PPP vs party ID

One of the most contentious debates in this election cycle has been over party ID samples in polling.

Poll skeptics (mostly conservative) argue that the party ID sample of a poll should roughly reflect the likely party ID breakdown of the electorate on Election Day. If there are likely to be 33% Republicans, 33% Democrats, and 33% independents voting, then polls should reflect that in order to get an accurate picture of how they plan to vote. This is of course a very difficult thing to estimate in the first place. Many factors affect turnout, and it varies from year to year.

Poll purists (mostly liberals, media figures, and pollsters themselves) instead argue that the party ID sample of their polls is an organic finding of the electorate in a state or nationally at any given time, mostly reflective of voter enthusiasm (the more the electorate identifies with a party, the more they will identify with it in a poll). Purists also argue that they should leave the sample distribution as they find it, since estimating what the party ID sample should be and adjusting their numbers as necessary is presumptive at best, and completely distorts the data at worst.

The purist argument makes sense from a statistical perspective, but the pollsters’ own data argues against it. In the last week, PPP, a private polling firm mostly hired by Democrat groups, conducted two different polls of Iowa voters. This turns out to be a perfect opportunity to test their own theory of party ID. PPP’s 10/19/12 poll, conducted 10/17-19, found Romney up 1 point overall, with a party breakdown of R+2. Their 10/21/12 poll, conducted 10/18-19, found Obama up 1 point overall, with a party breakdown of D+7. Both cannot be true. If party ID sample in polls represents organic electorate composition and enthusiasm in a state or nationally, then two polls taken by the same firm at the same time in the same state should show the same party ID. But they don’t.

So where does that leave us? Party ID is important on Election Day. Turnout wins. But it’s not predictive in polling, it’s determinant. As PPP’s two Iowa polls show, shift the sample (intentionally or not), and you shift the result. That has been the biggest statistical story in this election cycle, I think. The polls haven’t changed all that much in the actual inter-party result; Republicans are voting for Romney, Democrats are voting for Obama, and independents favor Romney by an average of 10ish points. The only thing that determines who wins is how many of each group answers the phone or turns out to vote.

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Romney’s flipped newspaper endorsements

The following is a (growing) list of US newspapers that have endorsed Mitt Romney for President, all of which endorsed Barack Obama (or didn’t endorse anyone) in 2008:

Orlando Sentinel – Obama 2008 – Romney 2012
Nashville Tennessean – Obama 2008 – Romney 2012
New York Observer – Obama 2008Romney 2012
Fort Worth Star-Telegram – Obama 2008Romney 2012
Houston Chronicle – Obama 2008Romney 2012
Reno Gazette-Journal – Obama 2008 – Romney 2012
Billings Gazette – Obama 2008 – Romney 2012
Columbian (WA) – Obama 2008 – Romney 2012
Daily Tribune (MI) – Obama 2008 – Romney 2012
Sentinel & Enterprise (MA) – Obama 2008 – Romney 2012
South Florida Sun-Sentinel – Obama 2008 – Romney 2012
Long Beach Press-Telegram (CA) – Obama 2008 – Romney 2012
Des Moines Register – Obama 2008Romney 2012
Quad-City Times (IA) – Obama 2008Romney 2012
Casper Star-Tribune – Obama 2008Romney 2012
Bluefield Daily Telegraph – Obama 2008 – Romney 2012
Los Angeles Daily News – Obama 2008Romney 2012
Daily Herald (IL) – Obama 2008 – Romney 2012
Lima News (OH) – N/A 2008 – Romney 2012
Lafayette Journal & Courier – Obama 2008 – Romney 2012
Yamhill Valley News-Register (OR) – Obama 2008Romney 2012
Cape Cod Times – Obama 2008Romney 2012
The Intelligencer (PA) – Obama 2008Romney 2012
Naples Daily News – Obama 2008Romney 2012
Florida Today – Obama 2008 – Romney 2012
Pensacola News Journal – Obama 2008 – Romney 2012
The Reporter (CA) – Obama 2008 – Romney 2012
Joplin Globe – Obama 2008Romney 2012
Worcester Telegram & Gazette – Obama 2008Romney 2012
Galveston Daily News – Obama 2008 – Romney 2012
Nashua Telegraph – Obama 2008 – Romney 2012
Statesman Journal (OR) – Obama 2008Romney 2012
Shreveport Times – Obama 2008 – Romney 2012
Sauk Valley Telegraph & Gazette – Obama 2008 – Romney 2012
San Angelo Standard-Times – Obama 2008Romney 2012
Huntington Herald-Dispatch (WV) – Obama 2008Romney 2012
Newsday (NY) – Obama 2008 – Romney 2012
Norwich Bulletin – Obama 2008 – Romney 2012
New York Daily News – Obama 2008Romney 2012
Wisconsin State Journal – Obama 2008 – Romney 2012
The Daily Reflector (NC) – Obama 2008 – Romney 2012
Journal Star (IL) – Obama 2008Romney 2012
The Star Press (IN) – Obama 2012 – Romney 2012

For comparison, a total of 7 newspapers that endorsed McCain in 2008 have endorsed Obama this time. Yes, 7.

