Why Polling Skews Against Political & Religious Conservatives

Tuesday, October 23, AD 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.

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14 Responses to Why Polling Skews Against Political & Religious Conservatives

  • More recently, there’s the “there are a lot of nutjobs on the other side, and they’ve already proven willing to try to ruin someone’s life over political differences. Nope, not taking the risk that this number blocked guy who claims to be taking a “totally anonymous” political survey is for real” effect.

    As I told the poor guy before I hung up– “no, sorry, no political polls. I like my car.”

  • My one encounter with exit polling was when I was working at a polling place for a candidate, and a pollster was assigned to the same location. He had very specific procedures to randomize the voters he questioned, but he always seemed to end up talking to the young women. I’d bet that anything short of automated calling of random phone numbers, some guy is going to figure out a way to use it to hit on gals.

  • As Mr Hartline implicitly shows, accurate polling of “future behavior” is very difficult and expensive. However, since the Left has thrown off the mask and become much more menacing, as Foxfier notes, it does introduce yet another reason for skewed polling. It’s gotten to the point where anything advanced by the Left including polling (and most pollsters are Leftists) has to be viewed as agitprop unless independently verified. It will be interesting to see if the University of Colorado (Bickers and Berry) model of state (Electoral College) voting ends up more accurate than the public pollsters this cycle. It would even more interesting to see if the “internal” polls of the two Parties matched the model back in the summer.

  • Pinky, believe it or night there was a theory floated around the political blogosphere that in the midterm election of 2010 and earlier this year in the Scott Walker recall election, that male graduate students who were sent to do exit polls were asking an inordinate amount of women exit poll questions. Also the theory states, that female graduate students were asking too many other single female students to exit polls thus skewing the results. As you can imagine there was a lot of egg on pollsters faces after that fiasco.

    Rozin, yes some of the polls are nothing more than agenda driven polls. To save their own reputational skins, I can’t imagine that the final CBS/NY Times poll will have an Ohio sample at +9 Democrat. This number would be something you would expect to see in Oregon, Washington or Minnesota, though a Rasmussen poll today had the race there at 51 Obama 46 Romney. The last Republican to win in Minnesota was Richard Nixon, needless to say that poll has put the fear of God into Chicago HQ.

  • This conservative family can testify to not picking up calls from pollsters. We’ve had more than a few calls during the dinner hour from one or another questionable phone numbers. Since Maryland isn’t a battle ground state, I suspect that the polls are about one of the ballot initiatives. The gambling question seems to be the most well funded. We already had someone come to our door to ask where we stood on that one. I suppose Democrats don’t mind interrupting dinner or the kids’ bedtime to answer questions? I did actually answer a poll call a few months ago, and I found the questions confusing and poorly worded. I suspected that my answers would be twisted to mean whatever the pollster wanted. So I’ve been even more reluctant than usual to pick up any new calls.

  • I just got a call last night from someone wanting to know if I cared to answer “four brief questions” regarding a Democratic candidate for local office. I said no because I suspected that with that few questions, it was probably a “push poll” meant to contrive a certain result and I didn’t care to participate in that game. I’ve only responded to one poll this year, which turned out to be quite lengthy and asked about multiple races. Also, I made the mistake of responding to a poll in the mail that claimed I was a “carefully selected” voter and ever since I’ve been pummeled with junk mail and spam from the RNC and similar groups, so I’m kind of reluctant to encourage them further.

  • Two years ago, the first question they asked me when polling me is asking me about my religion. After telling them I was Catholic, the person hung up. At another time, my husband was asked the same question & when he wouldn’t answer the question, the same thing was done. I was polled once, again about 2 yrs. ago, by Rasmussen but was not asked about religion.

  • Exit polls do not require a likely voter screen and, as they are conducted in person, have a much higher response rate than telephone polls. Still, exit polls conducted in 2004 had some systemic error incorporated within them that proved decisive in context (and led knuckleheads at Harper’s magazine to promote the idea that Republican operatives had hatched some sort of insidious super-secret conspiracy to rig the tabulation machines). I think we have reached a point where anticipatory polling is so unreliable we really do not know what is afoot (but repeated instances of Mitt Romney tallied as leading among non-aligned voters but losing among the sum of voters are … inneresting).

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  • Polling is much more sophisticated than 20 years ago. Surveys can get the phone numbers of registered voters from the database at the state’s Secretary of State.

    Some of the polls you get aren’t “push polls.” Rather, they are conducted by interest groups seeking information about voters so they can then follow up at a later point with mailed materials or a visit to your door. They probably put you in a database for future use.

    If you tell the “Obama for Colorado” surveyor you don’t like Obama, they won’t waste their time trying to get you to the polls or trying to persuade you. If you are on the fence, they might work on you some more.

