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A boy reaches out to shake hands with U.S. President Barack Obama at a campaign event at Desert Pines High School in Las Vegas, Nevada September 30, 2012. Obama in Las Vegas to prepare for the upcoming presidential debate in Denver on Wednesday. REUTERS/K
President Obama greets the crowd in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sept. 30, 2012.

In late November, the sage of the Sagebrush, Nevada, journalist Jon Ralston, uncovered a fascinating post by UNLV political science professor David Damore. The subject was one that has been often discussed both here and elsewhere: Why are pollsters always getting Nevada wrong?

For those with short memories, in 2008, polls showed Barack Obama with a slight lead in Nevada. When the votes were tallied on Election Day, it wasn't even close—Obama wound up winning the state by a 55-43 margin.

The failure of pollsters to nail the Silver State was even more glaring in 2010, when virtually every pollster in existence had Republican Sharron Angle dispatching Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. As it happened, Reid was the victor, and it really wasn't terribly close (50-45).

While the polling this year wasn't quite so far off the fairway (the polls only underestimated Obama's margin of victory in Nevada by roughly three points), once again the Democrat looked better on Election Day in the state than he did in pre-election polling.

Which begs the question that Damore sought to answer: What is it about Nevada?

Some of the expected perils were cited by Damore (a high proportion of Latino voters, as well as a higher-than-normal number of cell phone-only households). But Nevada also had a few other interesting eccentricities that would make it tough to poll, according to Damore:

  • The state’s largest source of employment, the hospitality industry, necessitates that many Nevadans work and live non-traditional schedules.
  • During the past two decades, Nevada has been the fastest growing state in the country and the state has some of the highest rates of annual in and out migration as just 24.3 percent of residents were born in the state; the lowest share in the country.
  • Nevada’s voter registration is highly variable.  Between March and October statewide voter registration increased by 21 percent and in Clark County, home to nearly three quarters of the state’s population, registration increased by 26 percent.

Even though the effect wasn't quite as magnified in 2012, it was still present. In the nearly two dozen polls conducted after Oct. 1, President Obama led by an average of 3.6 percentage points. At last check, the margin was 6.7 percent. A similar overstatement of Republican performance was present in the state's Senate race: The polls had Republican incumbent Dean Heller up quite a bit more than the final margin, which landed at just a tick over one percent.

However, Nevada is not the only state where this phenomenon was present. And, the multiple examples of states that seem to defy pre-election polling raises the question as to whether a "house effect" exists in states.

(Continue reading below the fold.)

For those unfamiliar with the term "house effect," it is a term that has been utilized by political analysts to describe a generic lean that certain pollsters seem to have in their results. The most obvious example of this, of course, in the current polling landscape is Rasmussen, whose polls frequently tend to err on the side of the Republican candidate, and often by several points.

The question to ponder today is whether or not, due to factors like the ones outlined above with Nevada, some states just tend to perform more amenably for one party or another over the pre-election polling in those states.

To test the theory, I looked at all the presidential polls released on or after Oct. 1. All told, that added up to 536 statewide polls in a total of 42 states.

(For those scoring at home, the following locales were never polled, at least for the Obama-Romney trial heat, in the final month of the campaign: Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming.)

Much like the national polling, an analysis of statewide polling showed a tendency for the polls in the final month to underestimate the performance of President Obama versus his Republican challenger. Obama outperformed his final month polls in 28 different states, while he underperformed his polling in 14 states.

What is somewhat intriguing is the fact that at least some of the states where Obama beat his polling were states were Democrats also outperformed their polling in 2010.

Here, for posterity, were Obama's "best five" states, as measured by the number of percentage points by which he outperformed his final month polling:

1. Hawaii: 13.2 percentage points (Polls: D+29.5; Election: D+42.7)
2. California: 6.9 percentage points (Polls: D+16.4; Election: D+23.1)
3. New Jersey: 6.4 percentage points (Polls: D+11.3; Election: D+17.7)
4. Connecticut: 5.9 percentage points (Polls: D+11.5; Election: D+17.4)
4. Oregon: 5.9 percentage points (Polls: D+6.2; Election: D+12.1)
Hawaii is a state that flummoxed pollsters in 2010, as well. It was, lest we forget, the state where team Rasmussen had one of the most eye-popping examples of clearly crapping the polling bed. For those who have forgotten, in that year, Rasmussen posited that the legendary (and recently departed) Democratic senator there, Dan Inouye, only held a 13-point lead over his little-known Republican challenger. He wound up winning by ... over 50 points.

Why is Hawaii so hard to poll? Ethnically, it is one of the most diverse states in the union, with a high Asian-American population. That is a constituency that has gone sharply to the left in recent elections, and some argue that it is a constituency that has proven more reluctant to respond to polls. If undercounted in polls, that could easily explain some of the swing here.

