Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I Dissent

Back in 2000, when Al Gore tried to have the election decided by lawyers instead of the voters, the mess was sorted out by a series of court decisions, the last one the United States Supreme Court. When the high court finally ruled that the law in Florida trumped the lawyers for Gore, emotions were still strong, even among the justices. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was particularly incensed with the decision, and she wrote a scathing criticism of the opinion, concluding wth the curt but clear phrase, I dissent.

Short, angry, bitter, and in the minority. I now feel as I believe Justice Ginsberg felt at that time. This election was not, despite the hype, the grand demonstration of egalitarian democracy and the fulfillment of promised ideals. Rather, it proved that a slick thug from Chicago with no executive experience whatsoever can get elected President if he has enough money, is protected from tough questions by a complicit media, and runs a campaign on pure style and hype. It’s not just for con men anymore.

I wrote last month that the polls were wrong. I also said that if I were wrong, I would stand and take my lumps for it. The reader will make his or her own decision, but I would like to address the facts of the polls’ Otober reports, and compare that to the actual election results as they appear to be forming up. I would argue that my statement in October, however it appears now, was valid and should be considered moving ahead.

First, the election results. At this time, President-elect Obama has won 52% of the popular vote, while Senator McCain has received 46% of the popular vote. Against that, let’s look at what the polls were saying on October 21:

NBC News/Wall Street Journal: 52-42 Obama
Ipsos/McClatchey: 50-42 Obama
Pew Research: 53-39 Obama
IBD/TIPP: 47-44 Obama
GWU/Battleground: 49-46 Obama
Newsweek: 53-41 Obama
Rasmussen: 52-45 Obama
Gallup (traditional): 50-46 Obama
Gallup (expanded): 51-45 Obama
Diageo/Hotline: 48-43 Obama
Reuters/C-Span/Zogby: 52-40 Obama
ABC News/Wash Post: 54-43 Obama

At first glance, three things seem to be true: Some of the polls were wrong, some were close, and most were closer on Obama’s actual support than McCain’s. However, these polls all show a certain number of undecideds, and this is an important factor to consider – how did the last-minute voters go? For the polls to be accurate, here’s how the undecideds would have to have broken from each poll:

NBC News/Wall Street Journal: Obama stays even while McCain gains 4
Ipsos/McClatchey: Obama gains 2, while McCain gains 4
Pew Research: Obama loses 1 while McCain gains 7
IBD/TIPP: Obama gains 5 while McCain gains 2
GWU/Battleground: Obama gains 3 while McCain stays even
Newsweek: Obama loses 1 while McCain gains 5
Rasmussen: Obama stays even while McCain gains 1
Gallup (traditional): Obama gains 2 while McCain stays even
Gallup (expanded): Obama gains 1 while Mccain gains 1
Diageo/Hotline: Obama gains 4 while McCain gains 3
Reuters/C-Span/Zogby: Obama stays even while McCain gains 6
ABC News/Wash Post: Obama loses 2 while McCain gains 3

Note how many of these polls would have to claim McCain made big gains among last-minute voters, for their poll to be correct? Well then, how did last-minute voters actually vote? According to CNN, they were essentially split, with a slight edge going to Obama.

So, that means that – as I said – the polls were generally wrong.

How big a deal is that? Let’s look at the margin in those polls, and compare that to the actual 6-point margin in the election:

NBC News/Wall Street Journal: Obama by 10
Ipsos/McClatchey: Obama by 8
Pew Research: Obama by 14
IBD/TIPP: Obama by 3
GWU/Battleground: Obama by 3
Newsweek: Obama by 12
Rasmussen: Obama by 7
Gallup (traditional): Obama by 4
Gallup (expanded): Obama by 6
Diageo/Hotline: Obama by 5
Reuters/C-Span/Zogby: Obama by 12
ABC News/Wash Post: Obama by 11

Notice how much those margins support Obama, and we know now they were inflated. Consider the next fact; turnout this year was down, not up. Down by more than five million votes from 2004. Somebody did not bother to vote this year. But who was it?

