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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

National Polls Don’t Matter

posted by on October 28 at 12:28 PM

Not when the electoral map shows a clear leader in swing states. And one national poll doesn’t matter when it shows a dip as a pattern of statistical noise, while the average of several national polls still shows a clear winner. Besides, some of those polls showing Obama losing ground use an outmoded model for projecting likely voters. So today’s Gallup tracking poll of likely voters isn’t making me nervous at all. Gulp.


FiveThirtyEight says McCain only has a 3.3-percent chance of winning.

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Why not be worried? The Ds lost in 2000 and 2004 by 1 state? Few people thought Florida or Ohio would be the Kingmakers before those elections.

Posted by Zander | October 28, 2008 12:31 PM

What is making me nervous is that it's that much easier to steal an election if there's at least one source the candidate can plug over and over again to put some numbers behind how close they are, instead of a sudden 10-point gain on Nov. 4

Posted by Adam | October 28, 2008 12:32 PM

I'll believe it when Eli posts it.

Posted by Dubcek | October 28, 2008 12:34 PM

@2, you're missing the point. Presidents aren't elected by a national vote. Their standing in a national poll DOES NOT MATTER ONE BIT. What matters is winning the individual states that have a total of 270 electoral votes or more.

If you look at those, it is nowhere near as close as 49-47. It's more like 97-3. McCain needs to turn around PA by more than ten points, AND THEN win ALL of NV, CO, MO, IN, OH, NC, and FL, all of which he's behind. It's the equivalent of tossing "heads" ten times in a row -- it happens, but it's pretty goddamn rare.

Posted by Fnarf | October 28, 2008 12:40 PM

@4, what do you know about successfully tossing head, Fnarf?

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | October 28, 2008 12:44 PM

The storyline Drudge and other right-wing outlets are pushing is currently "if all the media outlets turn out to be wrong about this election and McCain wins, they will have lost their credibility completely."

Which would be convenient, if this turns out to be the election where even the mainstream media breaks its unspoken rule about reporting on blatant election fraud. Then, on November 5th, if any newspapers print stories to the effect of "It doesn't add up: Signs point to stolen election" the Party in Power can respond with "what do you know -- you've lost your credibility!"

And go back to ruling unchallenged.

Posted by flamingbanjo | October 28, 2008 12:44 PM

I have the home viewers kit, Jube.

Posted by Fnarf | October 28, 2008 12:48 PM

Did I just see a McCain/Palin ad on this website? FOR SHAME!

Posted by uncouthheathen | October 28, 2008 12:54 PM

Polls don't elect presidents, votes do.

Talk to the folks in West Virginia who's electronic voting machines are still registering incorrectly.

Talk to the estimated 100,000 voters in North Carolina who might have missed voting for president because of a confusing ballot design.

Talk to the 50,000 Georgia voters who were purged from voter rolls--illegally--because of a "computer error."

Talk to the folks receiving "official looking" flyers informing them that "due to expected high turnout, the State of Virginia has designated that Republicans and Independents will vote on November 4, and Democrats on November 5."

Talk to the folks who were visited by a "poll worker" in Florida who "helped" these Floridians fill out their ballot and then pledged to deliver the ballots for them... and disappeared.

All mysteriously in battleground states. Hmmm...

And these are the ones we know about.

Posted by Andy Niable | October 28, 2008 1:05 PM

You know what would make me feel confident? If there were at least one active vote-tampering lawsuit per state, starting one month ago.

Posted by Greg | October 28, 2008 1:33 PM

Andy, some of these things are prevented by simply having a brain or not being stupid.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 28, 2008 1:35 PM

Gallup's registered voters and Likely Voters II model both look better for Obama than the LVI graph you have posted, if that makes you feel any better. Of course, no way of telling which model is most accurate, but does anyone here thing that 2008's turnout model will follow 2004's?

Posted by Your friend in sf | October 28, 2008 2:04 PM

And yet, in the end, it's all down to the black box voting, vote caging, and Fear effects.

So, the question is, does the US Supreme Court have a 3.3 percent chance of selecting Comrade McCain?

Cause trusting them is ... not smart.

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 28, 2008 2:32 PM

@11--sure, Bellevue, and some of them--such as being purged from voter rolls or the discarding of provisional ballots--don't have a lick to do with the voter's intelligence (or control). What's your smart-ass crack about that?

Regardless of the relative intelligence (or lack of it) causing the problem, my statement still stands--it's not the polls, stupid, it's the votes.

And, overall, I don't think blaming the victim, no matter how brainless, is going to help empower voters.

Posted by Andy Niable | October 28, 2008 2:52 PM

I'm not too worried about this. In fact, I think it's good that this new Gallup poll keeps Obama supporters on their toes. After all, now is no time for slackness.

I, for one, have been glued to the Gallup all the while Obama was soaring over McCain, so I'm not about to reject it now that he's not doing so well. (Obama seems to have a way with luck with these things, you'll see). Hopefully he tears away again tomorrow, that's all.

At the same time, one can always take solace in the fact that it's the battleground state polls (where Obama's still safe) that matter, and not the national opinion polls.

But you have to give McCain supporters a little hope now and then, right?

Posted by Lando Calrissian | October 28, 2008 3:00 PM

As long as we're cherry picking polls:

Georgia (10/28):

McCain 48, Obama 47

Posted by Zelbinian | October 28, 2008 3:06 PM

If early voting trends keep up, Obama's going to win Georgia, which is going to put him over 400. Fingers crossed. But even if he loses there, the fact that it's close means that states like PA and VA and even NC are simply out of reach for the old man and the Iron Bimbo.

Posted by Fnarf | October 28, 2008 3:15 PM

Fnarf @ 4: The problem with the multiple-coin-flip analogy is that for real coins, each flip is a separate random event, unaffected by the other tosses, or by much else, for that matter. So having them all come up heads is really rare. The voters in the eight states, on the other hand, all watch the same TV. A _single_ random event, say an unusually bad Biden gaffe, followed by an unusually well-choreographed McCain campaign response, could move 8% of the voters in each of those states. So sure, right now Obama is 75% likely to win in each of the key eight states. But that doesn't mean that McCain has only a 0.25-to-the-eighth power chance of winning.
The thing that let's me get to sleep every night goes back to that "unusually well choreographed" thing. What's so great about the wheels coming off the McCain bus (aside from the pure deliciousness of it all, I mean) is that unwheeled buses make lousy dancers. With every passing the day, their campaign gets more dysfunctional, and less able to take advantage of some juicy thing that might come their way. At least, that's what I've been telling myself.

Posted by Eric in Boulder | October 28, 2008 3:33 PM

"The Ds lost in 2000 and 2004 by 1 state?"

I was surprised by Gore, but were that many dems surprised by Kerry? He was an underwhelming candidate. For people who insist Obama needs to be at 60%, I guess nothing will ever keep you from worrying. Applying 2000 and 2004 is not valid here.

Posted by hal | October 28, 2008 4:48 PM

That is dangerously high. Really? Would you let someone you love eat something that had that high of a chance of killing them?

Posted by Nyima Wimberly | October 28, 2008 5:16 PM

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