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Peter Kellner: Why polls differ

In late September, the buzz was a theory that polls were massively skewed towards Obama because they failed to poll equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. One web site, UnSkewedPolls.com continues to publish results showing Romney way ahead using its own method of adjustment to compensate for the fact that most folks consider themselves Democrats.

Poll chart showing Obama ahead by 2 pointsIn a major article, “Obama stays ahead – just”, at YouGov.com, Peter Kellner talks about the issue of adjusting polling samples for demographics and party affiliation, and he discusses in some detail why the YouGov polls differ from most national polls, and in particular why YouGov didn’t show a huge swing towards Romney after the first Presidential Debate, a much different result from other polls.

YouGov’s methodology differs from other pollsters in that they have a large panel of individuals that they have tracked over time. A typical telephone poll, for example, asks if you are registered to vote and takes your word for it. YouGov has checked public records and knows for sure whether 150,000 members of its panel are registered to vote.

It’s a substantial article and I won’t try to summarize it here. If you’re a polling junky, check it out.

Today the YouGov Vote Intention poll stands at 48% Obama and 46% Romney.

Polling is important in the face of the ramp-up of conspiracy theories, for example at WorldNetDaily, predicting massive voter fraud and results tampering in the upcoming election.

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17 Responses to Peter Kellner: Why polls differ

  1. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy November 2, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

    A few days ago, Orly Taitz reported on her web site that someone had “messed with her media blaster.” I didn’t know (and still don’t) what she meant. I went looking on the Internet for “media blaster” and came across some sand-blasting machines made by the Eastwood Company. Since then web sites all over the Internet are showing me pictures of that dual-tanked sand-blasting machine in targeted ads, including one at UnSkewedPolls.com just now.

  2. avatar
    Scientist November 2, 2012 at 6:29 pm #

    Back in January 2009, I predicted that if, in November 2012, unemployment was below 8% and trending down, President Obama would be re-elected. The first part of that statement has occurred. I am pretty confident that the second part will come to pass in a few days. IMO, the sound and fury of the campaign, the debates, the arguments, the Trump grandstanding have left things where they were several months ago, a narrow, but real lead for the President. I also noted that no incumbent President in modern times has lost unless they had a primary chalenge within their own party.

    Take my predction for what it is worth. I will note that before the baseball playoffs started I called the SFGiants to win it all.

  3. avatar
    Keith November 2, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    A few days ago, Orly Taitz reported on her web site that someone had “messed with her media blaster.” I didn’t know (and still don’t) what she meant. I went looking on the Internet for “media blaster” and came across some sand-blasting machines made by the Eastwood Company. Since then web sites all over the Internet are showing me pictures of that dual-tanked sand-blasting machine in targeted ads, including one at UnSkewedPolls.com just now.

    I recommend AdBlock Plus for Firefox.

    If you use another browser, you are on your own (the newest IE, that comes with WIn8, doesn’t allow any plugins at all.

  4. avatar
    Slartibartfast November 2, 2012 at 7:31 pm #

    I seem to recall that Orly has talked about her “media blaster” as well—I assume it is a software tool which allows her to spam media outlets with press releases.

    Dr. Conspiracy: A few days ago, Orly Taitz reported on her web site that someone had “messed with her media blaster.” I didn’t know (and still don’t) what she meant.

  5. avatar
    Slartibartfast November 2, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

    With the predictions that poll aggregation sites are giving—like 538 (81.1% chance of reelect) and the PEC (97% chance)—I think that some thought should be given to what these numbers mean. Specifically, if there is a discrepancy between the consensus of the polling as shown by the aggregators who have been accurate in past elections and the results of the election, then there is a reason why—and the most obvious reason would be that some sort of shenanigans have taken place. If their predictions on the state margins are accurate everywhere except, say, Ohio, I would become very suspicious as to the possibility of some sort of fraud. Hopefully if the Republicans do try to cheat, they will fail to understand the statistical methods which can expose their dishonesty and end up getting caught.

  6. avatar
    Northland10 November 2, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy:A few days ago, Orly Taitz reported on her web site that someone had “messed with her media blaster… I went looking on the Internet for “media blaster” and came across some sand-blasting machines made by the Eastwood Company. Since then web sites all over the Internet are showing me pictures of that dual-tanked sand-blasting machine in targeted ads, including one at UnSkewedPolls.com just now.

    Maybe she uses it to clean teeth.

  7. avatar
    misha marinsky November 2, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

    Slartibartfast: With the predictions that poll aggregation sites are giving—like 538 (81.1% chance of reelect) and the PEC (97% chance)

    http://www.predictwise.com/politics/2012presidentindividual

    PredictWise - Betfair – Intrade – IEM

    Barack Obama - 72.1 %, 77.2 %, 66.9 %, 72.1 %

    Mitt Romney - 28.0 %, 22.7 %, 33.2 %, 28.9 %

  8. avatar
    Northland10 November 2, 2012 at 8:13 pm #

    Slartibartfast: I seem to recall that Orly has talked about her “media blaster” as well—I assume it is a software tool which allows her to spam media outlets with press releases.

    I have blasted storage “media” a couple of times. It was sort of unintentional.

  9. avatar
    misha marinsky November 2, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

    Northland10: Maybe she uses it to clean teeth.

    bada-bing

  10. avatar
    Majority Will November 2, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

    Slartibartfast:
    I seem to recall that Orly has talked about her “media blaster” as well—I assume it is a software tool which allows her to spam media outlets with press releases.

    Or it’s a bidet since that’s the end she talks from.

  11. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy November 2, 2012 at 9:23 pm #

    Sure. Check out this video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HzCNZIWD18

    Northland10: Maybe she uses it to clean teeth.

  12. avatar
    Thomas Brown November 2, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

    A media blaster is like a sandblaster, except it uses one of a number of types of abrasive medium. Plastic granules, groud walnut shells and so forth… there’s an ingenius media blaster that uses crushed dry ice, perfect for paint removal as the cold makes even a thick encrustation brittle, and the icy granules under pressure blast it away without harming delicate surfaces like antique motorcycle gas-tanks, which might be destroyed by sandblasting.

    What Orly is doing with hers, one shrinks from imagining.

  13. avatar
    misha marinsky November 2, 2012 at 11:45 pm #

    Thomas Brown: What Orly is doing with hers, one shrinks from imagining.

    Marathon Man

  14. avatar
    misha marinsky November 2, 2012 at 11:50 pm #

    Thomas Brown: there’s an ingenius

    “there’s an ingenious”

    FIFY

  15. avatar
    misha marinsky November 2, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

    @Thomas Brown: I need your advice.

    Can a sidecar be put on a Honda Rebel? I want to take my Afghan hound along with me. She’s fully grown.

    marinskym at gmail dot com

  16. avatar
    Paul November 3, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    Doc, won’t it stop if you just clear your cookies?

  17. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy November 3, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    It’s really not a problem. These banner ads are going to display something and it might as well be dual-tank media blasters. I’d just as soon have that ad as something else.

    Paul: Doc, won’t it stop if you just clear your cookies?