    If you don’t reply, they won’t know enough about you to do one thing or another.

  • Surveys can get the phone numbers of registered voters from the database at the state’s Secretary of State.

    It would be the county Board of Elections in New York. I am not even sure the standard form has a space for a phone number, and it would be your landline number on the date of registration if they did. For thirteen years I voted from the same address on Rochester’s south east side. In that time period, I had five different apartments and four different landline phone numbers.

  • Actually Kevin J though polling may be more sophiscated than it was 20 years ago because of more advanced software, the same methods that were used 20 years ago are used today. Pollsters don’t want to call from voter registration lists, they want random numbers because as Art Deco has stated your phone number is not always provided or accurate on voter registration materials. Pollsters would rather get a variety of disconnects, faxes etc than just deal with provided lists that may miss substantial segments of the populace, i.e those who just have cell phones or those who have moved since they registered.

  • I’d have to completely disagree. I was called by a religious pollster who told me there three questions. When I disagreed with the first question about the definition of marriage, the call was discontinued. Only one question. It is hard to get an accurate poll when those doing them refuse to continue the calls that don’t give them the answers they want.

    There is a saying, “There are liars, damned liars, and then there are statisticians.” Whomever does them skews them in favor of their views. ALL OF THEM regardless of affiliation.

  • Or, possibly, they were polling for a group that you weren’t part of.

    Good heavens, haven’t you ever heard of a selection questions? That’s like claiming all polls are horrible because you’re asked if you’re registered to vote, then if you plan to vote, and saying “no” on either one means they stop asking questions.

    There are inherent flaws to polling, there are induced flaws, and there’s a difference!

The Data and Demographics That Detail Why Romney Will Defeat Obama in Ohio

Sunday, October 7, AD 2012

 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.

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17 Responses to The Data and Demographics That Detail Why Romney Will Defeat Obama in Ohio

  • Too bad none of what you cite will make any difference, since we have a criminal administration willing, and certainly capable of stealing this election. And should this not succeed, there are Obama’s minions – The Muslim Brotherhood, ACORN, The New Black Panters, etc., ready to riot, claiming WE stole the election. Then, of course, the Dictator in Chief will use his self-appointed powers to declare martial law, and void the election.

  • That all worked real well for the Democrats in 2010. Most of the states now have Republican governors, including all the swing states. This election is not going to be decided by the margin of fraud.

  • The thing that has me worried, is that in our town–once a bastion of conservatism–there are Obama/Biden signs everywhere. I’ve never, ever seen this many signs for a Democrat president. Heck, I’ve never seen that many signs for a Democrat anything. It could simply be that a local Catholic (“seamless garment” type) is running for state house on the Democratic ticket. She is very well organized and well known among the liberals, social justice community and her own parish (which may still be the largest in our diocese although it’s population has been declining over the past few years).

  • “in our town, once a bastion of conservatism, there are Obama-Biden signs everywhere”

    Well, I’m seeing far FEWER Obama signs in Central Illinois today than I saw four years ago. I’m seeing plenty of signs for local level Democratic candidates (Congress, state legislature) but hardly any for Obama. I don’t see all that many Romney signs either, though.

  • Re: Edie Eason – I wouldn’t put anything past Comrade Barry, or more precisely the Axelrod/Peoples’ Democratic Party inner cluster. The phrase “cyber security” keeps popping up lately . . . I won’t really relax until the Oath of Office is taken by a non-incumbent on Jan 20, 2013. And even then I’m not going to be totally off guard.

  • From Instapundit:
    “DEMOCRATS GONE WILD: Obama supporters ‘key’ cars displaying pro-Romney bumper stickers.” …
    Posted at 11:59 am by Ed Driscoll

    Young, footloose, and ‘care’free under the influence of media and – well … .

  • @Elaine:

    Thanks; need the boost. Think I will chalk it up to union politics (the unions have a proposal on the ballot. An important one) and the local democrats being amazingly organized. One of the funniest yard displays I’ve seen though is one for Obama, the democratic state representative, and then our representative to Washington. Obama and the local democrat are hard left; our representative to Washington is well to the right of middle.

  • Thanks WR Aiken, I did see that and that is the reason I wrote this article. I did not want on Election Night to say, I told you so when I didn’t do anything about it. My article is an attempt to spell out everything I have been seeing, reading and hearing around me. As I wrote in the article, I dare say Ohio isn’t the only state that fits the criteria of which I wrote.

