October 15th, 2004

Jeff_Annie_Remedial Chaos Theory

About Political Polling...

OB fandom service announcement: Today is the last day to vote in the Walk With Heroes Awards. There are a lot of high-quality stories there in all categories, so go vote. You don't even have to leave your chair to do it.

In other news:

A fascinating interview I picked up from Electoral-Vote.com about why all polling is suspect for the 2004 election in all races.

It's a fascinating read as well as a good tutorial on why numbers aren't telling the whole story this year.

Here's a snippet:

Barboursville, W.Va.: Do you see a wave going to either party in these last weeks? Is it a fact or myth that the undecided go to the challenger? I have heard some say yes and others say no.

Charles Cook: I certainly don't see any wave out there, for either side. Going into the first debate, Kerry was underperforming among women voters, that got corrected in the first debate, closing the gap from, say a six point Bush lead going into the first debate (average of all polls) to about two points right now.

I cannot remember ever seeing a race where a well-known, well-defined incumbent won a half or more of the undecided vote. Generally it is at least two-thirds to three-quarters going to the challenger, somebody was throwing a figure around of 85 percent, don't know if that is right. But as a general rule, undecided voters overwhelmingly break toward challengers, unless the incumbent is relatively unknown, undefined, appointed or something. That's why it is a mistake for people to focus on the spread between the two candidates, the far more relevant figure is the actual vote percentage of the incumbent in a poll (or better, average of polls). If you assume that Nader/others get about two percent of the vote (down from combined 3.1 percent last time), if President Bush is at 46, 47 or maybe 48 percent of the vote going into election day, he probably loses, 49 percent, on the cusp, 50 percent wins.

Go and read Charles Cook's interview in The Washington Post . It's probably the most even-handed look at polling I've read. Well, probably not. But it's the first explanation I've understood.
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