The Bright Coast

Progressive Thoughts from San Diego Alums on Law, Politics, and Culture

Posts Tagged ‘Polling’

President Obama to be Re-Elected; Little Change in Congress

Posted by demkid on November 5, 2012

Well, I indicated in my last post that I may be blogging more frequently, but that just didn’t come to pass.  However, I did catch the twitter bug during this campaign season, so if you’re into tweeting, you can follow me on there (@brightcoast).  This blog began 4 years ago, in the midst of the 2008 campaign season, as a tongue-in-cheek response to some of our wonderful USD Law professors who blog over at The Right Coast.  (Now that blog just seems to be dominated by one professor who tends to re-post conservative articles without commenting much on them.)  Like many conservatives, The Right Coast has envisioned some sort of landslide (or smaller) victory for Willard Romney when all the votes are counted on Election Day, which is tomorrow.  In August, I stated that the conservative dream would never come to pass, and said, “I can almost guarantee that President Obama will be re-elected in November.”  Now that we’re a day from voting, I’m going to put it all on the line and officially get rid of the “almost.”  I guarantee that the President will serve another 4 years at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Before I give you my predictions, I’ll note my accuracy in 2008.  Then, I predicted an Obama popular vote margin of 6.7%.  He won by 7.2%.  I predicted an electoral vote for Obama of 349.  He exceeded my expectations and garnered 365.  In the Senate, I predicted 41 GOP Senate seats; they got 41.  In the House, I predicted a Dem majority of 260-175; the margin was 257-178.  So, I think I did pretty darn well.  Let’s hope that I can repeat my accuracy this time around.  Here’s how the map will look this year:

The President’s Path to Re-Election

There you have it.  294 electoral votes for the President.  Many of the s0-called “swing states” will be close, but I believe the President has a slight edge naturally and a significant built-in advantage in many of the important states.  His easiest path to victory is the “firewall” of Nevada, Wisconsin, and Ohio.  Winning these, plus not losing Pennsylvania (which trust me, won’t happen), gets him to 271.  I also think he wins Iowa by at least a few points, and Virginia, which is the closest of my Obama states, but which I think he’ll hold onto by the slimmest of margins.  The closest Romney state is Colorado, which I’ve been going back and forth on.  Many think Obama will hold onto Colorado and wind up with 303 votes, which is significant because it’s the same number Presidents Truman and Kennedy won.  That’s a distinct possibility, but I’m being a little more conservative, based on early voting figures.  As for Ohio, the big battleground, I think the President will win there fairly easily.  I’m actually a little more concerned about Wisconsin (a state Gore and Kerry won by less than a point), but the President has been there 3 of the last 5 days, and I think he’ll hold on.  Take away Virginia and Wisconsin, and the President has 271.  This is why Iowa is an important back-up, and why the President is finishing his campaign there, today.  It could also be close in New Hampshire, but recent polling has shown a slight but steady Obama margin there.  By the way, if it’s a slightly better night for the President, he could very well win Florida, but I think the odds are against it.  Here are my other predictions:

Popular Vote: Obama 50.7%, Romney 48.3% (The exact margin when Bush beat Kerry in 2004.)

Senate: Democrats (+2 Independents) 53, Republicans 47 (no change)

House: Republicans 238, Democrats 197 (Dems gain 4 seats).  I was tempted to make this dead even too, but there has to be SOME change out of 435 races, right??

Ohio: Obama 51.2%, Romney 47.7%

Closest State: Virginia

Largest Swing from 2oo8: Utah (secondary choices: Hawaii, Oregon, or Wisconsin)

Worst Political Pundit: Still Dick Morris

There you have it!  It’s been an entertaining election season and hopefully it’ll be a fun night, tomorrow.

 

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One Year Seems Like a Good Enough Break…

Posted by demkid on August 10, 2012

I wonder how many people have come to The Bright Coast in the past year and have been utterly disappointed due to the lack of any new posts.  Probably not a whole lot, but I can live with that.  The fact is, “brightcoast” and I have moved on to bigger and better things in the past couple of years, and we simply don’t have nearly the same amount of time to devote to crafting award-winning blog posts on “law, politics, and culture,” to use part of the tagline we borrowed from our rival blog.  (That “other” blog has still been going strong, though, as our USD Law professor friends generally have plenty of time on their hands to write about all things conservative.)  The two of us, on the other hand, have become USD Law alums, and neither of us even lives in San Diego, anymore!  That being said, and especially since we’re less than 3 months from what many are calling “the biggest election of our lives,” I’ve caught the blogging bug again, at least to write the occasional election-related post.  Where better to start than to talk briefly about some of my favorite subjects: polling, the state of the race as I see it, and the electoral college.