Again looking at CNN, it turns out that participation by democrats was 7 points higher than republicans. There was a modest 3 percent increase nationally in democrat voter registration from 2004’s tallies, while republicans dropped turnout by at least 15 percent from 2004. So if you are one of those eight million republicans who thought there was no reason to vote congratulations, you helped get Senator Thug-Light elected President. I have said all along that the election would come down to turnout, the independents, and the undecided voter, in that order.

So there it is. The polls were right and I was wrong, in so far that they predicted republicans would stay home. I disagree, however, that this means the number of people who consider themselves democrats has risen to a 7-point advantage. That will depend on how well Obama governs as President. And I have no confidence at all, that he is competent for the responsibility. That is an area where I would very much like to be wrong, because the consequences are dire indeed if I should this time prove to be right.

I would like to thank everyone who has been reading my work this campaign season. I realize that with the election over and Captain Unicorn having won the Fairy Kingdom, interest in polling and statistics will once again drop off sharply, especially by those who think the headline tells the whole story. I still maintain that the models were wrong, and the publicity of those polls may have played a role in suppressing republican support, but I accept that I will be in the minority in that opinion.


The Pharisee said...

What source are you using? I'm seeing some estimates that it was up, considerably.

DJ Drummond said...

CNN, pharisee. The vote count is 117 million and change. Over 123 million voted in 2004.

The Pharisee said...

Thanks. I'll keep watching for a final number.

There are some wild numbers out there about turnout. Fox is saying 64%. This stuff is as confusing and misleading as the poll numbers were.

Anonymous said...


Just wanted to say a very BIG thank you for all the valuable insights that you've shared through out the campaign season.

You've certainly taught me a lot about polling and interpretation of polls. Look forward to hearing more from you.

kal said...

DJ -- Thanks for the writings over the past month or so that I've read this blog.

Sucks that our horse didn't win, frankly I'm not sure that he could have in this environment, but I am feeling pretty good about being the opposition, cleaning out the dead wood in the republican party, and finding the focus on conservatism once again.

In the meanwhile, I'm sure there will be lumps to take. Including the free choice act bs and that 50 billion per year in welfare to foreign countries.

fred said...

Thank you for your work this election season. Stolen Thunder is now in my 'favorites' and I look forward to regular visits. Your work was fascinating and made the art of polling accessible even to a mathematically challenged person like myself.

I especially appreciated your Christian perspective. God Bless yourself, your family and your work.

Warm Regards,

Dr. Bonnette said...


I am deeply grateful to you for your dedicated efforts to encourage Senator McCain's supporters by showing that he had a real chance to win. In so doing you provided the real public service of helping turn out the vote for him, even though, as you demonstrate, the public pollsters tended to suppress his vote. Our consolation now is the hope that the more than forty Republican Senators will filibuster the more extreme of Obama's proposals, and the realization that any Supreme Court appointments he may make are likely to be liberals replacing liberals. In 2010, we have a good chance to blunt the socialist agenda by electing more Republicans. We must not give up in the defense of our beloved nation! Thank you again for your wonderful work in educating us about polling and encouraging the electorate to fight for what is right.

Lea said...

Well I totally agree with you.

You did a great job. Thanks so much!

Devon said...

That's just a national security risk. And if you claim FOX NEWS is biased...

Anonymous said...

Your incompetence with the polls was staggering.

Anonymous said...

DJ I thank you for all the information you have provided. I will continue to check back for you final analysis.

DJ Drummond said...

Joe Yangtree, there is a difference between accepting responsibility, and letting a boor like you abuse my website.

I originally left your comments up, until it became obvious that you have no intention of conducting yourself with any honor or decorum.

I do not generally remove comments, but I am not required to let anyone disrupt the thread.

I do wonder why, since you have the victory, you are still so consumed with spite and hatred?

Is that really what you want to be, all you can manage?

And you earn yourself no credit, to spew insults and derision in a way that shows you do not understand what was actually posted in the first place. It seems to have missed your attention, where I have admitted errors that I did make, or perhaps you can only accept the lie that I was wrong in all particulars?

Believe what you want, sir, but you will not sully my site with the kind of spoor you have left in the past two days. You may write in the tone reminiscent of an outhouse, but I am not obliged to let such filth remain.