California, like Hawaii, was a state where Democrats outran their polling margins in 2008, as well. While polls prior to the election did forecast a pair of victories for Democrats Jerry Brown (governor) and Barbara Boxer (U.S. Senate), virtually none foresaw the double-digit victories achieved by both Democratic candidates. This year, as well, polls undersold the level of Democratic dominance in the state.

What happened here? One guess is that California is a state with both a fast-growing Latino population and a fast-growing Asian-American population. If pollsters did not account for that, that could explain being off the fairway by several points. This might've been particularly true with the Latino segment of the electorate. The "gold standard" poll in California, the Field Poll, forecasted a sizable decrease for Barack Obama in the state's "Inland Empire", which includes Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Those areas have large pockets of Latino voters, and they defied the polls on Election Day by turning out for the Democrats. Not only did Obama carry both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties (by margins almost identical to his 2008 landslide win), but the Democratic wave also took down veteran GOP Rep. Mary Bono Mack, whose Riverside County district fell to Democrat Raul Ruiz.

With New Jersey and Connecticut, meanwhile, we may well see the legitimate evidence of a "Sandy" bump. There is little evidence of a big movement in national polling post-Sandy, but there seems to have been some movement in these two states that were sharply impacted by the super-storm. That "bump" was felt across the ballot, pushing Democratic Senator-Elect Chris Murphy to a wider-than-expected win over Republican Linda McMahon in Connecticut, and saving one imperiled House seat for the Democrats in the Nutmeg State.

New York also saw Obama perform slightly better than he polled, but not to the same magnitude as its neighbors. Of course, inexplicably, the results in the Empire State are still not final, and Cook Report elections analyst David Wasserman has estimated that nearly a half million votes in New York remain to be counted. So, perhaps, in the final analysis New York will join New Jersey and Connecticut in rewarding Obama for his attentiveness in the wake of disaster.

The one that's tough to figure in that top 5 list for the Democrats is Oregon. Oregon was (obviously) not impacted by Sandy, nor does it have an outsized number of nonwhite voters: Oregon's electorate, according to the 2012 exit polls, was 88 percent white in 2012.

Perhaps the pollsters in Oregon anticipated a sharper drop in voter turnout than actually took place, skewing the numbers a bit. After all, Oregon's election turnout of 82.8 percent was only a couple of points lower than the 2008 elections.

Finally, what about the states where Obama's electoral performance was weaker than polling might've indicated? Explaining those results, quite frankly, is a little bit tougher:

1. Oklahoma: 8.6 percentage points (Polls: R+25.0; Election: R+33.6)
2. South Dakota: 7.7 percentage points (Polls: R+10.3; Election: R +18.0)
3. Nebraska: 6.2 percentage points (Polls: R +15.6; Election: R +21.8)
4. Tennessee: 5.4 percentage points (Polls: R +15.0; Election: R +20.4)
5. Montana: 5.0 percentage points (Polls: R +8.7; Election: R +13.7)
In the case of Oklahoma, I think it is safe to say the issue there was sample size—the state was only polled once. With South Dakota and Tennessee, there were also small sample sizes (three polls). What's more, in both cases, the issue might've been the "house effect" of a polls. All three South Dakota polls were conducted by a single pollster (Nielson Brothers) and two of the three polls in the Volunteer State were conducted by the same pollster (YouGov).

Nebraska was just a pure miss, across the board. The error extended to the Senate race, which despite the late hype wound up being an easy double-digit win for Republican Deb Fischer over Democrat Bob Kerrey.

One final, and somewhat interesting, finding: The most consistent finding in the study was the fact that margins of victory, no matter who won the state, were almost always underestimated by the pollsters in 2012.

Over the 14 states that had Barack Obama polling better than he actually performed, Obama lost all but one of them (Illinois). Meanwhile, in the states that Obama overperformed his polling, he carried 24 out of 28 of them. All told, an eye-popping 88 percent of the races had the winner polling worse than his actual final margin of victory.

And, in a shoutout to the polling community, the Oct-Nov polling average correctly picked the winner in 41 out of 42 states: Only Florida (where the final month average went to Romney by a fraction of a percent) kept America's pollsters from running the table. But, once again, this makes a ridiculously strong case for the virtues of averaging polls to forecast electoral outcomes.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 02:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos Elections.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Meta polling (12+ / 0-)

    In the end, isn't meta polling just increasing the sample size of the polls? That would seem to make the results more reliable. If 10 firms each poll 1000 people and we average the 10 polls would the results really be that different from originally polling 10,000 people?