    The anti-suburb and anti-rural pitch has been the clarion call of the far left for some time. This is not your Flower Power Left but a more aggressive and wealthly Left which I describe in my book; “The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn.” Whereas the old left admired the Berrigan Brothers, Father Cool and Sister Sunshine; this new left is fimly in the camp of Saul Alinsky and Richard Dawkins.
    http://www.aquinasandmore.com/catholic-books/catholic-tide-continues-to-turn/sku/94383

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  • Hopefully there is political action aimed at convincing Catholic democrat voters to abstain from voting for Nobama. Even if they vote an otherwise democrat ticket. Direct action outside RC church’s on Sunday should urge Catholics to abstain on behalf of the Church. This could peel off enough votes to win the Ohio. Lets face it; blind loyalty prevents many old-timers from voting for any GOP canidate. But appealing to their conscience & love of Church might sway them & reduce turnout for the vile Nobama.

  • _________________________________________________________________________________

    FIRST THINGS FIRST: VOTE LIFE!
    _________________________________________________________________________________

    STRONG BISHOPS GIVE CLEAR, MORAL GUIDANCE TO CATHOLIC VOTERS

    “The question to ask is this: Are any of the candidates of either party, or independents, standing for something that is intrinsically evil, evil no matter what the circumstances? If that’s the case, a Catholic, regardless of his party affiliation, shouldn’t be voting for such a person.” – Archbishop William Lori, Diocese of Baltimore, Maryland

    Journalist: “is it ever licit for a Catholic to vote for a pro-abortion candidate? Is it ever valid?”

    “No. You can never vote for someone who favors absolutely the right to choice of a woman to destroy a human life in her womb. Where you don’t have a candidate who is proposing to eliminate all abortion (voters may) choose the candidate who will most limit this grave evil in our country. But you could never justify voting for a candidate who not only does not want to limit abortion but believes it should be available to everyone.” – Cardinal Raymond Burke

    “I certainly can’t vote for someone who’s either pro-choice or pro-abortion. Jesus tells us very clearly that if we don’t help the poor, we’re going to go to hell. But Jesus didn’t say the government has to take care of them, or that we have to pay taxes to take care of them. Those are prudential judgments. You can’t say that somebody’s not Christian because they want to limit taxation. To say that it’s somehow intrinsically evil like abortion doesn’t make any sense at all.” – Archbishop Charles Chaput, Diocese of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    “One might argue for different methods to address the needs of the poor, to feed the hungry and to solve the challenges of immigration, but these are prudential judgments, not intrinsic evils… You need to think and pray very carefully about your vote, because a vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in jeopardy.” – Bishop Thomas Paprocki, Diocese of Springfield, Illinois

    “Other pieces of legislation touch on the building of a good and just society and may be open to prudential judgement, … (but) ‘Forming Consciences’ tells us that in the political debate today there is no other issue that rises to this level of moral certitude: Abortion is always wrong. To support political platforms that protect so-called ‘abortion rights’ is to participate in the inexorable conclusion: many, many innocent unborn children will be killed. Sometimes a single issue will be so important it overrides a whole range of lesser issues.” – Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C.

    “Could a Catholic in good conscience vote for a candidate who supports legalized abortion when there is another choice of another candidate who does not? Could a voter’s preference for the candidate’s positions on the pursuit of peace, economic policies, health care, etc., overcome a candidates support for legalized abortion? The Catholic voter must ask and answer the question: What could possibly be a proportionate reason for the more than 45 million children killed by abortion? We cannot conceive of such a proportionate reason.”- Archbishop Joseph Naumann & Bishop Roger Finn, Diocese of Kansas City, Kansas

    “In all of Church teaching, the Life issues, particularly the protection of unborn children against the crime of abortion, has to be our greatest priority. This is an ongoing slaughter of 4,000 children every single day for the last 40 years. If we support and promote persons who have pledged to extend it and intensify the slaughter, then we bear great responsibility with them.” – Bishop Robert Finn, Diocese of Kansas City, Kansas

    “A committed and convinced Catholic is always pro-life on the issue of abortion and euthanasia, and that includes in the voting booth.” – Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, Diocese of Cincinnati, Ohio

    “The failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the ‘rightness’ of positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful.” – _U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

  • The bishops calling to vote for “life” means that Catholics should vote for candidates that support quality life for impoverished, medically fragile, disabled, illiterate, marginalized, disenfranchised, and homeless in the way Jesus served humanity, right? Voting for candidates that support “pro-life” are the candidates who work to make things equitable and fair for people who are not born into privilege or luck. I am a Catholic “pro-life” who is supporting the Obama/Biden ticket because they support “life” for all Americans regardless of the way they come into this world.

  • “because they support “life” for all Americans regardless of the way they come into this world.”

    Actually they are against a great many Americans coming into this world at all, those whose mothers decide to slay them through child murder euphemized with the term abortion.

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