Tomorrow. Are the polls rigged?

Donald Trump is correct when he says the system is rigged. Recently I posted, Shoot the messenger – or the Com(ey)ing electionwhere it seemed that James Comey, more so than the DNC or RNC, was running the election. And, mirabili dictu, he yet again tosses in a “surprise” – although this one is in “November” instead of “October.” I guess Comey and friends were able to read 65,000 emails in just 8 days, evaluate them carefully and draw the conclusion that Hillary was as innocent as a newborn baby.

Frankly this last incident strengthens Trump’s argument that the election is rigged. One area where the system is clearly “rigged” is in polling.

Playing with polls is a common Democrat-media propaganda tactic. For example, since September 1 the Reuters/Ipsos poll has been gradually and incrementally oversampling Democrats and undersampling Republicans as a percentage of likely voters. The graph below is not very “eye-friendly,” but shows that increasingly more Democrat voters (blue dots) are sampled than Republican voters (red dots).



When looking at a poll most readers understand that the “results have a margin of sampling error.” If the margin is 3.5 points they understand that a difference between opponents of 1.5% may be spurious. However, the reader seldom looks discerningly at the design effect. It is not at all unusual for partisan divisions in the range of  36-27-31 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents, to be included in the potential misleading result.

Their excuse for “oversampling” is usually that the Democrat ground game brings out more registered Democrat voters (for which they “believe” they need to “account” in their “poll”). However, if you will recall, GOP primary turnout was up 62% this year while Democrat primary turnout was down 21%. Do you believe Democrat voters are more enamored with Hillary Clinton now than they were 6 months ago?

As the US presidential election approaches, pollsters are scrambling to improve their methods and avoid another embarrassing mistake (does the name “Brexit” ring a familiar note?). I will say that their job is getting harder. Until as recently as ten years ago, polling organizations were able to tap into public opinion simply by calling people at home. But large segments of the population in developed countries have given up their landlines for mobile phones. That is making them more difficult for pollsters to reach because people will often not answer calls from unfamiliar numbers.

As well, more than seven-in-10 GOP insiders, 71 percent, say the polls understate Trump’s support because voters don’t want to admit to pollsters that they are backing the controversial Republican nominee.

It is appropriate to listen to Shakespeare and apply Macbeth’s soliloquy to tomorrow’s election:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Well, the “candle – the election” has been anything but “brief” and the “pace” has been anything but “petty.” But who will be the “poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more.” Hillary or Donald?

Roy Filly


About Roy Filly

Please read my first blog in which I describe myself and my goals.
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2 Responses to Tomorrow. Are the polls rigged?

  1. Eric says:

    650,000! Emails not 65,000

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