Despite what our professor friend hopes will happen, that being, a landslide for Willard Romney, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it will never come to pass.  In fact, I can almost guarantee that President Obama will be re-elected in November.  Why am I so confident?  Well, besides the fact that Romney is a super weak candidate, the economy will slowly improve over the next few months, and it’s just generally difficult to defeat an incumbent, the electoral math is clearly on the President’s side.  For Romney to win, there would have to be a pretty significant shift across the country to his side (Obama currently leads nationally by a few points or so), and he would almost have to sweep all of the major swing states.  For an excellent state of the race, check out Nate Silver’s page here, which currently gives President Obama almost a 75% chance of winning re-election.  For me, the proof is in the electoral math, and I’ve created a couple of maps over at 270towin.com to illustrate my confidence.  The following map shows the lay of the land, that is, I would be absolutely shocked if any of the colored states goes the other way on Election Day:

My Solid States

As you can see, I believe that President Obama is a mere 23 electoral votes from re-election.  If he fails to win any of the above blue states, he’ll be in real trouble.  I just don’t see that happening.  So, if he’s at 247, where does he pick up the other 23?  In my mind, there are two clear paths to victory.  Here’s the first:

Nevada (or Iowa) plus Ohio = Victory

In the above scenario, President Obama wins Nevada (where he’s currently up 5 in the polls with a 79% chance to win) and Ohio (also currently up 5 and a 72% chance to win.)  He could also replace Nevada with Iowa, where he’s up 3 and has a 67% chance to win (these percentages come from Nate Silver’s page.)  So, let’s leave in either Nevada or Iowa, and show you the second-easiest path to re-election:

Nevada (or Iowa) plus New Hampshire and Virginia = Victory

New Hampshire and Virginia will get the President to exactly 270.  In New Hampshire, he’s currently up 4 with a 74% chance, and in Virginia, he’s up 3 with a 68% chance to win.

In conclusion, I recommend focusing on polls from the above-mentioned states over the next 3 months.  If you see a bad couple of polls from any of the blue states in the first map, President Obama should be very concerned.  But, if all those hold up, simply look at Nevada, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Virginia.  Winning Florida, North Carolina, or Colorado would just be a bonus…these aren’t needed to win.  Also as shown, the President doesn’t need Ohio to win, if he can get Virginia, New Hampshire, and either Nevada or Iowa.  Many paths to victory, and many fewer paths to victory for Romney.  That’s the state of the race as I see it, and that, my friends, is our first blog post in a year.  Perhaps there will be more soon to come!

 

 

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Right Coasters’ Favorite Pollster Under Fire

Posted by demkid on January 3, 2010

And that pollster is none other than Scott Rasmussen.  A story posted at Politico over the weekend discusses the “hardening conventional wisdom among prominent liberal bloggers and many Democrats that Rasmussen Reports polls are, at best, the result of a flawed polling model and, at worst, designed to undermine Democratic politicians and the party’s national agenda.”  As a moderate and someone who’s been interested in polling for many years, I try and be as fair as possible when the issue of pollster bias arises.  More needs to exist than simply a consistent skewing of poll results from the average for me to believe that the pollster has an ulterior motive or hidden agenda.  Who’s to say that the pollster whose results generally swing to one side or the other isn’t, in fact, the most accurate?  As Nate Silver explains in his post responding to the Politico story:

What Rasmussen has had is a “house effect”. So far in the 2010 cycle, their polling has consistently and predictably shown better results for Republican candidates than other polling firms have. But such house effects can emerge from legitimate differences of opinion about how to model the electorate.

To his credit, Rasmussen has had some accurate results in recent,  high-profile contests (2008 general election and NJ governor’s race, for instance).  However, even though Rasmussen Reports has had some good final poll results, evidence seems to continue piling up that more is going on than the utilization of a polling model that normally features a more conservative electorate. 

It’s not just the data that Rasmussen’s critics object to — they also have a problem with the way the firm frames questions in its automated polls, which are the staple of its work.

In August, for example, Rasmussen asked respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement “It’s always better to cut taxes than to increase government spending because taxpayers, not bureaucrats, are the best judges of how to spend their money.”

