagnant. Leeks points out that the BLS data contradicts that conclusion:



Here’s one that makes it appear that welfare recipients are dramatically rising. In reality, the axis starts at 94 million, so the changes are much more subtle:



Not only is this graph somewhat skewed, the title isn’t even accurate. Moreover, there’s no Y-axis to show the difference:



Here’s a chart provided by Leeks that shows the differences:



Add up the percentages:



You can see all of the charts and analysis at Simply Statistics > 

‘Unskewed Polling’ Creator Launches New Site On How Obama’s Win Might Have All Been Based On Voter Fraud

via Business Insider:

The creator of the so-called “Unskewed” Polling site is now unskewing the actual votes.

Dean Chambers

Last week, Dean Chambers — who admitted he was wrong about the polls shortly after the election — launched, which attempts to expose “how they stole the election.”

Its premise centers on the admittedly eye-popping fact that Republican Mitt Romney received sometimes as little as zero votes in certain precincts in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Chambers also alleges that there are “questions” with how votes were counted in Florida and Virginia.

You see where this is going — without those four states, President Barack Obama has only 250 electoral votes. With those four states, Romney wins the election.

Chambers stops short of saying this is an example of outright voter fraud. But he insists he is trying to simply raise the questions based on what he considers “reputable reports.”

“The challenge, of course, in dealing with any voter fraud issues is that the people that do this are good at covering their tracks,” Chambers told Business Insider on Tuesday. “In many instances, the evidence that is available is very circumstantial. But there are lopsided votes in a number of areas that suggest ballots could be stuffed.”


Dean Chambers


Of course, the flaw in Chambers’ argument is that he is singling out the most reliable Democratic counties in each of these four states.

In Ohio, it’s Cuyahoga County, where Obama beat Romney by a 68.8 percent to 30.2 percent margin. That was little difference from 2008, when he beat John McCain 68.5-30.4.

In Pennsylvania, it’s Philadelphia County, which contained 59 precincts that cast no votes for Romney. Still, in 2008, there were 57 that did not provide McCain with any votes. Obama’s margin in the county was about 2 points better (he got about 85.2 percent this time) than it was in 2008.

In Florida, Broward County provided Obama with the exact same margin of victory as 2008.

What about Virginia? Here, Chambers points to a number of counties. He claims he was watching television and saw that with 97 percent of the votes tallied, Romney still led in Virginia. The last 3 percent, he says, swung the vote in Obama’s favor.

These numbers are not correct. But anyway, University of Virginia polling analyst Geoffrey Skelley explained on Election Night why Virginia was likely to swing Obama even as Romney held an early lead — because these counties still had yet to provide huge numbers of raw votes in big margins to Obama.


unskewed polls



But to Chambers, this was cause for skepticism.

“At least when the returns were coming in, Obama was leading in Pennsylvania and Ohio,” Chambers said. “Earlier in the evening, Romney was leading big in Virginia. Suddenly, it went from Romney leading to Obama leading by 110,000. It seemed to me to be really suspicious.”

When asked why — after admitting he had erred on the “unskewing” of the polls — he was perpetrating another implausible theory, Chambers relented and wouldn’t go all-in with this theory. He promised that some emailers were sending him much more unbelievable evidence of fraud, examples which he refused to include in his new site.

But he said the final margin of victory in these four states — nearly 400,000 — was not giant, and it was important to examine if anything unnatural led to it.

“I’m raising more questions than conclusions,” he said. “I don’t have enough evidence to conclusively say that, yes, the election was stolen.

“I think it may have been. It may very well be possible that there’s a certain amount of voter fraud, and it wasn’t enough to make a difference. … But the purpose is to gather together the credible and legit information that raises questions.”


Support For Legalizing Marijuana Hits A Record Level In A New Poll

via Business Insider: 


Support for legalizing marijuana reached an all-time high-water mark in a new ABC/Washington Post poll out this morning — but the majority of voters still do not favor it.

girl smoking marijuana

The poll comes a week after ballot initiatives to legalize small amounts of marijuana possession passed in Washington and Colorado. Massachusetts, meanwhile, legalized the use of medical marijuana.

The survey finds that 48% of voters favor “legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use,” while 50% oppose the measure. The 48% mark is the highest in the ABC/Post polls dating back to 1985.

Here’s a look in chart form of the three issues polled in the survey:


Marijuana chart

ABC/Langer Research


There are sharp divides between gender, age and political party on the issue of marijuana legalization. By 5 points, men support legalization. Women, on the other hand, split 45-53 against it. Young, 18-to-29 voters support legalization by 10 points. Older, 65-plus-year-old voters split 37 points against it.