    To me progress is not so much a goal as it is a process and I believe it will not follow a straight course. Remember, the drops of water that form the river may not take the shortest path but they will still reach the ocean.

    by ontheleftcoast on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 02:14:43 PM PST

    •  Not that different (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      radarlady, llywrch, ontheleftcoast

      Actually usually worse than getting a true 10k sample, since the ten firms will likely poll some of the same people.

      But a truly random distribution of 10k is MUCH MUCH more significant than 1K in terms of margins of error.

      The worry with modern polling is the knowledge that the sample is NOT random, and the various models used to estimate the fraction that doesn't answer polls for whatever reason seem to have issues (this article is saying that in 2012, all polls seemed to come in low for the actual winner.  That's a fairly strange bias and thus interesting to study)

      •  Non random samples - why ten 1K polls are better (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        If you had ONE 10K sample - whatever bias was in the selection would go unbalanced.  By having TEN 1K polls, sample bias is balanced out (as long as you don't have lots of intentional bias, a la Razzy and Gravis)

        •  Only if the bias isn't in the same direction (0+ / 0-)

          You can't assume that.

          Most polling firms try pretty hard on the sampling (the likely voter screen is more likely to have partisan bias).  The systematic errors are far more likely to be tied to methodology than to an attempt to skew the outcome.

          Because of that, because the sampling methodology is similar between polling firms (the primary differences are robocalling vs live interviewer and whether the interviewer can handle languages other than english) there is a concern that even a larger sample won't be free of bias (multiple poll averaging won't eliminate errors, they'll just reinforce them)

      •  Oh lord no. This is dead wrong. (0+ / 0-)

        Sample size has strongly diminishing returns. Standard deviation of a poll, where p is how many people chose candidate A and n the sample size, is sqrt(p*(1-p)/n). That should make fairly obvious that one large poll performs worse than several small ones-- the error doesn't shrink proportionally, it's proportional to the square root.

    •  This depends (3+ / 0-)

      If it were possible to get a truly random sample of voters, and if pollsters managed this (or came close to it) then it would not matter much, if at all.

      However, the above is not possible. Not only is each pollster's sample biased, but each pollster uses a different weighting scheme to try to eliminate this bias.

      In these circumstances, combining 10 different pollsters may be a good bit better than having one pollster get 10 times the sample.

      Increasing the sample reduces the variance.

      Increasing the number of pollsters may reduce bias

      (Here I am using bias in its technical sense - results that are systematically different from the true value - and do not mean to imply any nefarious intent).

    •  Not entirely an increase in sample size (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Steve Singiser

      If that were the case, then we would have predicted a near-tie in the popular vote based on on national polls. But I did not predict that - I predicted an Obama popular vote win by several points.

      Sampling error is just part of the story. One needs to have to have a way to address systematic errors in polling.

  •  You entirely neglected the busses full o' black (8+ / 0-)

    Folk as an explanation for Obama's over-performance.

    "Let's see what fresh fuckwittery these dolts can contrive to torment themselves with this time." -- Iain Banks, The Hydrogen Sonata

    by Rikon Snow on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 02:19:11 PM PST

  •  This might just be a sign of changing times (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    majcmb1, hamjudo, MichaelNY, pelagicray

    IIRC, 20-30 years ago calls from polling services were so rare & had such impact that one almost felt it was a duty to answer a pollster phone call.

    After the epidemic of telemarketers a few years back, & the fact pollsters call practically every other day with some trivial survey -- most of which have the goal of simply making it easier to sell junk no one needs -- people have stopped answering phone polls.

    Okay, maybe this isn't true for many people. It is true for both I & my wife: we rarely answer the landline phone unless it's from a person or number we recognize. If it's important, the caller will leave a message. Maybe if we had a political cause we were dedicated to we would be motivated to answer the phone & help our cause; I bet we're not the only ones who would think the same way.

    •  Very possibly. The Do Not Call registry exempts (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      llywrch, MichaelNY

      polling among some other things. Thus some telemarketer calls are framed as polling. My tendency, and I can react rather nastily to anyone intruding on my DNC numbers and just negatively to charities, is hang up as soon as "poll" is mentioned.

      Though I come from an age when answering the telephone was something you'd run in from the yard to do, I now consider it my very private line for family and a few friends and anyone, anyone at all making a "cold call" an intruder. Any call from a stranger is just "spam" now. I find my adult kids seem to consider me, along with everyone else making a call, an intruder! They apparently consider a personal call something to be arranged in advance, a phone "date" so to speak, by texting.

      The role of "telephonic" communications has shifted tectonically since my youth when a phone call was "important" and a long distance call was an event. Wonder how many now even remember an operator announcing a "life experience" with "I have a person-to-person call for . . ." There was a time when such meant a moment of fearful joy. Was it death, illness or a rare visit?