“I think they write their questions in a way that supports a conservative interpretation of the world,” said [Democratic pollster Mark] Mellman. “In general, they tend to be among the worst polls for Democrats, and they phrase questions in ways that elicit less support for the Democratic point of view.”

Nate Silver expands on why Rasmussen should be questioned:

Likewise, Rasmussen recently produced a poll in which they purported to describe the Democratic health care plan to their respondents. Several other pollsters have found that support for the plan increases when it is actually described to respondents, but Rasmussen showed no such increase. However, the second sentence in their description reads: The plans before Congress would prohibit people from choosing insurance plans with lower premiums and higher deductibles. I don’t particularly know where this comes from; Rasmussen claims that its questions came from a ‘summary of the legislation provided by the New York Times’, but such a depiction of the health care policy appears nowhere in the New York Times article. But there it is in the Rasmussen survey, where it appears to be designed to build a relationship in the respondent’s mind between the Democratic plan and higher premiums.

[W]hen they do use unorthodox question wording, nine times out of ten it favors the conservative argument.

Silver also discusses Rasmussen’s choice of subject matter, and explains that “they have a knack for issuing polls at times which tend to dovetail with conservative media narratives.”  So, there are clear examples of why Scott Rasmussen shouldn’t be considered the most independent pollster out there.  However, I’m sure his polls will become more frequent in 2010, and conservatives (like our Right Coast friends) will continue to cite to these polls disproportionately to argue that President Obama and/or the Democratic Party are in trouble.  I get a kick out of how conservatives over-utilize Rasmussen polls, and many times his is the only poll cited in a particular blog post.  Conservatives particularly like to talk about Rasmussen’s daily presidential tracking poll, which always has President Obama’s approval numbers significantly lower than the average of other pollsters.  This poll has always seemed a little weird to me, because Rasmussen also compares people who “strongly approve” of the president’s job performance with those who “strongly disapprove.”  He deems the difference in the numbers the “Presidential Approval Index.”  Sounds fancy, but when you think about it, isn’t there a significantly higher number of rabid right-wingers than their left-wing counterparts?  In this country, self-described conservatives always outnumber self-described liberals.  While a Presidential Approval Index of -18 seems dire for President Obama, should we really be surprised.  In any case, the main approve/disapprove figure can be (and has been) called into question, as well.  Rasmussen likes saying that he always uses “likely voters” in his polling, as opposed to all voters, or registered voters.  This may be the best way to go when polling just before an election, but presidential approval is another matter.  Unless I’m missing something, we don’t vote on whether or not we approve of President Obama’s job performance.  Why should only likely voters be used, then?  The Politico article discusses this:

But critics note that the practice of screening for only those voters regarded as most likely to head to the polls potentially weeds out younger and minority voters — who would be more likely to favor Democrats than Republicans.

 Alan Abramowitz, an Emory University political scientist, said there was “huge concern right now” that Rasmussen was polling a universe of largely conservative-minded voters.

 “How is Rasmussen selecting likely voters almost a year before the election? And why would you even screen for likely voters in measuring presidential approval?” said Abramowitz. “My guess is that it’s heavily skewed toward older, white, Republican voters.”

There you go.  Sure, Rasmussen may be using this voter model, and there’s nothing wrong with doing so, but people should just be sure and think twice before viewing numbers from Rasmussen Reports as the most accurate around, and conservatives in the blogosphere should think twice before citing to Rasmussen 95-100% of the time.  I expect a decent amount of bias coming from the other side, but utilizing Rasmussen over and over again gets to be a little ridiculous!

Edit: Nate followed up with another post, entitled, Putting the [R] in [R]asmussen?  He starts:

ThinkProgress has discovered, by way of a cool new invention known as The Internet, that Scott Rasmussen has in fact been conducing polling on behalf of partisan clients, in particular the RNC and the Bush re-election campaign, both during 2003-04.

This appears to contradict all but the most absurdly lawyerly readings of a statement on Rasmussen Reports’ website, which reads: “Scott [Rasmussen] maintains his independence and has never been a campaign pollster or consultant for candidates seeking office.” The statement was also repeated word-for-word in a Politico article without any qualification.

OK, so we’ll score this The Internet 1, Politico’s fact-checking department 0, and Rasmussen a negative something for posting a blatantly misleading statement on their website.

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