Finally, Democrats are the most likely to favor legalization, supporting it 57-41. Republicans split 31-69 against making possession of small amounts legal.


Amazing Facts About US Presidential Voting By Sex, Age, Race, Money, And Education

via Business Insider:


Obama 347 electoral map


The New York Times has an awesome graphical breakdown of voting data from the 2012 Presidential election.

In case you had any doubt about how the country breaks down along gender, age, race, financial status, religion, education, and community lines, just have a glance at these stats.

  • Obama won “Women” by 11 points (55% to 44%). This was very important, because women made up 53% of voters.
  • Romney won “Men” by 7 points (52% to 45%).  Men were only 47% of voters.
  • Obama won “Young voters” (18-29) by an astounding 24 points (60% to 36%). These folks were 19% of total voters.
  • Obama won “Young middle aged voters” (30-44) by an impressive 7 points (52% to 45%). These folks were 26% of total voters.
  • Romney won “Middle-aged voters” (45-59) by 5 points (52% to 47%). These were 29% of voters.
  • Romney won “Older voters” (60+) by 9 points (54% to 45%). These were 25% of voters.
  • Obama won “Black voters” by a staggering 87 points (93% to 6%). Blacks were 13% of voters.
  • Obama won “Asian voters” by a remarkable 47 points (73% to 26%). Asians were 3% of voters.
  • Obama won “Hispanic voters” by a remarkable 44 points (71% to 27%). Hispanics were 10% of voters.
  • Romney won “White voters” by 20 points (59% to 39%). Whites were 72% of voters.
  • Obama won gay, unmarried, and working-mother, and parents-with-young-kids voters by massive margins.
  • Romney won “married” voters.
  • Obama won uneducated (no high school), modestly educated (high school), and super-educated (graduate degree) voters.
  • Romney won college grads by a small margin.
  • Obama won by a staggering margin voters who said their financial situation is the same or better than 4 years ago.
  • Romney won by a big margin voters who said their financial situation is worse.
  • Obama won households making less than $49,999 by ~20 points
  • Romney won households making more than $50,000 by 6-10 points
  • Obama easily won voters who classify themselves as Democrats and Liberals and narrowly won those classifying themselves as Moderates
  • Romney easily won voters who classify themselves as Republicans and Conservatives, and very narrowly won Independents
  • Obama won by a landslide in big cities and easily in small cities.
  • Romney won easily in rural areas and more narrowly in the suburbs and towns.
  • Obama won Jewish voters handily (2% of voters) and Catholic voters (25% of voters) narrowly
  • Romney won protestants (53% of voters) and white evangelical Christians (26% of voters).

Want to see how these statistics have changed over time? The New York Times has graphed each category here.

55% Still Think Obama Is The Likely Winner in November

via Rasmussen Reports:


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Despite his stumbling debate performance, President Obama is still considered the favorite in the race for the White House.

Fifty-five percent (55%) of Likely U.S. Voters believe that regardless of who they want to win, Obama is most likely to win the presidential election this year. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 35% think his Republican challenger Mitt Romney is the most likely winner. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

55% Think Government Doesn’t Protect U.S. Industries Enough from Overseas Competitors

via Rasmussen Reports: 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Most Americans blame the country’s bad economy on government policies at home rather than on overseas competitors, but they’d like to see the U.S. government protect domestic companies more. The latest Rasmussen Reports national survey finds that 59% of American Adults think the economic policies of the U.S. government are a bigger factor in creating the current problems with the economy than unfair business practices by countries like China and the ongoing economic problems in Europe. Only 12% blame unfair business practices by overseas competitors more, while just as many (11%) see the debt crisis and other problems in Europe as chiefly at fault. Eighteen percent (18%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)


53% Think Obama Will Win, 33% Predict Romney

via Rasmussen Reports: 


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The race may be neck-and-neck in the daily Presidential Tracking Poll, but voters by 20 points predict that President Obama will be reelected. Republicans are expected to keep control of the House of Representatives, but voters are evenly divided over the future of the Senate.

Fifty-three percent (53%) of Likely U.S. Voters think, regardless of who they want to win, that the president is most likely to be the winner in November. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that only 33% believe Republican challenger Mitt Romney will come out on top. Thirteen percent (13%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on August 26-27, 2012 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. Seemethodology.

Election 2012: Missouri President Missouri: Obama 47%, Romney 46%

via Rasmussen Reports: 


Friday, August 24, 2012

As the controversy over Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment continues, Mitt Romney’s lead in Missouri has vanished.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Missouri Voters finds President Obama with 47% support to Romney’s 46%. Three percent (3%) favor some other candidate in the race, and three percent (3%) more are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

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