      The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

      by pelagicray on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 07:03:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The exuberance of likelier voters (15+ / 0-)

    Hi, Steve. Sam Wang (Princeton Election Consortium) here.

    This is an interesting set of observations. I love it.

    I had a similar take on this phenomenon in 2008. I noticed that as measured by winning margin, the front-runner of a state usually outperformed his polls by a factor of 1.2.

    At the time, I thought that pollsters were under-capturing likely-voter enthusiasm on the winning side - or not capturing a lack of spirit on the losing side. The latter is easy to imagine, since voters usually know when their vote is, in their own view, being thrown away. Also, pollsters are mainly under pressure to get the sign of the result correct. If they are off quantitatively in the way you describe, there is less penalty to their reputations.

    One thing that's interesting - in your posting here, the median outperformance is a factor of nearly 1.5. That is amazing. I can't think why that would be, except that sampling is more challenging than it was four years ago.

    In regard to all the micro-analysis such as demographics, I think it will be hard to get far. Those questions are at a very fine grain compared with the available data. The one exception is Nevada, where Prof. Damore's comments are very interesting.

  •  I have spent a fair amount of time (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    InsultComicDog, Shockwave, cacamp, madhaus

    on this, and while I have not finished my work:

    1.  The House effect in red and blue states is tied to the undecided.  Higher undecided tend to result in leans away from the trend in the state.  For example, in California higher undecided polls lean GOP - because the undecided they find lean one way or the other.  You can see this in the Field polling.

    2.  There is a very strong connection between a competitive race and house effects.  Since 1996 in Presidential politics the house effect is often effected by:
    - the amount of money spent in the face
    - the existence of a compelling Senate or Gov race.

    I hope to post all of this, but the state house effect is not static.  In '96  California was still fought over, and the effect was very different then now.

    The holy grail of all of this would be to run the following regression:

    state lean = state pvi + money spent + other competitive races + state party organization (need to develop some metric for that)+ consulting firm

    I have always wanted to run a regression and see if you could come up with a ranking of the political consulting firms and create the equivalent of a WAR for them.  Can you imagine the screams from someone liike Bob Shrum.

    The bitter truth of deep inequality has been disguised by an era of cheap imported goods and the anyone-can-make-it celebrity myth - Polly Toynbee

    by fladem on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 02:37:27 PM PST

  •  Doesn't NJ traditionally (7+ / 0-)

    vote more D than it polls?

    I don't have the data, but I remember this happening several times.

    One explanation could be that so many New Jerseyans work out of state (either in NY or PA) making reaching them during business hours trickier.

    •  Yes NJ does this often. I like your explantion. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      plf515, MichaelNY

      -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)!

      by dopper0189 on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 07:02:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I would agree (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      plf515, MichaelNY

      They really all commute to NY if they live near it and most of those voters are Democrats while the voters in the center of the state lean more Republican.

      Also, there may be some undersampling of Hispanics and Asians. I remember that in 2006, 2008 and 2012, Democrats overperformed the polls.

      2009 Democrats did not overperform the polls. I think it was that Democratic turnout was just too low and that many of the late deciders went for Christie, cancelling out any underpolling.

      For more election analysis and redistricting maps, check out my blog CA-2 (former CA-6) College in CA-37

      by Alibguy on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 11:15:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  really? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        plf515, MichaelNY

        lots of Republicans in NY commuting areas (northern Bergen, northern Passaic, Morris, etc.) and I've heard some people even commute from Monmouth and Ocean. presumably Republicans are the ones who get home later cause they have longer commutes...but, idk.

        Living in Kyoto-06 (Japan), voting in RI-01, went to college in IL-01.

        by sapelcovits on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 12:58:17 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Good point (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Then again, I mostly took the trains into New York (I stayed in Hoboken for awhile with my relatives and took the train into the city occasionally,) but good point. Yeah, many of the Wall Street people live out in Morris and northern Bergen Counties.

          I think the underpolling might be underepresentation of Hispanics and Asians in the polls. 2009 bucks the trend because Christie made inroads among the Asian community.

          For more election analysis and redistricting maps, check out my blog CA-2 (former CA-6) College in CA-37

          by Alibguy on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 05:52:18 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Jersey girl here (originally) (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        NJ likes to vote for Republican governors, but Democratic presidents and senators.  I have no idea why, just noticing what always seems to happen.

        Then again I've lived in CA for more than 30 years, so I don't know from on-the-ground what's happening politically in the Garden State.  I ask my family back there, but everyone they know votes Dem, so I don't get a random sample.

