Romney camp hoping for a systematic polling bias in Ohio (Originally posted on Yahoo!'s "The Signal" Blog)
DavidMRothschild on November 04, 2012 @ 8:07PM
In the last two days, six new polls of Ohio voters have been released, five of which favor President Barack Obama, by leads of 6 points, 4 points, 4 points, 3 points and 2 points. The last reports a tie, from right-leaning Rasmussen, which gave former Gov. Mitt Romney a 2-point advantage last week. Obama now has a 3.1 percentage point lead in Pollster's average for Ohio and a 2.9 percentage point lead in the RealClearPolitics average for Ohio.
A 3 percentage point lead is hardly an insurmountable margin for Obama. But it has been so consistent over the past several weeks that Romney ought to be hoping that the polls favor Obama on a systematic basis by overestimating the turnout of respondents with demographics that favor him. This is certainly possible, but it would mean that many different polling institutions are making similar mistakes. The outcome of Ohio, then, will be as much a referendum on the art of polling as it will be on the art of the presidency.
YouGov/Xbox Poll Respondents Expect Obama Victory in Ohio (and the election) (Syndicated on the Huffington Post)
DavidMRothschild on November 03, 2012 @ 2:13PM
In the latest YouGov/Xbox poll, the pivotal state of Ohio showed slightly more Romney supporters than Obama supporters. But, when asked who they expect to win Ohio, the same respondents predicted Obama would win their state. Justin Wolfers and I have conducted an exhaustive research project on the power of expectation polling, and the evidence is overwhelming: when the intention (i.e., support) and expectation of respondents in a poll point in opposite directions, the expectation is correct over 75 percent of the time.
The YouGov/Xbox poll on Monday, October 29 asked respondents which candidate they were likely to support (their intention) and which candidate they thought would win their state (their expectation). We interviewed 12,479 respondents throughout the United States, 642 of who live in Ohio. Of the Ohioan respondents who supported either Obama or Romney, 48.3 percent supported Obama (versus 51.7 for Romney). Yet a notably larger 51.1 percent of these same Ohioan respondents, who reported an expectation that either Obama or Romney will win, predicted Obama to win their state of Ohio (versus 48.9 percent for Romney).
One explanation for why the expectation question is more meaningful for forecasts is that it incorporates more information. Every person possesses a batch of both public and private information about the election, and when a pollster asks them about their intention, the pollster is extracting only a small portion of that information; the pollster is just getting the respondent's support on that day. The expectation question captures information about the respondents social network (e.g., who the respondent thinks her friends and family will vote for) and more public information (e.g., what the respondent is seeing in the news), along with the respondents' intention to vote and support for one or the other candidate. Our paper shows that the expectation question has the forecasting power, relative to the intention question, of asking 10 times as many random respondents.
The standard intention question has dominated the polls for 75 years because it implicitly looks like the expected vote share, which is an outcome people can easily wrap their heads around. If we find that Romney is up 51.7 to 48.3 percent in our poll of the intentions of Ohio voters, one could implicitly assume that the likely vote share will be 51.7 percent for Romney to 48.3 percent for Obama. But most of us do not care about the vote share in Ohio; we care about who is going to win Ohio. If we state that Obama is up 51.1 to 48.9 percent in our poll of the expectation of Ohio voters, this number does not correspond directly to any one single outcome, but is much more likely to point towards the eventual winner than the poll of voter intention!
Of course, Ohio is just one piece in a bigger puzzle, the Electoral College; while our nationwide respondents are nearly even on whom they will vote for, they decisively expect Obama to win the election. Our October 29 poll had 50.4 percent support for Obama to 49.6 percent support for Romney (in major party support), a razor thin margin. However, 54.3 percent of the same people, on the same day, in the same poll, expect Obama's reelection, while just 45.7 percent expect Romney to win.
In the next few election cycles, randomly selected respondents from representative samples will get more and more expensive to contact, and we are very cognizant of that when we consider the goals of YouGov/Xbox poll. We want to provide meaningful insight into the current election, while also testing cutting edge graphical interfaces and questions that might promote even more accurate forecasts of election outcomes down the road. We encourage you to keep refreshing Huffington Post's Pollster's list of the Ohio intention polls all day (I know I do), but also look forward to a cycle or two from now when new questions and techniques break into the mainstream. We hope that our research being conducted in this poll will help to lead the way.
Mike Malecki, Doug Rivers, and Brian Stults (YouGov) contributed to the data work of this article. In the interest of disclosure, I help run the YouGov/Xbox poll in my capacity as an economist at Microsoft Research.
This article is syndicated on the Huffington Post.
DavidMRothschild on November 01, 2012 @ 3:27PM
Since the final presidential debate, 15 polls have surveyed voter opinion in Ohio, the state that is more likely than any other to determine the election. President Barack Obama leads former Gov. Mitt Romney in 13 of them. The candidates tied in one, and Romney leads in one. Those last two polls were both conducted by Rasmussen, one of the more right-leaning polling institutions, as FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver has documented.
No one is saying Ohio is a walk for the president. The Huffington Post's Pollster and the RealClearPolitics average both have Obama leading with 51.2 percent among those who express a preference for either major candidate. There is still time for a shift toward Romney, and it's always possible that there is a systematic bias in the polls.
But I don't think it's likely. Historically, polls have been pretty accurate this close to the election. Based only on these surveys, the Signal gives Obama a 75 percent chance of victory in Ohio. When we factor in prediction markets, that figure ticks up a small amount, to 77 percent.
National polls are meaningless at this stage in the election (Originally posted on Yahoo!'s "The Signal" Blog)
DavidMRothschild on October 30, 2012 @ 6:30PM
Any way you slice it, Obama is leading in states that account for well over 270 electoral votes. As we've said a million times before, Obama needs only Ohio, Florida or Virginia to prevent Romney from reaching 270 electoral votes in most scenarios. Romney needs all three.
Romney maintains a slight lead in aggregations of many polls. HuffPost's Pollster listed six new polls on Monday, and Obama led in only one. Romney led in three of these, and two were are tied. Pollster, which has a very transparent method of aggregation, combines all recent polls and has Romney up 47.4 to 47.2. RealClearPolitics, which aggregates polls with a completely opaque method, has Romney up 47.6 to 46.7.
If you are a poll junkie and you need your latest fix, I suggest following the latest polls in Florida, Virginia, and Ohio. If you are still obsessing over national polls, I suggest you brush up on the Constitution. Just in case, here's a link. It's free.
DavidMRothschild on October 29, 2012 @ 1:17PM
If this election is starting to feel interminable, Sunday was an incredible anniversary: Oct. 28, 2012, was the one-year anniversary of the filing date for the New Hampshire primary.
I do not want to sell the election season short. The official campaign began a year ago, but the unofficial campaign began well before that. This time in 2011, Texas Gov. Rick Perry had already flamed out (although his "oops moment" was not until early November) and Herman Cain was dominating the polls.
Most people who run for president appear to have been doing so at least since the third grade—and those are the late bloomers. But even by the bureaucratic measure above, the official campaign to replace President Barack Obama began two years, nine months and eight days after his inauguration. That's 450 days before the next inauguration.