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Tilting at Windmills

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January 11, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

THREE DAYS....It's now been three days since every political analyst in the country ate a great big serving of humble pie and swore never again to obsess over poll results. Is that long enough? Can we all go back to obsessing over poll results now?

Kevin Drum 1:09 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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Moody's is after Social Security again, hope you have a chance to slap down this attempt at disaster capitalism

Posted by: dc blogger on January 11, 2008 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

I predict that henceforth all caucus and primary polls will be accurate to within 0.001%.

Posted by: lampwick on January 11, 2008 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK
It's now been three days since every political analyst in the country ate a great big serving of humble pie and swore never again to obsess over poll results.

Most of the one's I saw looked for all kinds of excuses for why things had changed since the poll results, but very few swore never again to obsess over them. This seems to be as much of a storybook version of reality as the explanation of the results in New Hampshire.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 11, 2008 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

This is a filler blog entry, yes? Has your cat stopped taking your calls?

No sensible person ever stops thinking about or studying poll results. The key, as with everything, is to do this in moderation.

Take a break and go to the bathroom and do a crossword puzzle there. Or maybe you should be a multitasker. Look at the Survey USA pages in one Web browser while looking at pictures of fluffy kittens in another.

Posted by: Anon on January 11, 2008 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

I just don't believe the conventional wisdom that Clinton's tears were that effective to have her win, when even the Clinton campaign's internal polls had her prepared for a loss. I can accept that explanation only after some really reasoned analysis, however, but I am still surprised...

Posted by: Boorring on January 11, 2008 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

I wrote in MYDD (before NH) that primary polls (we will not even address caucauses) are inherently unreliable; and we really should not pay that much attention to them- e.g., I'm going out in the limb but I don't see McCain winning in SC, and if he does, it will be by 2 points. One may sense trends but the overall reliability is beyond current techniques. I'm more interested with with head to head polls; here is where it gets interesting. According to Rasmussen, McCain leads Hillary by 6 in PA and trails by 6 in MD. Now, it will be a fact that the D candidate in MD will win by at least 10 (that's conservative); does that mean that McCain leads Hillary by only 2 in PA (do the math)? If that's the case, I see Hillary winning the general after a bruising campaign.

Posted by: Raoul on January 11, 2008 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

And your point is....?

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on January 11, 2008 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

McCain is closing in on Rudy in NY according to this poll.

Posted by: Mike on January 11, 2008 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

I predict that henceforth all caucus and primary polls will be accurate to within 0.001%.

Well, that frees everyone else up. It will be hard to be more wrong than that.

Posted by: freelunch on January 11, 2008 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

How about that vote count analysis at checkthevotes.com? The machine counted ballots have Hillary winning by 4%. The hand counted votes have Obama winning by 5%. Which one matches up with the polls?

Posted by: Rumor Monger on January 11, 2008 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

A political junkie without polls is like a heroin addict without a fix.

Posted by: Speed on January 11, 2008 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

How many Hail Mary's did you say?
Not enough I fear.
So no...
One more day please.

Posted by: ROTFLMindependentAO on January 11, 2008 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, and every year people say "One primary by itself doesn't mean much", bit after every primary we'll still be overinterpreting the results.

In other news, Giuliani has his rivals exactly where he wants them.

Posted by: John Emerson on January 11, 2008 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

"In other news, Giuliani has his rivals exactly where he wants them."

I believe Hitler said the same thing in April 1945 in the bunker.