  •  This feels like... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    One final, and somewhat interesting, finding: The most consistent finding in the study was the fact that margins of victory, no matter who won the state, were almost always underestimated by the pollsters in 2012.
    some version of regression to the mean at play here, but I can't put my finger on it.
    •  Wouldn't it be AWAY from the mean? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Since what you see is a drift to the winner?

      My own unscientific take is that the potential winner's voters LOVE to go vote for a winner, and the potential loser's voters will take any excuse to not vote .... since psychologically they don't want to be seen as backing and "investing" in a loser.

    •  Not quite (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Zack from the SFV

      regression to the mean applies when one selects subjects (people, polls, whatever) because of their extreme nature.

      In the classic example, the tallest men have sons who are shorter than they are (although still taller than average).

      So, in polling, the idea would be something like "the poll most favorable to Obama overestimates his vote" but even that isn't quite it.  Really, it would be more like: The states that gave the highest proportion to Democrats in 2012 will give them slightly less (although still more than the average) in 2016.

  •  call it the horserace effect then (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DSPS owl

    maybe the reality is that pollsters are afraid to report so big differentials that the public might lose interest in the polled races?

  •  Missing Piece (0+ / 0-)

    What is missing is the expected answer in that locale or the "black president" factor.  This is the first time a black man was running for president.  

    I think looking back to Ferraro as a veep might be interesting.  Also, comparing gay marriage results.  We looked at polling for Gay marriage as over by 6 points.  Many said they were for or going to vote for gay marriage even though they were not.  The 2012 results might be "not voting for" the black guy to meet the poll expectations.

    Pam Bennett -6.95 -7.50

    by Pam Bennett on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 03:10:23 PM PST

  •  The conclusion (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    (consistently under estimating margins of victory) then might indicate that it is estimating (base) turn-out that is the problem.

    "Do what you can with what you have where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

    by Andrew C White on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 03:15:55 PM PST

  •  The House Effect (11+ / 0-)

    explains a lot about Nevada being so far off the mark. I lived there briefly, and have visited there off and on for years.
    Essentially, there's Las Vegas, and then there's the rest of Nevada. The rest of Nevada is as Republican as it gets out here in the west. It's the Nevada that started the Sagebrush Rebellion 30 years ago, and won't vote for no Democrat, no how, no way.

    This Nevada is where Sharon Angle came from. The people are a mixed bunch of ranchers, miners, desert rats and federal workers who all live in hard places and have a lot of fear and dread connected with entering the 21st century.
    This is the Nevada where all the teabagger noise and the older populist-libertarian noise comes from. That noise, because it comes from Nevada, a most singular state, gets all the attention.

    And then there is Las Vegas. Aside from the casino owners and the big money men, Vegas is a hardscrabble town. All the folks who keep the wheels turning don't have much job security, and were the ones hurt the most by the housing crash. They are often the quiet ones with brown and black skins, who are just holding on. They're the ones who get laid off first, come back last, and populate most of the working-class town Las Vegas really is away from the strip and the glitz.

    And another curious event may have transpired; neighboring Arizona has made itself a very unpleasant place to live for Hispanics. Families are families, and there are lots of Hispanic citizens who have Uncle José with no green card living with them, or old Grandma, who can't take care of herself back in Mexico any longer and has moved up to be with the kids and grandkids.

    When Grandma faces a forced eviction back to Mexico along with Uncle José, and the family is getting sick and tired of being hassled for their last name and their appearance, what would they do?

    Pack up the pickup and move to Nevada. Or to the Inland Empire, where they, if not exactly more welcomed, are at least left in peace with no immediate fears for their loved ones getting picked up and put on a plane because of a broken tail light.

    While Repubs like to talk about their family oriented culture, the Mexicans live it. Family is everything to them, and their families include many more in-laws and distant cousins as an integral daily part of living.

    While the Hispanic community is not reliably liberal- it's more naturally conservative, in my experience- it's only natural that they will vote for whoever seems most favorable to them and their culture.
    Obama has been no friend to them; his administration has deported thousands of them, but the Democratic party has not shouted for 4 years in a full-throated roar for every one of them to be sent back over the border.

    Until the Repubs come to their senses (if ever they do),  all we have to do is support their causes and do some work on correcting the huge legal immigration mess. We don't have to succeed, but we have to try, and we have to let them know we are trying. Any positive step is a big step to get and keep them on our side.

    And, in time, the pollsters will finally catch on and start paying more attention to the dynamics within this section of Americans.

    Right many are called, and damn few are chosen.

    by Idaho07 on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 03:37:40 PM PST

    •  I'd agree with some of this except... (7+ / 0-)

      two things.

