Poll Tacks
Bill Quick

Que Será, Será : How I Screwed Up 2012 (and Plan to Fix That)

So, here’s what I’m keeping in mind to avoid this.

1- Polls Uber Alles. Polls are the best indicator we have for how A living in B feels about X at time Y. “My cousin says” and “I heard” are as plentiful as cat turds and just as useful. Yes, some firms can be screwy. Yes, others can put their thumb on the scales. But the averages of the polls rarely deviate from the winner of the race that was inquired about. Democrats shoved their fingers in their ears as Governor Scott Walker consistently led in every public poll released, and we did the same as the close of the 2012 cycle approached us.

Yep, I fell for the same malarkey:  The poll samples are skewed, Nate Cohn is a partisan hack, blah, blah, blah.

Which made the 2012 results all the more personally shocking and depressing.  Not only did my attempt to con myself into believing that a lame buffoon like Romney was winning, I may have caused you to believe the same thing.

I can promise you I won’t be making a similar mistake this year.  Once the polling really gets going, the Poll Averages section of Real Clear Politics will be my go-to on a daily basis.  And if my side is losing there, that’s how I’ll be reporting and analyzing the situation.

Posted in Polls permalink
Bill Quick

About Bill Quick

I am a small-l libertarian. My primary concern is to increase individual liberty as much as possible in the face of statist efforts to restrict it from both the right and the left. If I had to sum up my beliefs as concisely as possible, I would say, "Stay out of my wallet and my bedroom," "your liberty stops at my nose," and "don't tread on me." I will believe that things are taking a turn for the better in America when married gays are able to, and do, maintain large arsenals of automatic weapons, and tax collectors are, and do, not.


Poll Tacks — 1 Comment

  1. You know, I’ve been thinking about the polls and results for the last 14 months or so. Almost without exception-in the past- when state polls have diverged from national polls before the election, the state polls usually shifted towards the national average come election night. That is why so many astute political observers thought that Romney was likely to win. That is the reason why a guy like Barone, who knows more about the political machinery than I ever will said that Romney was likely to win. This was based on older methodology, I suspect, such as land line phone contacts. Or maybe something else; I don’t know. Yet while Barone and others predicted that the state polls-and therefore the election- would swing in the direction of the national polls on election day, they failed to do so. Someone such as Nate Silver was therefore able to, using his handy Excel spreadsheet, correctly predict the results. Hell, I’ve got a Monte Carlo tool that could have done the same thing. It’s essentially brainless work.

    So what really happened? I’m not suggesting that the election was stolen (although I find the results of certain precincts in a few of the swing states to be, um, more than a little suspicious). However, I am suggesting that perhaps in this technological era, when many have permanently abandoned landlines, it might be time for a new paradigm in polling. Obviously some people figured it out okay; look at the results. But I’m still trying to wrap me head around the divergence between state and national polls that occurred in 2012. And why so many smart analysts (this doesn’t not include Dick Morris) were fooled. If memory serves, Intrade was actually predicting a Romney win when Silver was predicting a 70% chance of Obama winning. This was before Obama was painted as a saint for simply saying, “Gee, hurricane damage sucks, huh?”.

    I do suspect that whatever caused that divergence has been identified and corrected. A few election cycles hence there will be some other unidentified cockup that will throw off a lot of people and will have to be fixed.

    I will admit to having thought that Obama would likely win going into election day due in large part to how his response to the big storm hitting NY was portrayed. When I saw how long it was taking for NC to get called for Romney, I knew that the night was lost. If the national polls had been accurate, NC would have been called almost as quickly as Indiana.