Posted by: Speed on January 11, 2008 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Exit polls are the clue to the mystery of what happened on Tuesday night regarding the New Hampshire primary and the clue to the losses of both Kerry and Gore. Exit polling both in the Kerry and Gore contest had them both aheard and they are white men. Yet at the end of the day, exit polls were wrong, it had nothing to do with Race then and now. This keeps happening over and over again and no one questoins why, how long are we going to sing this song "what went wrong with the exit polls". Exit polls had Obama way ahead and at the end of the day he lost by 2 percent.
I cannot believe the so-called Intelligentsia of the media are so bewildered and so baffled as to the wide discrepancy between the exit polls and the polling and the so-called actual vote in the Obama total for New Hampshire'sTuesday night primary. In the very first two vote tallys
done by paper ballots put in boxes, the exit polls were not wrong, and Obama won those voting places by a large margin. The reason for the
later discrepancies are due to MACHINE TAMPERING. The Powers that Be were not ready to give Obama the victory. It happened with Gore, it happened with Kerry and it will happen with Huckabee. HOWEVER, IT DID NOT HAPPEN IN THE IOWA CAUCUSES BECAUSE PEOPLE STAND UP IN THE LIGHT OF DAY AND ARE COUNTED. The Powers that Be cannot control that. And, until we address this secret weapon of the Powers that Be, the people cannot vote their true choice into office, that would be like putting the power into the People's hands -- imagine that! The Media, as a whole, is acting negligent and irresponsible and has an obligation and a duty to inform the public and question all options. Not a duty to stay silent, like they did after 911, and we got into a war that should never have been. It was not racial that skewed the voting total, as Obama has broad appeal to all races, sexes and ages. May be the so called intelligentsia would like us to believe that so we cannot see the truth. They keep questioning and saying -- even the exit polls when we ask people said Obama was ahead. What went wrong? We can bring up questions and scenarios and ask can a computer hijack an airplane? Of course. Can a computer hack/change votes? Most Definitely! Now they are having a debate over ID Cards when the debate should be about how to have a voting system the people can believe in.

INCREDULOUS! WILL THE MEDIA FAIL US AGAIN? I am glad Kucinich is calling for a re-count in New Hampshire.

Posted by: bacalove on January 11, 2008 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Has anyone read bradblog and the latest on diebold voting machines in the new hampshire primary. Precints with paper trails are showing Hilary losing to obama

Posted by: bill on January 11, 2008 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Bacalove and Bill:The NH machine miscount myth has been so overwhelmingly discredited that you need to fix on another conspiracy which I see Bacalove already has.

Posted by: Raoul on January 11, 2008 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

No sensible person ever stops thinking about or studying poll results.

Jesus, really? Somebody has a different definition of sensible than I do.

Truly, who cares about polls, other than a campaign plotting strategy? They're the obsession and godsend of media who otherwise would have to cover something more meaningful, but why should anyone else care?

Maybe we should dispense altogether with the trouble of voting and just go with a poll consensus, sort of a political BCS? That's worked well in college football.

Posted by: jrw on January 11, 2008 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

According to The Hill, Kucinich has called for a recount of the NH ballots.

Looks like the tinfoil hat conspirists are teaming up with the UFO conspirists - just the image the democratic party needs, no?

Posted by: optical weenie on January 11, 2008 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

That's worked well in college football.

Well, it would work better if they didn't play that 'championship' game.

Posted by: freelunch on January 11, 2008 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Why do you think we call it polliticks?

I hate polls when it comes to politics.

It demeans the voter.

In a way I was glad to see so many folks eat crow the other day, it confirmed my inherent distrust/dislike of political polls.

As far as I can tell, people are just too damned impatient and need polls to have something to munch on before the vote.

I say we should declare a pollatorium for the duration of the year.

Just think.... maybe people would be able to vote
in peace for a change.

It's really nauseating to have someone ask me "who I will vote for?" Then the questioner scribbles a check mark next to a name.

Polls schmolls.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on January 11, 2008 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

optical weenie,

Looks like the tinfoil hat conspirists are teaming up with the UFO conspirists - just the image the democratic party needs, no?

I strongly disagree. This Diebold=hacked meme needs to be settled one way or another.

How Diebold ever got to be a supplier of voting machines is beyond me. As a computer professional for nearly 30 years I can tell you that there a very well documented holes in the Diebold software. My guess is the "backdoor" causing so much concern now is a service entry, which Diebold wanted to use for remote service. Unfortunately it could be used for hacking, too.

My other guess is that, while the 'cut and paste' substitution method for the password is nice, the original password is not actually encrypted but just 'munged.' If it is munged it is trivial to unscramble it. I don't know for sure without seeing a password in the clear and the stored password, but munging is a common method used to hide passwords from casual observers. It doesn't hold up against knowledgable scrutiny.

So if the Diebold machine actually was hacked, find it out now before the general election.

Posted by: Tripp on January 11, 2008 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Here is a quick test to see which candidate best addresses your concerns. (25 questions and you can adjust for importance of each issue)

Posted by: Mike on January 11, 2008 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

Here's what I think happened: Obama thought Howard Dean cheated in 2004 by busing in kids to vote, so he did the same this year and blew away Edwards, who was ahead by about 5% in early results. Then somebody decided he shouldn't be able to run away with it based on cheating, so they rigged NH to even things out. Lovely people.

Edwards suffers most because he's got no victory, no momentum and less money.