      1. I think the state has libertarian roots that have been tossed rightward with the advent of cheap talk radio in the cow counties. Hey, if you live in White Pine or Humboldt County, all  you have to listen to is Rush on the local AM outlet. Rural Nevadans didn't used to be a bunch of right wing lunatics and I don't think they are. The media they get leans hard right and pushes some of the libertarian buttons.

      2. Washoe County is NOT the rest of non-Clark County Nevada.  It's a competitive area for Democrats with the right message, even though there are some real right wing  lunatics there. Washoe is approx 15-20% of the vote in Nevada and a decent plurality combined with a huge turnout in Clark County wins.

      •  Washoe County (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Shockwave, fgentile, MichaelNY


        You make a good point.  Washoe went for Obama 51-47.  Not far off the national average.  However, in the senate race, Washoe went 50-40 for Heller.

        I wonder how much of election results/polling in NV are the result of "identity politics?" In the presidential polling a case of, "how do I think my neighbors would answer this poll," but then voting the way that you think will really matter.  And in the senate race a case of, "I'm not voting for another one of those LV types."

        I think it would be a fascinating study for some poli-sci department (preferably at UNR, where they do real science ;)).

        •  Yeah (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          madhaus, MichaelNY

          Looking at identity polls would be a good way to do it.

          Also, Washoe County is definitely not the "rest of Nevada" also known as the Cow Counties. Washoe County is a bit of a bellwether actually, it's picked the winning candidates in pretty much every major election since 1998.

          Washoe County has urban Reno but Reno is less Democratic than Las Vegas but Democratic enough to usually swing the county for Democrats which means Democrats can win statewide.

          I also predicted for the Senate race that Berkley would have to win Clark County by 10 because Titus lost statewide by 4 but won Clark County by 6 and she faced a Republican from outside Las Vegas. Those candidates do surprisingly well actually, mostly because they prevent Democrats from winning Washoe County.

          For more election analysis and redistricting maps, check out my blog CA-2 (former CA-6) College in CA-37

          by Alibguy on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 11:19:24 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Heller is from Reno (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          madhaus, MichaelNY

              so he may have overperformed there because of a favorite son effect. He was the Representative for the area before his appointment to the U.S. Senate.

          Diehard Swingnut, disgruntled Democrat, age 54, new CA-30

          by Zack from the SFV on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 12:55:03 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  I agree. (0+ / 0-)

        AM radio still rules when one is travelling through the Great Basin. It's the only radio that a person can get for hundred of miles, sometimes. I've spent hours yelling at my radio, too.
        That happens whenever I leave my road CD's back home by accident.

        AM is nothing but Rush and company, 24/7/360 in some areas. It has to have an accumulative effect after 20 years of listening to nothing but this with no alternatives.

        Right many are called, and damn few are chosen.

        by Idaho07 on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 04:43:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  OT: It's NOT "begging the question!!! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DSPS owl, jlmbrnprof

    This is a site full of literate intelligent people and often just a joy to read, but if even this site can't use the phrase "begs the question" properly what hope is there for the rest of the English-speaking (probably dumbass American) world. Begging the question refers to a logical fallacy wherein the premises of an argument assume the claim that the conclusion is true. For example, God exists because it says so in the Bible and the Bible must be correct because it was written by God. Nevada's bad polling does not beg the question that Damore seeks to answer. It raises the question.
        If you want to argue that this doesn't matter that's fine, but don't be so quick to mock the illiteracy of the "moranic" teabaggers if you can't use the language properly yourself.

  •  In CA 36, where Miss Mary Mack finally went down, (6+ / 0-)

    it was thought that she'd win because it was thought that there were more Dems than Republicans, as has historically been the case, but, in fact, the voter registrations of D's and R's was even by election day, and pollsters failed to account for this.  In addition, Raul Ruiz ran a hard fought campaign, he had tons of commercials on the air, and Mack was absent from the district, splitting her time between here in Palm Springs, in Washington DC and in Florida with her new husband Connie Mack.

    She also never had much competition in the past.  Additionally, she tried to pacify the large gay community here by occasionally throwing us a few crumbs.  She told Latino community leaders that she couldn't meet with them until after the election, (she should have been in partnerships with them and talking at all times), and finally, she referred to the East Valley as a "toilet", which was completely reprehensible.

    She lost by about 6 points.

    •  Even I (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      was shocked by that, her district was not more Democratic than her old one.

      I think it was just that she faced a strong candidate in Ruiz and she wasn't ready with the fact that she said "third world toilet." It must have really hurt her.

      Also, another thing is that the Republican areas in her district were more open to ticket splitting.

      For more election analysis and redistricting maps, check out my blog CA-2 (former CA-6) College in CA-37

      by Alibguy on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 11:27:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  What's really remarkable about FL (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Zack from the SFV, MichaelNY

    is the extent to which Republicans used to be able to take a tie in the polls to the bank. And absent Obama's world class turnout machine, that may return.

