Presidential Election 2012
Some 20 years ago as I was finishing graduate school, I worked for a polling company. It was longer than I wanted to but it gave me some valuable insights on that business before I moved into the line of work that I wanted. I got to know the man who ran the company; he ran polls for national and international companies and occasionally dabbled into political polling. He was meticulous and it became very clear that this job was his life. Now I don’t know his politics but I would guess that he was left of center, at least on social issues. However, he was nearly fanatical about being impartial and getting the true response. Some twenty years later, all of this helps me to understand how political polling works, and believe me it is very difficult. In other words, if political polling isn’t done exactly right it becomes a terrible slanted mess.
Here’s how live polling works. Automated computer dialers call randomly generated phone numbers, which are often are disconnected, faxes and or not in service. In a four hour shift you would be lucky to get 8-10 complete surveys per poll taker in a hotly contested political race. Now mind you that was 20 years before cell phones, my understanding is that now because of cell phones and caller id many polling agencies are using brief computer automated voices to ask questions. Most polling agencies have given up on live survey results on such things as your favorite bar of soup, breakfast cereal, shoe company etc. Believe me there were nights that we would put in a four hour shift and call over 150 people and get one or two complete surveys concerning your favorite shampoo.
When it comes to political polling my old boss (who is a Ph.D and widely respected across the country) would fret about the way we ask each question, our tone and our attitude. He would drill into us that he needed unbiased surveys for his clients. He would remind us, and this is very important in today’s world, that conservative oriented people don’t like polling as much as liberals because liberals believe in proselytizing their views while conservatives feel their views are a reflection of their values, as well as their cultural and religious upbringing. This is why liberals tend to be oversampled in polling. By and large they don’t hang up on pollsters and surveys because they view it as their duty and mission to get the word out. Again, my boss was not a conservative and he could see this 20 years ago. Continue reading
I am going to take a break from promoting my just released book, The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn to write about another interest of mine; election polling and demographics in my home state of Ohio. Lately my dander has been raised more than once by polls which are totally inept in their sampling rational. This article will attempt to explain why at this point Governor Mitt Romney is in the driver’s seat in my home state. Full disclosure; I did not vote for Governor Romney in the GOP primary, my vote went to Senator Rick Santorum. Also until the mid 1990s I was a conservative Democrat; my political work began in the 1980s as in intern in the Ohio State House and then continued for the Democratic Leadership Council on Capitol Hill in 1994-95. I saw no hope for conservative Democrats like myself after my stint in Washington DC. I view myself not as a Republican, but a conservative.
The 2008 General Election was a perfect storm for Democrats across the country and Ohio was no exception. By 2010, the gains the Democrats made had evaporated and the GOP returned to the levels it had enjoyed in the 1980s. However, political polling across the country has not reflected this change. Obviously this makes a huge difference in Midwestern swing areas, especially suburban locations, the area of most states that continue to grow, even if that state’s total growth is stagnant.
For example in Ohio the area surrounding Franklin County (Columbus) and the area surrounding Hamilton County (Cincinnati) are the fastest growing areas of the state. These areas generally go GOP 65%-35%. Conversely, the Democratic strongholds of Lucas (Toledo,) Cuyahoga (Cleveland,) Summit (Akron,) and Mahoning (Youngstown) are the areas of the state that have seen a freefall in residents since the late 1970s.
While many people are aware of this statistic, one area few seem to realize is the age demographic, Democratic voters are dying off faster than the younger (40 and 50 something) Reagan era GOP voters of the fast growing GOP strongholds of suburban Columbus and Cincinnati.
Now let’s take a look at raw voter counts in Ohio and what we can expect after the polls close at 7:30 PM on November 6. A cursory glance of the 2004 and 2008 election results in the Democratic strongholds in the northern part of the state might make one reason that a serious error had occurred. How could Massachusetts Senator John Kerry possibly get more votes than the first African American standard bearer, then Illinois Senator Barack Obama in areas like Cuyahoga County which is over 30% African-American, the highest percentage in the state?
The answer is simple, thousands of voters had died or moved from that area of the state in those four years, and many more thousands have done so since the economic meltdown of 2008. For example in 1980 Cuyahoga County had 1,500,000 residents compared to 1,280,000 in 2010, Lucas County had 471,000 in 1980 compared to 441.000 in 2010 and Mahoning County had 290,000 residents in 1980, compared to 239,000 in 2010. Many left for southern and western states. As recent as a few days ago (early October 2012) election officials had reported a huge drop off in eligible voters for this Democratic rich area of the state. Let’s give the President the benefit of the doubt and say his numbers in Cleveland, Toledo and Youngstown only drop 5% (due to shifting demographics) this is still a nightmare scenario for the Obama-Biden ticket when one realizes that Romney-Ryan ticket will certainly gain at least 5% in the Columbus and Cincinnati fast growing suburban areas.
Now let’s take a look at the GOP strongholds of suburban Columbus and Cincinnati. In 1980 Butler County (outside of Cincinnati) had 258, 000 voters compared to 368,000 in 2010 and Warren County directly north of Cincinnati had 99,000 residents in 1980 versus 212,000 in 2010. Let’s look at Columbus, Delaware County which for years was the fastest growing county in the Midwest had 53,000 residents in 1980 compared to 174,000 in 2010 and Fairfield County had 93,000 residents in 1980 versus 146,000 in 2010. Continue reading