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The Polls Are Wrong

D. J. Drummond explains.

Obviously they have to be, since they're all over the map. At most, only one of them can be right. Of course, knowing they're wrong doesn't tell us what's right.

[Mid-morning update]

Michael Barone has further thoughts.


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Curt Thomson wrote:

"The most common complaint, is that for all of the polls to be wrong, there would need to be some sort of conspiracy, or else an incredibly stupid decision made across the board."

Whats the difference?
Good read Rand, thx for posting. I think its going to come down to $$, and That One has such a huge lead there I can't see any upset happening.

Dfens wrote:

The two party system stays in place by both telling you not to "waste your vote" on 3rd party candidates. Clearly in this presidential election voting for McCain is wasting a vote. So by their logic anyone who was going to vote for him as the lesser of 2 evils is now free to vote for whomever they want. Keep that in mind. Conservatives were outraged when Hillary wanted to socialize medicine. Now the Republicans are running a candidate that wants to socialize our banking system and throw open our borders (or is he against that now?). Which is worse?

The Republicans have said, "we're a big tent party" over and over again while sticking it to conservatives ever since Regan. They've drummed all of the conservatives out of the party and kept the name. I laugh when I hear the term "RINO" because the Republican Party is now exactly what it was before Regan. It is the elitist party of the Rockefeller Republicans. It is not Regan's party any more. To vote for their elitist candidate, McCain, is to send them the message that you want to be a slave to these elitists.

My message to you is that you are FREE! I don't care how much you hate or fear Obama, there is nothing you can do about him being elected. McCain is going to lose. Obama owns 75% of the electorial vote now, weeks before the election. That's not going to change. Vote like FREE men and women. Live like FREE men and women. If you can't do that now when it costs next to nothing, you'll never be FREE. You don't deserve to be FREE.

Curt Thomson wrote:

WOW, I am FREE to vote for whoever I want!!! I have cast off my chains and am FREE! (Oh what a feeling!) AND, I can live like a FREE man now!

Except... I've already voted, damn. I'M A SLAVE. I'M NOT FREE. bummer.

Anonymous wrote:

Battle ground is the only reliable poll. McCain is barely behind here.

Obama the gaffe machine wrote:

Dfense is a long time Obama hack. Please understand that as you read his tripe.

Brock wrote:

Most of Dfens' ramblings are just nutty, but the below is wrong on a factual level, and I would like to address it.

The two party system stays in place by both telling you not to "waste your vote" on 3rd party candidates.

This is wrong. The two-party system is a natural outcome of our current voting system ("One man, one vote, one winner"). It's a natural result of this system that if a third-party is allowed to participate, then the third-party will cause the other party he is MOST similar to to lose (along with himself) and cause the candidate with minority support to win. This is called the spoiler effect, and it's the reason Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were elected (because of Perot and Nader, respectively).

The Dems and Reps are not really conspiring to be the only two parties; they're a part of the larger system as much as the rest of us. The only way to allow for real third-party candidates is to change how the voting system counts or allots votes.

This website goes over the many possible voting systems, and describes the one that's best (mathematically speaking).

ken anthony wrote:

The voting system is a big factor of course, but the real reason we have a two party system is because we have a one party media. Until he self destructed, Ross Perot was about even with the other two and had a real shot. Why? Money and infomercials that bypassed the one party media.

Jeff Medcalf wrote:


Your analysis is flawed: the two-party system far predates the one-party media. Brock is correct.

I think that there is an easy way to solve this, though: party list voting for the house and Senate. True, in the Senate, this will still maintain a two-party system, though those parties will vary by state and will rotate over time. But in the House, it would result in a much broader array of parties represented, and this makes it possible for other parties to show by performance why they are better choices in the Senate and Presidential races, which they have no opportunity to do now. Moreover, I think it breaks up factions much more completely, by atomizing them, and gives people who are not currently represented (me! me!) some real voice, or at least a chance to have a voice. Finally, because we are not a parliamentary system, it does not increase the instability of the government: the President is not subject to a vote of no confidence.

Won't happen, but would be a much better system.