    Ok, so I read the polls.

    by andgarden on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 04:11:14 PM PST

  •  Illinois polls are routinely wildly inacurate. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I'm used to polls of state level races in Illinois (Senate, Gov) being wildly off the mark from final election results. I think this is common in many states. Perhaps companies aren't investing money in doing good state-level polling, just as news organization have cut back everywhere else. It's dangerous to take polls of a small area with a small sample size seriously.
    I think reliance on polling data is one reason why the DCCC didn't make a big early investment in the IL-13 Congressional race, even though it was obviously going to be competitive. It was decided by about 1,000 votes.

    •  I'd be interested to see the third-party effects (0+ / 0-)

      in Illinois. If there's a state where people think "Obama doesn't need my vote", it's Illinois. Combine that with the fact that this is Stein's home state, and her presence on the CPS picket lines while Obama was mute on the issue...well, I know a good number of people in my social circle that went that way instead.

      (of course this is wild speculation based on a tiny sample size)

  •  It should be easy ... (0+ / 0-)

    In Nevada, to at least control for the effect of the hospitality industry: see if there's any way to break down polls regionally within the state. I bet that the most of the state that's away from Vegas/Reno/Tahoe would have more accurate polls.

  •  Just for the sake of completeness, SUSA did KY. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    •  Ooh! Didn't See This One... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Though the volume was so high in the final week that I am not surprised that there were a couple that slid through the cracks... :)

      "Every one is king when there's no one left to pawn" (BRMC)
      Contributing Editor, Daily Kos/Daily Kos Elections

      by Steve Singiser on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 02:01:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Observations re Hawaii and NJ (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LordMike, madhaus, MichaelNY

    Regarding NJ: While the entire state was affected by Sandy, two of the counties that have traditionally given Republican candidates big pluralities (Monmouth and Ocean) bore the brunt of the storm's damage.  That may be the better explanation of why the Democratic pluralities exceeded those predicted in polls.

    Regarding HI: HI has one of the lowest turnout rates of any state in the Union, regardless of whether you measure turnout as a percentage of registered voters; percentage of voting age population (VAP) or percentage of voting eligible population (VEP).  In 2008, HI was dead-last among the 50 states in both VAP turnout and VEP turnout.  It's a big problem there.  So, even a small error in pollsters' estimates of who actually turns out in an election can have outsize impacts on their prediction of pluralities.

    Anyhow, that's my 2 cents worth.  I'd be interested in hearing if others think either or both of those explanations make sense.

    -6.38 -5.33 "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." - Emiliano Zapata

    by electionlawyer on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 05:40:35 PM PST

    •  On NJ (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LordMike, MichaelNY

      I looked at the numbers 2008 vs 2012 and saw that Obama  did better in NJ because he performed very well in the northeastern area, winning 77% in Hudson County and doing better than expected in Passaic and Bergen Counties too.

      He also did better in Ocean County than in 2008 so his response may have gotten him a few percentage points there.

      Monmouth is an interesting county though. Gore won there in 2000 but since then it has stayed Republican.

      For more election analysis and redistricting maps, check out my blog CA-2 (former CA-6) College in CA-37

      by Alibguy on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 11:24:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not covering any new ground here, (0+ / 0-)

    but Steve, the photograph you've given us of the child being held aloft to he can clasp the hand of an historic president is absolutely lovely.

    It is absolutely lovely.

  •  Maybe they have a bias to make races look close (0+ / 0-)

    Is it possible that the pollsters, in the business of polling, have a bias in favor of the candidate who is behind?

    1) If they are wrong, it could look better to say: Well, we had the correct winner, but not the right margin.

    2) If they are in doubt, they would rather say it is too close to call, than say that someone is winning, and be wrong.

    3) They, or their employers, could have an interest in making the races look close, in either selling more news, or getting voters to turn out, etc.

  •  What was up with MO-Sen polls? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Willinois, MichaelNY

    Senator McCaskill beat Legitimate Asshole 54-39, but in the weeks leading up to the election (long after Akin opened his mouth), I remember polls showing McCaskill ahead, but nothing even close to a comfortable lead. Don't remember exact numbers, but I remember seeing 5 point leads, both candidates in the 40s, statistical ties. And I was paying very close attention to the polls, as not only a resident of Missouri, but a resident of Todd Akin's district who was looking forward to not having him represent me on any level since 1989.

    There were no surprises in the presidential race here, the polling seemed to match results pretty well. But the senate race was not nearly the nail-biter the polls made it out to be - and I was worried that Akin was even closer than the polls indicated because Akin supporters would be too ashamed and embarrassed to admit to a pollster that they were voting for the prick.