Forget the answers, it’s all about the questions

Apart from the uneven speaking time, the errant live “fact-checking”, the applause lines allowed for the President, the main problem last night was the questions. While some of them were surprisingly good for the typical undecided voter mental diarrhea, many of them were based on faulty or plainly liberal premises, which tells you a lot about who undecided voters are.

Some examples, from the Washington Post transcript:

Mr. President, Governor Romney, as a 20-year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors and others is that when I graduate, I will have little chance to get employment. What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?”

The correct answer to this question is “nothing”. Sure, a President can pursue policies that improve the economy and job market, and that’s largely how both answered it, but in a free society no one should be able to tell another individual that they’ll have a job after college.

“Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it’s not policy of his department to help lower gas prices. Do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the Energy Department?”

Of course it shouldn’t be the policy of the Energy Department to lower gas prices. It shouldn’t be the policy of any government agency to control prices in any way. It shows how far we’ve gone from a truly free market when it’s assumed that it should be the goal of the government to lower prices. The government should facilitate the market, not steer it.

“In what new ways to you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?”

There are inequalities in the workplace? But I thought President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which ended that. The premise of women making 72% less than men is even more wrong, as FactCheck.org explained recently. Women make less than men overall, not because of discrimination, but because women tend to work more part-time jobs, take more time off for pregnancy and other issues, and work less overtime. Both candidates of course used the opportunity to pander to women voters, but in a more mature political environment the question would never have been asked at all.

Mr. President, I voted for you in 2008. What have you done or accomplished to earn my vote in 2012? I’m not that optimistic as I was in 2012. Most things I need for everyday living are very expensive.”

More price control pandering.

This question actually comes from a brain trust of my friends at Global Telecom Supply (ph) in Minneola yesterday. We were sitting around, talking about Libya, and we were reading and became aware of reports that the State Department refused extra security for our embassy in Benghazi, Libya, prior to the attacks that killed four Americans. Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?”

Nothing wrong with this question…except that it wasn’t answered.

President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or planned to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?”

What exactly is an “assault weapon”? Are there weapons that are used for things other than “assault”? The additional premise that we can realistically limit the use of certain kind of weapons is just as ridiculous. Criminals don’t care about the law; that’s what makes them criminals. Tell me how hard it is to get illegal drugs in any urban area in the country.

The outsourcing of American jobs overseas has taken a toll on our economy. What plans do you have to put back and keep jobs here in the United States?”

Outsourcing has not “taken a toll on our economy”, it has provided us with inexpensive consumer products, new markets for our own companies to expand, efficient industries, and is almost exclusively used to serve foreign markets not “ship jobs overseas” that would otherwise stay here. Naturally both candidates used the opportunity to pander to low information voters in manufacturing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania who trend protectionist anyway.
I suppose we shouldn’t expect rational and well-sourced questions from people who three weeks before a year-long election still haven’t decided who to support, but at least we should seek to have the moderator or organizers limit the questions to those that are based in reality so the candidates aren’t debating on false premises.

Electoral priorities: Go for 270 or 337?

The great Jay Cost of the Weekly Standard raises a good point about prioritizing campaign dollars here:

Romney should not spend in MI either. Same reason. He wins MI after he gets beyond 300 EVs. Meaning it’s gravy.

There are a LOT of swing states right now (11 within 5% according to RCP), especially after Romney’s pre/post-debate surge. When the polls tighten in a state that you thought was previously out of reach, it’s tempting to flood the state with ads and other money-hungry campaign activities. However, in terms of winnability, it makes more sense to go harder in the closer states that get you over the 270 electoral votes required to win. Sure, it would be great to win Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oregon, but they’re not necessary. Since there are so many other states closer to Romney’s reach than those, enough to get him to 270, that’s all he needs.

According to RCP averages, there are 3 states in which Obama leads by less than 2% right now: NH, VA, NV. If he gets those, he already has 267 electoral votes, with OH, IA, WI, MI, PA remaining, in order of accessibility (2-5% Obama leads in each). Sure it would be great to get all of those, but with just one, he crosses 270 and wins. So barring locally mitigating circumstances, it’s much easier to get the one or two with the smaller margin (OH, IA) than to shoot for the moon and go for all of them or the big ones. Doing that means diluting resources in states that while leaning his direction could slip from his grasp if the campaign lets them.

Only when you’re absolutely certain of victory (270) can you really let down your guard and go for the whole shebang (337).