Poll “Analysis” Shenanigans

UPDATE: Newsweek continues to lead with whatever data most favors Kerry. Like the previous post debate poll analysis piece they've decided to use registered voters without Nader this time referring to it euphamistically as the "national horse race". While the gap in likely voters has narrowed in this poll, characterizing this race as "getting even closer" when Bush leads or is tied in every other poll is a bit of a stretch.

UPDATE: CNN's decided to follow Newsweek's lead and fudge the numbers. In today's poll analyis piece they're calling the race "still tight" despite there being an 8 point gap in likely voters. This is because today, like the Newsweek piece mentioned below, they've sneakily decided to use "all voters" because this measure has Kerry closer. Compare this to their previous poll piece where they call the poll for Kerry despite only having a 1 point lead among likely voters. Apparently likely voters are good enough for Kerry, if they show him ahead.

UPDATE: Regression Analysis of polling data and an interesting interpretation.

UPDATE: Kaus and Patio Pundit also noticed Newsweek's curious poll analysis.

Even though it was anticipated weeks in advance of the debates, for the last few days even I, who was convinced the race was over after the CBS fiasco, was beginning to buy into the “Comeback Kerry” storyline actively forwarded by the mainstream media. Every news story I read before and after the debates had the same message that Kerry had closed the gap on Bush and had the “Big Mo” to eventually take the lead. Then I saw these charts HERE and HERE which hardly support the media’s conclusions. While polls are not perfect, the data doesn’t lie. Today I happened to come across the headline on Drudge that reports that the most recent Newsweek poll has Bush up 6 among likely voters – the measure universally accepted as the most accurate reflection of future voter turnout. Then I went to Newsweek and came across this headline “Too Close to Call: With the debates behind them, the contenders in the race for the White House remain locked in a dead heat in the latest NEWSWEEK poll”. Now it’s been a few years since I took stats, but with a margin of error of +/-4, 6 points is hardly “too close to call”.

What’s going on here?

Newsweek based the article on a measure “of all voters” instead of the more accurate likely voters that has the margin between Bush and Kerry 4 points closer. Why are they now using the “all voters” measure when it is less accurate, not emphasized by other news organization polls, and not used in every previous Newsweek poll analysis? The most innocent explanation is that the news media wants every election to be a close race to the finish and will report data that supports this. If both sides believe they have a chance of winning, they have an engaged audience on both sides. While this is probably a factor in this election as well, how likely is it that Newsweek and other mainstream media sources would be concerned about reporting it as a close race if Kerry was up 6 among likely voters? Not very.

Why is this a big deal?

Kerry’s base is substantially less committed to Kerry than Bush’s supporters are to him. Overwhelmingly, their vote is more an act of opposition to Bush than support of Kerry. This makes Kerry’s base particularly vulnerable to disinvestment. If at some point it became clear that a Kerry presidency was highly unlikely, voter turnout for Kerry would be extremely depressed. This appears to be CW within the mainstream media and they appear determined to do their part to make sure it doesn’t happen.


Bob Schieffer: Worst Moderator Ever

I watched the debate on CNN and in the analysis afterwards the leitmotif was that this was the least satisfying debate of the three. Naturally they blamed the candidates, but I blame Bob Schieffer. While his questions, overall were particularly unchallenging to both candidates, they were particularly so to Sen. Kerry. Over and over they seemed to be invitations to tee up on Bush penned by Mary Beth Cahill. My favorites: “Is there a ‘backdoor draft’ on National Guard and Reservists?” or “Pres. Bush, repeating a statement Sen. Kerry said, would you overturn Roe Vs. Wade?”. (I would love to hear if any of you could identify a question asked of Kerry that gave Bush equal opportunity) Personally I think after the 15min mark Bush took Kerry to town, but if the CW is that Kerry won this debate I think he’ll have Bob to thank for it.

UPDATE: Heres a better critique.


Kerry passed this up.

Errol Morris, director of The Fog of War and The Thin Blue Line, interviewed several folks who voted for Bush in 2000 but are supporting Kerry this year. In an interview with the Boston Phoenix, Morris said,

"I was in favor of creating nontraditional political ads. I think that a lot of the ads are so pro forma — they’re so expected that they are not terribly effective. You have to come up with new approaches. Everybody talks about the "Daisy" ad in the 1964 presidential campaign [a Lyndon Johnson spot that graphically depicted a nuclear attack]. Everybody knows what perfunctory advertising is, and people know what innovative and cutting-edge advertising is, and there’s no reason why advertising in a political campaign has to be the way it is.

Q: Where would you file the windsurfing ad the GOP did?

A: The GOP is very good at a certain kind of food-throwing ad. They go for innuendo. But they’re ads! To me, you want to create ads that make people think — that don’t necessarily just say the expected in the expected way. There was an essay by Schopenhauer that I’m very fond of, called "The Art of Controversy," in which he talks about how to win an argument. He says [that] there’s two ways to win an argument: there’s logic and dialectic. Now, anybody knows you can’t win an argument through logic, so let’s pass on quickly to dialectic. And then he proceeds to give you some 30-plus ways to win an argument any way you can. For example, after someone has completely discredited your argument and shown you to be a fool, you look directly into their eyes and say, "You know, I’m really glad you’ve come around to my way of thinking." [Laughs] The idea is that in any kind of persuasion, logic is not necessarily the strongest tool in your arsenal.

Q: And President Bush is a mass persuader who doesn’t really traffic in logic or convincing facts.

A: Yes. And to me, you’re trying to create ideas in the strongest possible way you can. What’s strong about these real-people ads is not necessarily the logical arguments that they’re providing, although in some instances they are logical arguments. What’s interesting to me is that they are real Americans, and they’re actually thinking about stuff. For people who want to say that we have an electorate that doesn’t think, this is an answer to that. This is an electorate that does think, and is concerned. And it’s valuable to hear these people express themselves. Not because they’re involved in some meaningless theatrics or performance — they actually feel this stuff."

I don't find it terribly surprising that Kerry passed these up. They are described as non-traditional by their author, so it doesn't seem to be much of a stretch to say Kerry saw them in those terms and similarly as a risk, if he considered them at all. However, take a look at the ads, now sponsored on the web by Moveonpac.org (a group I don't much care for, but don't let their baggage, or mine, stop you from making up your own mind), the style and content reflect well on Morris and would reflect well on Kerry, if he'd let it.

Christopher Reeve died last night

Harry Knowles from Ain't it Cool News has a pretty touching note on his passing. Also here's this from the AP.