    "How come when it’s us, it’s an abortion, and when it’s a chicken, it’s an omelette?" - George Carlin

    by yg17 on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 09:38:37 PM PST

    •  Perhaps (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Akin overperformed in the polls because there were lots of Republicans who were leaning towards him because of his party affiliation but they may have decided they just could not vote for him.

      For more election analysis and redistricting maps, check out my blog CA-2 (former CA-6) College in CA-37

      by Alibguy on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 11:22:28 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Can we finally throw away the meme (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      of the cultural right being stronger than it looks in polls because they don't want to admit their stances to pollsters, neighbors, etc?  That theory was tossed around in the McCaskill/Akin race, and elsewhere.  

      We constantly heard NOM and others say that there was a hidden vote against marriage equality and  for "traditional" marriage that wasn't turning up in polls--only to see equality prevail in all states that voted for it (including my own) on election day.

      37, MD-8 (MD-6 after 2012) resident, NOVA raised, Euro/Anglophile Democrat

      by Mike in MD on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 11:25:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Selection bias (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Rather than think of this as a "house effect" for different states, it's better to think of the problem this way -- that there is a selection bias involved in predictive polling that the pollsters learn to correct for adequately by assuming the bias will stay roughly the same from election to election, at least with the same electorate.  The various state electorates differ in composition from the national electorate that most pollsters have more experience at compensating for, therefore they will tend to get sytematic errors in states where that different composition also causes differences in selection bias.

    Some pollsters are only getting as low as a 2% of voters who can be reached, and then agree to answer their questions.  Obviously, most of that 98% non-participation is random.  There can't be a huge differential bias whereby the people who don't vs people who do participate are systematically likely to favor one party over the other, or the pollsters would have to apply large corrections to get predictive results.  But 98:2 is such a huge lever arm, that even tiny differential biases can exert an appreciable effect.

    Different states can have relativley small variances from the national standard, and that would be enough to make them systematically different in results.  I'm not sure if pollsters are applying different correction factors to their results from different states, but where there is enough historical data to support the needed calculations, they should.

    Some people criticize Nate Silver for being too cautious in his modeling, because he allows for a relatively large variance from expected polling accuracy.  The folks at the Princeton Election Consortium, for example, give out much tighter predictions, and you can get pretty tight confidence intervals with the huge sample sizes you get by aggregating, because they don't assume that the polls, in their aggregate, could fail systematically to follow their historical fidelity to the actual results.  But, just as the differences in differential selection bias between states can't be corrected by assuming every state's voters act like the national standard, so they can't corrected as the electorate changes characterisitics as time goes forward.  You can only correct for regional differences by observing the regional differences, and you can only correct for the temporal differences by observing voting behavior in the new time period.  But such differences, of course, can only be observed after they have happened -- which won't quite do for predictive polling.  

    The states must be abolished.

    by gtomkins on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 09:44:03 PM PST

  •  California's numbers were off because the decision (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    by Secretary of State Debra Bowen to allow online voter registration in the last month led to an absolutely huge influx of mostly young voters (largely motivated by Prop 32) and these weren't accounted for in voter models.

    In 2008, more so than in 2012, Californians flooded into Nevada and (as I recall) doubled or tripled their number of campaign volunteers, which busted open the race.

    In general, though, late deciders (and late "decide whether to vote"rs) are going to be influenced by those around them, so conservative states underestimating conservative results and liberal states underestimating liberal results makes sense.

    Plaintiffs' Employment Law Attorney (harassment, discrimination, retaliation, whistleblowing, wage & hour, &c.) in North Orange County, CA.

    "I love this goddamn country, and we're going to take it back."
    -- Saul Alinsky

    by Seneca Doane on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 11:17:44 PM PST

  •  Average getting 41 of 42 is not useful (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Only 4 states in the country had margins under 5%.  Saying the average got 41 of 42 right is like saying the Pacific Ocean has more than two gallons of water in it.

    Polling was terrible this year, the vast majority of it with a smallish to very large Republican house effect.  But when margins are as huge as they were (with only Florida and North Carolina truly "close"), any semi-legitimate pollster would have been hard-pressed to get the winner of 48 of the 50 states wrong, and no legit pollster should have missed 46 of the 50 states.

    Mr. Gorbachev, establish an Electoral College!

    by tommypaine on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 12:55:05 AM PST

  •  Technical reason (0+ / 0-)

    One reason for this is that the accurate way to capture poll results is the two-way margin-- x/(x+y). If you use naive margin-- x-y-- instead, you're going to underestimate x where it's greater than y and overestimate it where it's smaller than y.

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