The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Do Not Trust Polls, Period

Posted on | October 22, 2018 | Comments Off on Do Not Trust Polls, Period

This morning, I woke up and clicked the TV over to CNN just to see what they were talking about. They were touting a new CNN poll that shows Democrat Andrew Gillum leading by 12 points (!!!) in the Florida governor’s race. My immediate thought was, “What the f–k? Trump won Florida two years ago, but now they’re going to elect the mayor of crime-ridden Tallahassee as governor?” So I fixed myself a cup of coffee, logged onto the computer, and clicked over to Real Clear Politics, where I learned that three previous polls had shown the Florida governor’s race neck-and-neck between Gillum and Ron DeSantis. How could it be that Gillum had suddenly opened a double-digit lead?

Here: Compare the CNN poll of 759 likely voters, conducted Oct. 16-20, to the St. Pete Polls Oct. 15-16 survey of 1,974 likely voters. CNN’s poll was conducted by a Pennsylvania-based firm, whereas St. Pete Polls is a Florida-based firm, and this may or may not reflect on the validity of the results. However, notice this in the CNN poll:

Among the entire sample, 32% described themselves as Democrats, 29% described themselves as Republicans, and 39% described themselves as independents or members of another party.

Whereas the St. Pete Poll reported their sample was 39.4% Democrat, 37.1% Republican and 23.6% independent. Why the apparent oversample of independents in the CNN poll? We don’t know, but the difference in the party affiliation numbers between the two polls is entirely sufficient to explain the dramatic difference in the topline numbers.

Anecdotally, a friend in Florida tells me that he’s seeing more Gillum ads than DeSantis ads, and if the Republican is being outspent on TV, that may account for why Gillum is doing surprisingly well, but I seriously doubt that Gillum could win Florida by double digits. What we know is that midterms tend to be “base” elections. It’s about getting out the vote among the core supporters of each party, and if anyone thinks the people who vote in Florida on Election Day will be 39% independent, they’re out of their minds. That is a bad poll. Don’t trust it.

Also, don’t trust polls in general. The DeSantis campaign insists their own internal polls show the Republican actually leading. Considering the popularity of Florida’s outgoing Republican governor, Rick Scott, who’s challenging Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson, and considering the state’s large population of prosperous senior citizens, the campaign fundamentals favor Republicans in a state where, as say, Trump won in 2016.

A midterm backlash against the new president is possible, of course, and historic precedent favors Democrats this year, but nothing is certain, and what counts is who votes on Nov. 6. Trust no polls.

UPDATE: I solicited the opinion of a source who is in the polling business, who replied: “Your analysis is spot-on. No way the independents are that high. I do believe there are more independents because Democrats have been drifting away from the party but not 39%.”

Let me add something else: On Election Day 2012, I believed Romney would pull off an upset victory. This was based on analysis of county-by-county turnout by experienced operatives. What went wrong? Well, the operatives were running numbers based on 2008-2010 party alignment in the electorate, and the Democrats had succeeded in reaching enough so-called “low-information” voters to make the winning margin for Obama.It is very difficult to know in advance what the actual electorate — the people who show up to vote — will look like on Election Day, and attempts to “model” the electorate involve mere hypotheticals. Honestly, Republicans have to be worried about the poll numbers in Florida, considering what I’ve heard anecdotally about there being more Gillum ads than DeSantis ads on TV. But worried voters are also energized voters: If you’re a Trump voter in Florida who wasn’t necessarily fired up to vote this year, the danger that Andrew Gillum might become your governor should be all the incentive you need.

Oh, Scott Adams predicts the biggest GOP turnout ever.




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