Sunday, May 29, 2016

A note of caution on the polls these days

Not only do we have nation-wide polls on Clinton vs. Trump already, we are starting to get the usual slew of state-by-state polls.  For right now, ignore the latter.  Opinions and vote intentions don't tend to crystalize until fall, when the campaign crystalizes them.  That doesn't mean we learn nothing by looking at polls, it just means we can't read too much into them yet.  And state-by-state polls are harder to do because of potential turnout differences that wash out in the nationwide averages.  So, as problematic as it is to do a nationwide poll right now, state-level polls are harder.

And remember, nearly every time, the electoral college victory will go to the winner of the popular vote.  So, by watching the nationwide polls, we get a sense of where things stand now.  As November approaches, we need to shift to the state-by-state polls, where the fine-grained distinctions can be made, and where they become important.  Popular vote/electoral college splits are rare, but obviously, they do happen.  When?  In close elections!  And this one will be close.

This matters now because if you look at the RealClearPolitics nationwide polling average, you see what is essentially a tie between Clinton and Trump, but the state-by-state polls have Clinton ahead in more battleground states right now, which makes her lead look more solid than it actually is.  Don't trust those.  For now, recognize that the polls themselves are of less value than they will be in a few months.  If you must look at polls right now (and of course, I must), focus on the nationwide polls.  Shift your attention to the state-by-state analysis around September, or August at the earliest.

Or, hell, obsess over every poll you see.  Who am I kidding?  That's what I'll really do, regardless of the advice I give.

I'm not well.  I need help.

5 comments:

  1. Eh, we'll all do that (We're all a little sick).

    I use every poll as a reason to bash the HRC supporters on the head about how much better Bernie does than Hillary (and if HRC loses, or if the race is really tight, I'll gloat about how I told them so ;) )

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  2. Be careful with those polls. Republicans haven't bothered to attack Sanders, which artificially inflates his numbers in those hypothetical match-ups. Maybe I should do a post soon about which styles of polls work and which don't. Keep an eye out for it. Maybe even today!

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    1. The problem with that argument is that HRC isn't immune to attacks either, the email scandal, whether or not there is substance to it will hurt her numbers badly, as will a lot of her past (Most people aren't political junkies and only vaguely remember her past scandals, and she's no slick willie)

      So the idea that Bernie is inflated is specious.

      What I think is important to remember is Bernie is also much more well liked than either frontrunner.

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    2. The problem with that argument is that HRC isn't immune to attacks either, the email scandal, whether or not there is substance to it will hurt her numbers badly, as will a lot of her past (Most people aren't political junkies and only vaguely remember her past scandals, and she's no slick willie)

      So the idea that Bernie is inflated is specious.

      What I think is important to remember is Bernie is also much more well liked than either frontrunner.

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    3. Not quite. Clinton is just locked in where she would inevitably be. The attacks can't hurt her anymore because they have already done as much damage as they can possibly do.

      If you want to argue that Sanders can withstand the attacks more effectively, then go for it, but you can't ignore the important fact that Republicans haven't bothered to attack him. And then, you have to remember the well-established finding that ideological extremism is an electoral vulnerability. Sanders is indisputably more extreme. That makes him a weaker candidate than Clinton. Everything else is pretty much just a gut-level assessment, and you have to factor in what the Republican campaign against a self-described socialist would be.

      Sanders is about the only Democrat who would be such a weak candidate he would have a hard time beating Trump. A self-described socialist can't win in this country. The ideological effect just can't be ignored.

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