Bob wrote:

Jeff, do I understand correctly that with party list voting, the individual foibles and quirks of a particular candidate aren't a factor once he makes the list? So, for example, a die-hard Republican might end up being represented Pete the Pervert if Pete makes it onto the party list? And similarly, voters wouldn't be able to vote against Ned the Negative Campaigner, and Ron the RINO?

Consider also that two unrelated events have artificially inflated the number of registered Democrats in certain states, thus skewing polls based on registered (as opposed to likely) voters. Those factors are the rash of ACORN fraudulent ballots, and Rush Limbaugh's Operation Chaos.

Carl Pham wrote:

Phoo, Rand, the polls don't say different things. They all say Obama is going to narrowly win, they just differ in what the exact margin will be. You're grasping at straws here, and I'm someone who wants Obama to lose.

Indeed, I think the value of an Obama loss greatly exceeds the value of a McCain win. It's the only hope in the near future of restoring the sanity of the Democratic Party, breaking its addiction to the beguiling poison of collectivism. I feel like I'm in the position of watching a beloved friend who thinks his success in his sales job is due to his downing eight cups of coffee before every important presentation. Now he's going for the career make-or-break presentation, and preparing to snort a gram of cocaine to prepare, thinking that if caffeine has proved useful cocaine should be even more so. And I'm hoping he completely fucks up the presentation and loses his job, so that he goes back and critically re-examines his addiction before it costs him his family or his life.

Rand Simberg wrote:

They all say Obama is going to narrowly win, they just differ in what the exact margin will be.

Actually, they don't. AP has it tied today. And if it's tied, Obama loses. But even if that were the case, there is still too much of a dispersion among them to take them seriously. I think that by the nature of the campaign and changing technology (more people with no land lines), it's really tough to poll this race, and the fact that the polls have such disparities is testimony to that.

Bob wrote:

>And if it's tied, Obama loses.

The electoral college says otherwise.

I suppose you're using the national polls as a shortcut, but and and the like have electoral college projections that are worth a lot more than a national poll.

Rand Simberg wrote:

The electoral college says otherwise.

You miss my point. Obama typically overpolls, whether because of the Bradley effect or something else, so if it's close, he loses.

Bob wrote:

No, I understood. But lets say the Bradley effect (or something else) is bigger in blue states OR in red states. Either way, it is better to look at electoral vote projections. Obama might overpoll in a national poll in a way that he wouldn't in a state-by-state electoral college projection.

Mike Puckett wrote:


The electorial projections are a lagging indicator and usually run about ten days behind the national polls.

Like Rand says, if it's tied, he loses.

Bob wrote:

For the battleground states (which are the only ones that matter), the lag is only a day, or two at most.

Compare the main projections at with the dates on the polls of battleground states (including Penn, Ohio, and Florida)on this page:

I'm not saying we should put so much stock in the polls, but since we are talking about polls, might as well look at state-by-state polls and electoral projections, as this has a higher resolution. Why let voters in solid red or solid blue states skew the result when you can look at battleground states?

Mike Puckett wrote:

It is way more than a day or two because old polls tend to stay in the mix longer.

There's another complicating factor: cell phones. I found this 2006 article:

Pew recently published this study on the matter:

Does Caller ID factor in somehow?

ken anthony wrote:

Your analysis is flawed: the two-party system far predates the one-party media. Brock is correct.

Yes Jeff, Brock is correct. However voting system are not the WHOLE story (and changing it is not the WHOLE solution.) Ross Perot showed that getting passed the media blockade allows the possibility of a viable third party candidate. Remember that before he imploded he was running neck and neck with the other two.

I contend that regardless of the voting system, our media, the education system, and as Obama is showing by the rest of the world buying him the presidency $200 at a time, money; all work to produce what we have today.

All voting systems are flawed. All of them. Journalists telling us the truth and focusing on what's important would mitigate any flaws in any system. The founding fathers trusted journalists to be American patriots. That was their mistake. Today, they are not. I think it may have been a fatal mistake for the future of this country. I wish I had Carl's optimism. I believe BHO will attempt to appear centrist, but will put in policies that turn this country into a one party system. Perhaps even permanently.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on October 22, 2008 5:10 AM.

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