Therefore, vote for Edwards to show the f'ers we do not appreciate them trying to destroy our Democracy.

Posted by: MarkH on January 11, 2008 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

Did Hillary Really Win New Hampshire?

Could someone have messed with the vote in New Hampshire?

That is what some people are wondering, after looking closely at the totals in the votes for surprise Democratic primary victor Hillary Clinton, and for Barack Obama, who placed instead of winning as all the polls had predicted he would. And thanks to candidate Dennis Kucinich, we are likely to find out. Kucinich today filed a request, and a required $2000 fee, to order up a manual recount of the machine ballots cast in the state.

Polls taken as late as the day before the Tuesday vote showed Obama up by 10 to 15 points over Clinton, whom he had just beaten the week before in Iowa, but when the votes were counted, Clinton ended up beating Obama in New Hampshire 39.4 per cent to 36.8 per cent. In a replay of what happened in Ohio in 2004, exit polling reportedly also showed Obama to be winning the New Hampshire primary.

When that's not what happened, shocked polling firms and surprised pundits, all of whom had been expecting a big Obama win, were left stumbling for explanations for the Hillary comeback from an 8 per cent drubbing in Iowa (even the Clinton campaign, whose own internal polling had predicted her defeat, were at a loss). Explanations ranged from her teary eyed final public appearance before primary day and some sexist heckling she had received, to dark talk about a wave of hidden racism in the voting booth.

But there were anomalies in the numbers that have some people suggesting something else: vote fraud. ...

Posted by: Poilu on January 11, 2008 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

I think polls are very useful because they have historically been a good way to isolate election fraud. Recently, not so much. The media have shaken our faith in polling, and thus have been teaching us a hard lesson in not questioning authority or voting results. I have been pretty vociferous lately, because I am passionate about the integrity of our system. I think most of us now really doubt that we have free and fair elections. I have been denigrated, called sparky, etc., by some formerly reasonable people here. I guess as long as the elections suit your candidate, it doesn't matter what polls or people say. Anyway, I love polls when they are done scientifically and objectively by impartial Third Parties (rather than friends of campaign managers). I also expect recounts and tedious forensics when results of elections and the results of polling are wildly dissimilar. Crickets chirp.

Posted by: Sparko on January 11, 2008 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

"I have been denigrated, called sparky, etc., by some formerly reasonable people here. I guess as long as the elections suit your candidate, it doesn't matter what polls or people say."

Sparko, I know exactly which people you mean because the same thing has happened to me. In fact, if you want an education on 'concern trolls' as well as see me get beat up (although this was on another topic after I had drawn their ire by 'mentioning' vote fraud on another thread, see the last 30 comments or so at the end of the 'Richardson Out' thread on January 9. I was going to quit posting here after that experience but now that I know someone else has experienced the same thing, perhaps I'll give it a second thought. Here's a rather long exchange from the other night in which I solicited the moderator's help on 'disappeared' comments and complained about the trolling. I'm a 60-year old woman who can easily take criticism and can take foul language *and give it back, but I refrain from doing so 99% of the time*. So don't misinterpret my complaint as a matter of being timid. People that I considered 'reasonable' and my 'friends' really laid into me.

Where's a moderator when you need him/her? Oo-Oo-Ooooooo.... (Twilight Zone)

[I'm aware my system is being messed with, I'm dealing with it. Comments are deleted manually - if one of yours was inadvertently marked for deletion, I apologize. I don't think I did, but it is possible.]

Posted by: nepeta on January 11, 2008 at 1:46 AM | PERMALINK
Way more than comments being deleted is happening on this forum. You haven't noticed the 'concern trolling' by some of our most popular posters? To tell you the truth, I don't know who to trust around here anymore. I don't even know whether to trust you!!! This is no way to run a comment section. I know you probably don't really 'read' every single comment. I would suggest that you mention my suspicions to Kevin or else open your eyes wide yourself. Look for popular commenters beating up on less aggressive commenters. One item they've been particularly 'virulent' on has been the possible NH voting fraud comments. You could search for 'head in ass' and probably find quite a few commenters using the same words, almost identical, to accost various commenters. Their main purpose here is to pimp for Clinton.

Posted by: nepeta on January 11, 2008 at 5:23 AM | PERMALINK
And their behavior is the same for Clinton debate. Beating up on less agressive commenters if any criticism is made of her, after first trying to 'coax' support. You know, I'm actually OK with this now. I know what's going on and can handle it. Whether less mature commenters can deal with the self-esteem issues involved is a question, but I guess they'll leave if the unpleasantness becomes too extreme. I could give you a list of user IDs, but I figure that's not my job.

