DavidMRothschild on October 24, 2012 @ 1:16PM
Since mid-February most states have drifted slowly toward their initial favorite. Even in early May, many states provided the whiff of promise with a 10 or even 20 percent likelihood of being picked off by the trailing candidate. This has not been a year of surprises. As you run the map from May 1 to October 23, you see states fleeing to the safe, dark colors until only a handful of the true swing states remain standing.
By shifting the shading cutoff at the bottom of the map, you can see how sparse those swing states really are. If you define a swing state as one where the underdog candidate has at least a 35 percent chance of winning, only three states make the cut: Colorado and Virginia, which both lean slightly toward Romney, and New Hampshire, which is 63.9 percent likely to go to Obama. Iowa and Ohio join the fun right below that 65 percent point for Obama.
We will update this map regularly over the next two weeks. One thing we know for certain: The light colors will get sparser and sparser as we approach the day of judgment.
The election is over! (Results embargoed two weeks) (Originally posted on Yahoo!'s "The Signal" Blog)
DavidMRothschild on October 23, 2012 @ 2:01PM
We'll know in a few days how much "Monday Night Football," Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, and Anything-Else-but-a-Foreign-Policy-Lecture detracted from the TV audience Monday night. The Signal does not particularly care about this factor, because the final debate was always destined to have a small impact. Three reasons:
* There are not many undecided voters left. In most national polls, undecided voters account for 2 to 3 percent of potential voters. This is plenty enough to sway an election, but these 2 to 3 percent are typically not voters engaged enough to be watching debates.
* For a nation that just wound down a seven-year war, is still fighting an 11-year-war, and faces the prospect of further military intervention in the Middle East, foreign policy still ranks low on the concerns of most American voters.
* The implications of this debate have only two weeks to etch themselves into a campaign narrative that has narrowed in focus to only a few states.
All told, this election is probably over. We're just not allowed to open the envelope for another two weeks. Take it away, Ohio.
Most Polls Are Snapshots, but the Xbox/YouGov Panel Shows Voters in Movies (Syndicated on the Huffington Post)
DavidMRothschild on October 22, 2012 @ 6:02PM
Confused by the incredible movement and variation in the daily stream of national popular vote polls? The Xbox/YouGov panel is your antidote to the noise; the panel paints a very clear picture of how the vote intentions of Xbox LIVE users have changed over the past three weeks. After the first presidential debate on Oct. 3 there was a record jump in respondents switching toward support for Romney and that rise in support persisted for a few days. The vice presidential debate stopped the bleeding for Obama and the second presidential debate on Oct. 16 gave Obama a few strong days. During this entire time the number of undecided voters has slowly drifted downward.
For each day between Sept. 24 and Oct. 21, we estimated the percentage change in support for each candidate. This estimate is based on people who were interviewed on a particular day and at least once in the preceding five days, so that they reflect the actual changes of individual voters, not aggregate changes in different samples of voters. The change is calculated by computing the percentage of persons giving each possible response (Obama, Romney, Undecided, Other) in their most recent interview and the percentage distribution of the same voters on the current day. The percentage change is the difference of these two percentages, weighted by the baseline proportion in each group. We have been polling Xbox LIVE users on their voter intention continuously since Sept. 22. There is an average of 6,502 paneled users reflected on a given day and a total of 40,988 at some point since September 24.
This chart is not nearly as dramatic as what recent national telephone polls have shown, with wide swings following the first presidential debate, despite there being relatively few undecided voters in most polls. For example, Obama was leading by eight points in Pew's September survey and trailing by four points in Pew's October survey conducted shortly after the first presidential debate. Similarly, Gallup's tracking poll from Sept. 27 through Oct. 3 had Obama leading by four points and it now has him trailing by one point among registered voters and six points among likely voters. Our daily tracking poll shows similarly dramatic changes.
Most polls, including the ones noted above, are based on new samples for each new poll. When you compare two polls, even from the same pollster, the difference depends on the samples being the same. If the composition of the samples change, the polls may give a misleading indication of how much movement there really is. Although these are labeled "probability samples" or "probability-based samples," the response rates are typically 10 percent or less, so most of the probability comes from the likelihood that a respondent chooses to participate, not the chance of selection.
