It turns out that pre-election polls overestimated the strength of Democrats

When judging the accuracy of political polls, it’s important to remember that bias in the polling business doesn’t mean the same thing as bias in political reporting. Putting it another way, the bias displayed by Fox News is different from the bias that might arise in a poll conducted by Gallup or Pew or another of the other professional outfits that endeavor to measure public sentiment. Biased polls are those that suffer from some miscalculation or another in  the design or execution of the surveys. Accordingly, when it’s...

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Regarding the myth of Obama’s so-called sinking poll numbers

It’s no secret that President Obama’s approval ratings in public-opinion polls are less than enviable. And it’s not surprising that the right-wing noise machine would harp on this situation. But it’s irresponsible  — nay, it’s downright dishonest — of the mainstream media to exaggerate the matter with incessant references to “dropping” or “sinking” ratings. HERE‘s the reality: According to the cumulative ratings posted daily at Real Clear Politics, which averages together...

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Evidence suggests that political polls tend to undercount Democrats

Republicans have complained from time to time that polls are biased against them, but now there’s evidence that the opposite might actually be the case. It could be that many of the major polling outfits are undercounting Democrats. Nate Cohn has a long piece on this matter HERE: Polls show that the Republicans have an advantage in the fight for control of the Senate. They lead in enough states to win control, and they have additional opportunities in North Carolina and New Hampshire to make up for potential upsets. As Election Day...

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Chance that Dems will win Senate equal to your chance of rolling 9, 10, 11 or 12 with two dice

As I’ve evidenced here on previous occasions, the one exception to my record as a poor student of mathematics is my fascination with laws of probability. That’s why I’m a big fan of Nate Silver and Sam Wang, the celebrated political numbers-crunchers. I pride myself, for example, in understanding that if Silver or Wang see a 60 percent likelihood that Candidate A will defeat Candidate B in the coming election, that doesn’t mean that Candidate A has a 20-point lead in the polls. On the contrary, a 20-point lead in the...

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A poll of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans almost always is worthless

Chuck Sweeny made a good point the other day in a front-page story in the Rockford Register Star about a recent poll on the Illinois gubernatorial race between Republican challenger Bruce Rauner and Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn. Sweeny warned readers against complaining that the poll at issue had more Democratic respondents than Republicans. This is a common beef among people who don’t understand the science of polling. These folks seem to think any poll that doesn’t include equal numbers of Democratic and Republican respondents is...

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