Posted by: nepeta on January 12, 2008 at 4:01 AM | PERMALINK

lol...thanks, I needed that!

Halli Casser-Jayne
The CJ Political Report

Posted by: Halli on January 12, 2008 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

I just lost a long post addressed to you nepeta. I hit the comment button and erased a long appeal to not let disagreement with natural allies, who might react negatively with insults rather than arguments, keep you from writing what you think. Insults hurt, and ad hominem or personal attacks from those polemically opposed to your opinions can be distressing. But that seems to be how many people debate political issues they care deeply about. I am prone to putting my dark thoughts into text and that rubs many people the wrong way. I have to admit I want to expose my horror, but often regret that it hurts those who I have much in common with. I was looking for that response you elicited from Pale Rider in which he almost seemed to regret fighting with you, when I lost my original comment, and think you should use that as a reason for optimism.

I saw this article this morning, and thought it gave an interesting explanation of the controversy between the polls and the vote counts. Journalists and moderates want to question the pollsters and completely ignore a possible voting machine controversy.

Posted by: Brojo on January 12, 2008 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, Brojo. You're right. I didn't really mean to imply that whoever was giving me a hard time was responsible for my posts being deleted. And obviously, this thing is going way too far, thanks to my comment above. The strange thing is that I'm not a novice to forums and this one is really pretty mild to what I experienced back in the 90s, but then at least Republicans were the ones doing the bashing. Lots of good people came to my defense, like yourself, the other night. So don't think I'm running away from here with my tail between my legs. I'll still be 'lurking' and knowing me, probably posting, shortly. Btw, I've noticed your response to attack: silence. You're very smart. Let others score the points of your argument instead of getting sucked into the feverswamp yourself.

Posted by: nepeta on January 12, 2008 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

PS: As I read my post above I realize that this has all become a discussion of 'tone.' And that isn't the way it started out at all nor is it really my issue. I've had my share of battles here without excessive emotional response on my part. But the story is way too long to tell (and as it turns out, totally ludicrous). So not to worry.

Posted by: nepeta on January 12, 2008 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

'Journalists and moderates want to question the pollsters and completely ignore a possible voting machine controversy.'

Yeah, isn't that ridiculous? I don't know if you caught my link to the Huffington Post piece written by a 'forensic' statistician. Extremely interesting. But good old Kucinich seems to be carrying the day, calling for a hand recount and providing money to begin it. He's going to be raising money on the internet for the remaining amount needed.

Posted by: nepeta on January 12, 2008 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

PPS to Brojo:

I lose comments all the time before posting by switching windows, while getting a link from another site, etc. I'm sure that's my computer ineptitude. I've also had the experience of losing a comment when I hit 'post,' usually because the system seems to get hung up at that point. The other night a few of my comments which had already appeared in the thread disappeared without a note from the moderator. That indeed freaked me because that had certainly never happened to me before and they weren't the kind of comments that would have been deleted for being offensive.

Posted by: nepeta on January 12, 2008 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

PPPS: And one more point. I wasn't arguing for the possible computer vote fraud because I'm an Obama supporter. Obama himself seems to be disinterested in a recount. Anyone in his right mind who has witnessed the last two presidential elections and doesn't have serious concerns about computer vote fraud is just plain goofy. Since a vote recount is possible in NH, unlike previous fraud in OH and FL and NH (!) plus probably others I've forgotten, then a recount should proceed to confirm the outcome of the primary. No one is accusing the Clinton campaign. One 'theory' I read about is that it was the media itself that did the hacking to keep the 'race' alive on the Dem side. I dunno. That seems pretty improbable to me. In fact, I can't think of why anyone would get involved with computer hacking this early in the election season. Seems to me the 'risk' of being found out would far outweigh any benefit, particularly in a small state where a recount of actual paper ballots is possible, whether they were optically scanned or hand-counted. But I say "LET THE RECOUNT BEGIN!"

Posted by: nepeta on January 12, 2008 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK


Great article by Lindorff! Thanks for the link.
Now I'm out of here (for the time being ).

Posted by: nepeta on January 12, 2008 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, nepeta. There was some weirdness generated in a concern troll way for Hillary.--and they can take a flying bit out of my empennage. Incidentally, Gingrich and Rive have been spending extra time promoting her candidacy this weekend. Yeah. Can't. Get. Enough. Of. That.

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