Posted by: mutantpoodle | November 14, 2012

One last nerdy note

I noted, on November 5th, the drama that was the Gallup poll this fall, and how it had exploded for Romney in a way that virtually no other poll in early October, but was then, at the end, close to everyone else:

Today, their final poll shows Romney up 1% (49%-48%) nationally, among likely voters. That’s in the ballpark of the national polls, which had also been divergent from swing state polls, but are lining up with an average 1.3% lead for Obama.

But Gallup might be right and not know it: their registered voter margin – before they apply their likely voter screen – shows Obama up 49% – 46%. Based on the battleground polls and the other national surveys, I’d say a 3% national popular vote win for Obama is closer to reality than a 1% loss. FWIW, the Great Orange Satan picks Obama to win the national popular vote by just over 3%.

So…right now Obama is up by just shy of 3%, which makes Markos Moulitsas look pretty smart and Gallup, well, not so much.

Yesterday, Frank Newport (who I heard chatting with Marketplace’s Kai Ryssdal every week this fall) defended Gallup’s polling:

In the end, Gallup’s national popular vote estimate was that the popular vote was too close to call, a statistical tie — 50% for Mitt Romney, 49% for Barack Obama. When the dust settled, Romney got 48% of the popular vote and Obama received 50%, meaning that Gallup’s percentage-point estimate was within two percentage points for Romney and within one point for Obama. The “gap” difference was three points. All of these are well within the statistical margin of error and underscore the accuracy of random sampling today, even with all of the challenges provided by changing forms of communication (i.e., cellphones), changing demographics, lowered response rates, identifying likely voters, and a wide variety of other factors.

Which is fine, except, well, lots of folks did better than you. Nate Silver lined them up, and Gallup was…dead last.

In late October, Gallup consistently showed Mr. Romney ahead by about six percentage points among likely voters, far different from the average of other surveys. Gallup’s final poll of the election, which had Mr. Romney up by one point, was slightly better, but still identified the wrong winner in the election. Gallup has now had three poor elections in a row. In 2008, their polls overestimated Mr. Obama’s performance, while in 2010, they overestimated how well Republicans would do in the race for the United States House.

Gallup is perhaps the only big political polling “brand” out there since the Harris poll stepped away from Presidential polling. And because it’s the oldest firm with the most history, people tend to respect it more than they should.

Clearly, they have some work to do, because virtually everyone is doing it better.

[Image above is the Gallup Likely Voter tracker, which showed, at one point, a 7% Romney lead.]

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