Tag: Polls

Some Thoughts on The Polls

There’s a nerd fight going on between Nate Silver and several other analysts about how to interpret the Presidential election polls. Silver is projecting Clinton as having about a 65% chance of winning. HuffPo and Princeton are projecting her at 98%. I have some thoughts over at my personal blog:

Put aside everything you know about the candidates, the election and the polls. If someone offered you a 50-to-1 or a 100-to-1 bet on any major party candidate winning the election, would you take it? I certainly would. I would have bet $10 on Mondale in 1984 if it was a potential $1000 payoff. And he lost by 20 points.

It seems a huge stretch to give 98 or 99% odds to Clinton, considering:

  • Clinton has never touched 50% in the poll aggregates.
  • There are still large numbers of undecideds and third party supporters who will doubtless vote for one of the two candidates (and Trump’s recent surge has come from fleeing Johnson voters).
  • We have fewer live interview polls now than we did in 2012.
  • As Nate Silver noted, the average difference between final polls and the election has been about two points.

Basically, I think Wang and HuffPo are not accounting enough for the possibility that the polls are significantly off. In the last 40 years, we’ve had one Presidential election (1980) where the polls were off by a whopping seven points. That’s enough for Trump to win easily (or for Clinton to win in a landslide).

HuffPo’s analysis seems kind of bizarre to me, actually. They currently have Clinton up 5 points in the polls. There is not a single national poll that as Clinton up by that much right now. The average polls advantage for Clinton is two points. Silver estimates that corresponds to a real advantage of three. If he’s right, Clinton has an advantage but any outcome is possible.

Oh, That Liberal Media, Part 7614

You know, I can’t imagine why people think the media has a liberal bias. I mean it’s not like they stealthily edit articles to remove politically damaging quotes from the President and then come up with multiple BS explanations when caught.

Oh, wait. That’s exactly what they do.

(In other news, the media are going nuts because PPP did a poll asking voters if we should bomb Agrabah. 30% of GOP voters agreed. But Agrabah is not a real place; it’s the fictional city in the movie Aladdin.

Here’s the thing. You have to read further in to find it (and some outlets elide it entirely). But 19% of Democrats agreed. Moreover, 57% of Republicans said they didn’t know if we should bomb a fictional country. But only 45% of Democrats said they didn’t know. In other words, Democrats were more sure that they knew whether or not to bomb a country that doesn’t exist.

This is also an illustration of why polls mean little. You can get 20% of people to agree to anything in a poll, just from trolling. So when you hear something like “20% of Republicans think the moon is made of green cheese”, add a lot of salt.)