Posts Tagged ‘Faux News’

Poll trolls

October 31, 2008

There is every reason to expect a landslide in next week’s US elections. I expect Obama to win with more than 300 EVs, and the Dems to pick up maybe 8 Senate seats (VA, NM, AK, NC, CO, NH, OR, maybe MN and GA at a pinch) and 30-40 House seats.

But, Faux News is at it again, touting the race as a “toss up”, narrower than the margin of error. So, one more time, here’s why they’re way out.

First, they’re reporting just one poll. Guess what? The others don’t paint the same picture. [Update: Fox’s poll has already been shown to be a dud, with party identification at 41% Democratic, 39% Republican.]

Here’s the picture you get aggregating the daily tracking polls:

Obama opened up a large gap in mid-September, and has maintained a large lead ever since, with a slight narrowing in recent days. This narrowing was expected, and is considered quite normal. Underpinning Obama’s continuing lead has been a realignment of perceptions of the candidates, reflected in the candidates’ favourability and trust ratings.

Not only has the “horse race” been a picture of remarkable stability, but things have been getting worse for McCain in recent days. The race is about winning electoral votes state-by-state, and not the popular vote. Ask Al Gore.

As of today, aggregating state-level polls shows Obama ahead by at least 8% in states with 272 EVs — enough to win — and by 6%–8% in states with a further 29 EVs and ahead in states with 56 EVs. And Obama is above 50% in the states where he is 6% or more ahead, except Ohio (49.5%). Apart from Missouri and Indiana (which remain toss-ups), the news in the last few days has been good for Obama: his lead has widened slightly in Florida, and remained steady in Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada.

Here’s RealClearPolitics’ changes in the status of swing states in recent days:

10/30 Pennsylvania Solid Obama »»» Leaning Obama
10/29 Nevada Toss Up »»» Leaning Obama
10/29 Georgia Leaning McCain »»» Toss Up
10/28 New Hampshire Leaning Obama »»» Solid Obama
10/27 New Hampshire Solid Obama »»» Leaning Obama

But the national polls are showing a great deal of variation, you say (correctly). Suppose there’s a lot of hidden support for McCain? Well, you’re right to have doubts about the polls, but if there’s any hidden support, it’s likely Obama’s…

Polls: Caveat Emptor

First, unlike NZ, turnout in the US has historically been a problem, so the data used are “likely voters” rather than registered voters. How do you know who’s “likely” to vote? Traditionally, pollsters put more weight on past voting behaviour as opposed to expressed intentions. Fine, for your average election. But this is not going to be an average election.

Obama’s margin appears to be over 30% with young voters and over 80% of African American voters. Young voters and African Americans have tended to have low turnouts in the past. However, voting in the primaries, early voting so far in the 31 states that allow it, and unprecedented volunteer activity all point to this being an exceptional year for young and African American turnout.

How much difference will this make to the result? Well, Gallup started producing two figures a couple of weeks ago, using the traditional likely voter model and an expanded one that gave greater weight to expressed intentions. The latter has been tracking at around 3–4% above the former, so that’s how much you could add to Obama’s figures in most national polls if you think that next week will see a massive turn-out.

The so-called Bradley effect? As Mark Blumenthal says, “Much of the recent debate centers on whether the effect ever really existed (see the skeptical take by ABC’s Gary Langer) or whether it existed and then disappeared 10 or 15 years ago (see the exhaustive report [PDF] by Harvard political scientist Daniel Hopkins).” There wasn’t any evidence of such an effect in the primaries either, please note.

Then there’s the cellphone-only voters. If anything, this adds another couple of percent to Obama’s total in the polls (here for earlier post).

But what about those polls showing a narrow gap? Like that IBD/TIPP poll that Faux News was salivating over last week? Well, it showed McCain leading by 52 percentage points among 18- to 24-year-olds. Incredible. As in, not credible.

Zogby, another Faux News favourite in recent times? Turns out that Zogby weighting his data by party ID (a common practice stateside) based on 2004 partisan identification. So he’s been weighting so that Republicans are about even with Democrats. Rasmussen, using current partisan identification weights his data 40.0% Democratic, 32.8% Republican, and 27.2% unaffiliated. (Even so, Zogby has Obama 7% ahead today.)

The late deciders you say? (Well, McCain’s claiming they’ll vote his way when they get into the voting booths.) The best analysis suggests that they will split fairly evenly, maybe a little towards McCain. Anyway, even if he got every last one of them, he’d still be behind in the swing states, as Obama is over 50% already.

This is a truly exciting contest, and it may be close, but it ain’t close yet.

Update: Friday evening US-time: McCain claims, “We’re coming back strong.” Reality: RealClearPolitics poll average had Obama’s lead slipping from 8.0% on 25 October to 5.8% on 30 October. Now it’s back up to 6.5%. McCain’s own state is now categorized as a “toss up” and Obama’s campaign has started running ads there. Comeback?! Strong!?


Comeback Kid M.I.A.

October 24, 2008

Watching Faux News yesterday you would have been amazed to hear that the US presidential election race is getting tighter. “Neck and neck” the caption read. Faux News was highlighting a poll that showed Obama only one point ahead of McCain. Their own poll showed Obama ahead by 9 points, but never mind that old thing. Couldn’t get much more “fair and balanced” than that, could you?

Here’s the spread of national polls and tracking polls, and movements since the previous poll:

There’s a spread from 1% (the AP poll that Faux News chose to report) to 11%. More importantly, these polls ticked Obama’s lead up for the fourth day in a row. So, yes, McCain gained a very small amount of ground around the weekend, but then… lost it again. The swiftboats never docked.

Obama’s now back where he was last week (at around 7.5%). But now there’s less than two weeks to go. And this picture is backed up by the state polls, which is, after all, where the electoral votes are:

That’s 354 Evs to 184. I’m inclined to think that, as James Carville puts it, “You can call the dogs in, wet the fire, and leave the house. The hunt is over.” Whatever Faux News says.

Attacks on spouses & political scandals

July 18, 2008

Barack Obama has struck out at right-wing criticism of his wife, Michelle. It, infuriates him, he says. In an interview with women’s magazine Glamour he singled out:

“…the conservative press — Fox News and the National Review and columnists of every ilk — went fairly deliberately at her in a pretty systematic way, and treated her as the candidate in a way that you just rarely see the Democrats try to do against Republicans… If you start being subjected to rants by Sean Hannity and the like, day in day out, that’ll drive up your negatives.”

I tuned into H&C just now to see what Hannity’s response is. “Unrepentent” would be an understatement. He did make the point that Michelle Obama is actively campaigning for her husband. The evil genius Rove opined that it would have been better for Obama to downplay the matter. I’m inclined to agree with Hannity but not Rove, for a change.


Faux News: Where heroes and fools dare

July 13, 2008

I suppose that after Supersize Me it was only a matter of time. Someone has spent an entire 24 hours watching Faux News a.k.a. Fox News, the Republican propapanda operation disguised as the US’s most-watched cable channel.

John Oliver once joked of watching a mere eight hours of FN straight that, “In winning the Fox News challenge, I wonder if I may have lost something deep down in my soul.” (Video here.)

So, did Brandeis University student and HuffPost contributor Nathan Robinson last the distance? What were the long-term effects of extreme exposure? Permanent brain damage? Did his eyes fall out?



June 27, 2008

If, like me, you share Al Franken’s view of Bill O’Reilly as a “Lying, Splotchy Bully”, the clip on this link is irresistable. I got the answer right — but then, I’ve been to the Alamo — and so did the guests, but the Big Blooter gets tripped up by his own trick question. Enjoy!

This post’s for AJ & Martha.