By comparing the distribution of background variables in different polls, it is easy to see that the same people, or even the same type of people, are not responding repeatedly. For example, respondents to the September Pew poll reported voting 47 for Obama and 32 for McCain, while respondents to the October Pew poll voted 42 for Obama and 37 for McCain. Where did the 2008 Obama voters go?
No one would claim that our panel is a representative sample of the population -- the poll respondents are overwhelmingly male and a majority under 30 -- but, we have the advantage that (a) we interview a lot of people every day, and (b) the same people participate multiple times per week. So we have a large population of the same people, telling us how they plan to vote repeatedly. We can observe real change in this audience, rather than trying to infer change from different samples with unknown characteristics. And, with so few people switching support during the course of an election, it takes a massive sample to record the quantities we observe.
We should not be surprised that the number of McCain supporters surged in the October Pew poll relative to the September Pew poll; selection bias is a serious issue in polling. Imagine that you are an Obama supporter belonging to demographic group X and Pew randomly picks to call you a few days after Romney's 47 percent video came out. You would be totally stoked to answer and tell them how much you love Obama. Now imagine Pew randomly picks to call you a few days after Obama's disastrous first debate. This time, you avoid the phone call and the person that replaces you might share your demographics but is a Romney supporter that is more than happy to sing Romney's praises. In that scenario, a shift in the polls reflects enthusiasm and cooperation, as much or more than an actual shift of support.
You can learn a lot about what's going on with large, high frequency data collection from a self-selected and non-representative population. We understand that there is a lot more research to go, but even at the very start this new venture we are seeing meaningful and relevant trends in regard to the 2012 election.
If you have an Xbox, please participate in our daily polls on Xbox LIVE and do not forget to watch the debate tonight live on your Xbox and participate in our within debate polling!
This article is syndicated on the Huffington Post.
Romney could win the popular vote and lose the election (Originally posted on Yahoo!'s "The Signal" Blog)
DavidMRothschild on October 22, 2012 @ 2:01PM
To be clear, we don't necessarily think Romney will win the popular vote. Standing in national polls does not predict actual vote share, and those polls are swinging back in the president's favor. Romney's odds of winning a majority of the ballots, however, are higher than his odds of winning at least 270 electoral votes. This year, the Electoral College unfairly favors Obama: Romney must carry Florida, Virginia and Ohio, while Obama needs only one of them.
The latest Gallup tracking poll of likely national voters has Romney up by 7 points. A lot of virtual ink has been spilled on how and why Gallup's poll has become an outlier: I suggest Alan Abramowitz, Mark Blumenthal or Nate Silver on the subject. The more meaningful aggregations of polls at Pollster and RealClearPolitics both report a statistical tie between Obama and Romney in the national polls.
Of the three states Romney needs to win, Florida (80.0 percent likely for Romney) and Virginia (61.9 percent likely for Romney) are leaning in his favor. Ohio has stubbornly remained in Obama's camp, with a 65.0 percent chance of going to Democrats. Obama held firm in the state after his Oct. 3 debate debacle, Ohio's economy is doing relatively well, and early voting is already under way, minimizing the impact of late-breaking events.
Let the pundits tie themselves into knots over the latest Gallup poll. As usual, what America wants is immaterial compared to the desires of the Buckeye State.
DavidMRothschild on October 18, 2012 @ 12:35AM
Woody Allen is often quoted as saying that "80 percent of success is showing up." Hackneyed though this expression has become, it applies quite accurately to the election as it stands today. President Barack Obama showed up at the debate on Tuesday night and stabled his teetering campaign.
Given the wide consensus that Obama did not mentally show up for the first confrontation with former Gov. Mitt Romney, his combativeness and general vigor appeared to convince the television audience that he still has some fight left in him. Instant polls suggest that Obama scored well overall and, more critically, with undecided and leaning voters. Polls of overall voters are not that meaningful, because most people will say their candidate won. But surveys of undecided and leaning voters, like those from CBS and Xbox/YouGov, give us valuable clues. Obama clearly outperformed Romney in both.
Our real-time forecast, heavily influenced by prediction markets at this point in the campaign, ticked up nearly 3 percentage points during last night's debate.