Republicans are getting depressed under an avalanche of polling
suggesting that an Obama victory is in the offing. Those surveys, in
fact, suggest no such thing! Here’s why:
1. All of the polling out there uses some variant of the 2008 election turnout as its model for weighting respondents, and this overstates the Democratic vote by a huge margin.
In English, this means that when you do a poll you ask people if they are likely to vote. But any telephone survey always has too few blacks, Latinos and young people and too many elderly in its sample. That’s because some don’t have landlines or are rarely at home or don’t speak English well enough to be interviewed or don’t have time to talk. Elderly are overstated because they tend to be home and to have time. So you need to increase the weight given to interviews with young people, blacks and Latinos and count those with seniors a bit less.
Normally, this task is not difficult. Over the years, the black, Latino, young and elderly proportion of the electorate has been fairly constant from election to election, except for a gradual increase in the Hispanic vote. You just need to look back at the last election to weight your polling numbers for this one.
But polling indicates a widespread lack of enthusiasm among Obama’s core demographic support due to high unemployment, disappointment with his policies and performance and the lack of novelty in voting for a black candidate now that he has already served as president.
If you adjust virtually any of the published polls to reflect the 2004 vote, not the 2008 vote, they show the race either tied or Romney ahead, a view much closer to reality.
2. Almost all of the published polls show Obama getting less than 50 percent of the vote and less than 50 percent job approval. A majority of the voters either support Romney or are undecided in almost every poll.
But the fact is that the undecided vote always goes against the incumbent. In 1980 (the last time an incumbent Democrat was beaten), for example, the Gallup poll of Oct. 27 had Carter ahead by 45-39. Their survey on Nov. 2 showed Reagan catching up and leading by 3 points. In the actual voting, the Republican won by 9. The undecided vote broke sharply — and unanimously — for the challenger.
An undecided voter has really decided not to back the incumbent. He just won’t focus on the race until later in the game.
So when the published polls show Obama ahead by, say, 48-45, he’s really probably losing by 52-48!
Add these two factors together and the polls that are out there are all misleading. Any professional pollster (those consultants hired by candidates, not by media outlets) would publish two findings for each poll — one using 2004 turnout modeling and the other using 2008 modeling. This would indicate just how dependent on an unusually high turnout of his base the Obama camp really is.