I have said and will say again, that the opinion polls this year are simply wrong. They have fiddled with weighting and wording and various pieces of the demographics to create a false impression. You can either believe them or not, but as I have shown in the numbers for weeks now, believing the polls would be naïve at the very least.
But if the polls have been so biased, one may reasonably ask why that is so. I myself have commended groups like Gallup for a very professional job over many years, and even though I strongly disagree with the conclusions published by groups like CBS News, I applaud their open way of reporting at least some of the significant internal data. In fact, it is CBS News which reveals how this bias is operating, and how even well-intentioned pollsters can make major blunders in their assumptions.
I disagree with CBS News because of how it weights its respondent pool. And lately, what I have seen is a trend, verging on the ridiculous, of far too many Democrats in the pool to make any sense at all. This has been happening in both national polls and in state polls. For national polls, I mentioned some weeks back how Gallup managed to show Obama declining or staying steady in every political affiliation group over a week while McCain was steady or gained in every such group, yet Gallup’s headline claimed Obama was gaining support overall, a mathematical impossibility without manipulating the proportionate weights.
For the states, Survey USA’s polls also show a strong pro-Democrat bias, as shown in the following states (2004 and 2006 DRI splits come from actual elections, SUSA’s 2008 split is arbitrary):
Ohio – 2004 DRI split was 35%/40%/25%, 2006 was 40%/37%/23%
SUSA in 2008 is using 46%/33%/20%
North Carolina – 2004 DRI split was 39%/40%/21%, 2006 was 39%/40%/21%
SUSA in 2008 is using 42%/37%/18%
Virginia – 2004 DRI split was 35%/39%/26%, 2006 was 36%/39%/26%
SUSA in 2008 is using 39%/30%/25%
Pennsylvania – 2004 DRI split was 41%/39%/20%, 2006 was 43%/38%/19%
SUSA in 2008 is using 54%/35%/10%
Florida – 2004 DRI split was 37%/41%/23%, 2006 was 36%/39%/25%
SUSA in 2008 is using 40%/42%/16%
Survey USA is using weights which have no historical validity whatsoever in their state polling. “Garbage” is not too strong a word to describe their published results.
So what’s the deal? Something is happening to skew the polling groups’ perception of how they think voters will turn out, and in publishing invalid conclusions as they have, they are – intentionally or not – misleading the public about the election conditions. Since the reputation of the polling group is essential in attracting future business clients, it hardly seems reasonable to consider these blunders to be deliberate. Although I have written that polls fall into the unethical habit of selling a roller coaster story which they know is not accurate, polls do try to stay close enough to be plausible. One must conclude that they have come to believe their own hype, forgetting Heisenberg’s warning that observing a behavioral event not only influences the event, but also affects the observer as well.
So, in looking around for a cause, I found something all major polls have in common. Look at their headquarters locations:
ABC News 77 W 66th St, #13, New York City, New York
CBS News 524 W 57th St, New York City, New York
FOX News 1211 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, New York
Gallup 901 F St NW, Washington DC
Hotline 88 Pine St, 32nd floor, New York City, New York
IBD 12655 Beatrice St. Los Angeles, California
LA Times 202 W 1st St, Los Angeles California
Marist 3399 North Rd, Poughkeepsie, New Jersey
Mason-Dixon 1250 Connnecticut Ave #200, Washington DC
Newsweek 251 W 57th St, New York City, New York
NY Times 1 City Hall, New York City, New York
Pew 1615 L St NW, #700, Washington DC
Quinnipiac 275 Mount Carmel Ave., Hamden Connecticut
Rasmussen 625 Cookman, #2, Asbury Park, New Jersey
Reuters 3 Times Square, New York City, New York
Survey USA 15 Bloomfield Ave., Verona New Jersey
TIPP 690 Kinderkamack Rd, Oradell, New Jersey
WaPo 1150 15th St NW, Washington DC
Zogby 901 Broad St, Utica, New York
All of them deep in “blue” territory, many packed together up on the northeast corner of Obama territory. The only non-east-coast member of this group is the LA Times, located in the most liberal section of California, also solid blue in perspective. This is not a coincidence, all of the major polling organizations are based in locations where liberals are strongest and conservatives weakest, where ‘democrat’ and ‘republican’ take on meanings wildly different from the rest of the country. As a result, it is obvious that the prevailing culture in this limited part of the country has an undue influence on the focus applied by these polling groups. Democrats, especially liberal democrats, are over-represented in the poll reports because the culture of New York and Northeast America over-represents liberals. Republicans, especially conservative republicans, are suppressed in the poll reports because the culture at the polling groups’ headquarters suppresses republican opinion.
I learned long ago, that when a manager displays certain personality traits, they are soon reflected by the employees at that company. A relaxed manager who is confident tends to improve the mood of his staff, while a tense micro-manager creates the same attitude in his employees. Knowing this, it’s not at all hard to imagine the conversations between headquarters and the staff at these polling groups. They like Obama and expect him to win, so – what a surprise! – the polls they control reflect that same attitude.
Polls are useful for investigating trends and movement within a specific demographic, provided the polling group is ethical enough to publish its internals. But trusting them for an honest topline report amounts to trusting Obama’s campaign to honestly report how the election is really going.