Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

August 10, 2010

ABOUT THAT AMERICAN CROSSROADS POLL.... One of the lead stories from Politico this morning was about a new poll from one of Karl Rove's operations. It's generated some additional attention, so I suppose it's worth noting why it's hard to take the results seriously.

The survey claims to offer proof that Republicans may be able to win 10 Senate seats this November, thus claiming a majority next year. There are a couple of problems here.

The first is that the poll, conducted for American Crossroads -- a group launched in part by Rove and former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie -- combines results from different states to make inferences about specific contests. Dave Weigel noted how misguided this is.

Does anyone buy this? An "average" poll number across states with Senate races is not worthless, but it's close. In Delaware, Arkansas, and Indiana, Republican candidates have better than double-digit leads over the Democrats. In Florida, Democratic candidates Kendrick Meek and Jeff Greene are basically also-rans, as Democrats gravitate to independent candidate Charlie Crist.

So you've got one 25-point lead (I'm guessing, based on other polls in Florida) warping the first five results, and three leads of 10 to 20 points warping the other eight results. If we had all the numbers we'd confirm what we already know -- that Republicans can waltz into three (four, if you add North Dakota) open Democratic seats, but that the other 10 competitive Senate races are toss-ups. The poll averaging on messaging is more interesting, as all but three of these states voted for the Obama-Biden ticket. But the purpose of the poll is to take something that political junkies think -- that sometimes, every close race breaks the challenger party's way -- and make it look like science.

Quite right. But there's something else that bothered me about the credibility of the poll. This paragraph in the Politico piece seemed to make the rest of the article unimportant.

The Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies conducted the poll, testing 1,300 likely voters across the 13 states, for a small state-by-state sample of 100 respondents. That means that for the individual races, the survey's margin of error is so wide as to render the results effectively meaningless. [emphasis added]

There's simply no credible way to argue that a Republican pollster can survey 100 people in a state and offer worthwhile data about a competitive Senate race. That's just silly.

This isn't a poll so much as it's a Karl Rove press stunt. I'm not dismissing the notion that significant Republican gains in the Senate are possible; I'm dismissing this poll as lacking all merit.

Steve Benen 2:55 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (18)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

Morning Joe was playing up the poll results this morning.

Posted by: phoebes-in-santa fe on August 10, 2010 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

It is a typical Rove ploy to try to demoralize your opposition with a display of superconfidence.

Posted by: bob h on August 10, 2010 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

"I'm not dismissing the notion that significant Republican gains in the Senate are possible; I'm dismissing this poll as lacking all merit."

Yet Politico chooses to make it one of their lead stories. As John Stewart says, they're hurting America.

Posted by: Chris on August 10, 2010 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Yes. The fact that the GOP will gain back a majority is known to be inevitable.

So much so that Republican voters don't need to go and vote. :-)

Posted by: nerd on August 10, 2010 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, Morning Joe is one of Politico's biggest cable cheerleaders (those damn liberals at MSNBC).

Posted by: Chris on August 10, 2010 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, yes, Karl's math again.

Posted by: puravida on August 10, 2010 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

what ever happened to playing down expectations?

in my mind predictions of a republican sweep are more likely to motivate the left.

likewise, those who believe the democrats are in no real danger make me nervous.

Posted by: sadly on August 10, 2010 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

I like how the concept of a weighted average is meaningless to them.

Posted by: Nautilator on August 10, 2010 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Given Karl Rove's past history with math, this should be taken as good news. Fortunately, math always wins.

Posted by: fostert on August 10, 2010 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Did ya ever notice how it is always the Republicans that speak for the American people?

They say, "The American people have made it plain they don't want- fill in the blank-".

Or, "The American people have made it clear. . ."

I don't recall any Democrats making these kind of statements.

Posted by: DAY on August 10, 2010 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

One of the lead stories from Politico this morning was ... from one of Karl Rove's operations.

Imagine my surprise.

Posted by: Gregory on August 10, 2010 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Triumphalism of the right is not justified, but the prospects of a major sweep by the Repubs is not without evidence, see the projections by Nate Silver's blog http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/. I recall that in 2008 the Dems ran the table in tossup Senate races. If the same amount of luck ran the other way, the Senate could flip. It is a prospect to be taken seriously.

Posted by: troglodyte on August 10, 2010 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

Just did a quick check with an online calculator. With a real population of +100K and a sample size of 100, the margin of error (assuming a 50-50 split in the general population) is +- 10%. That is, 95% of the time, the true value of the statistic is somewhere in a range that is 20% wide. That is what "meaningless" means.

Posted by: jrosen on August 10, 2010 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

What?...Karl Rove...... cook the books to get the answer he wants? Shocked, I tell you, shocked....

Posted by: sceptic on August 10, 2010 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

Since this was a private poll conducted for Rove, I have other questions. I wonder how many times they had to conduct the poll to get desired results they could release. Looks like a 50:50 chance to get it on the first try. But several repetitions, say a week apart, would get the job done sooner or later. Of course there would be no need to release any "test" results that were "wrong".

Posted by: jeri on August 10, 2010 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

The other day I got a call from a poll. They asked a few questions and when I answered one by saying that I voted for the Democratic Party they said thank you and stopped the poll. Pretty curious behavior but I didn't pay enough attention to know who it was.

Posted by: Camus on August 10, 2010 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

It doesn't matter whether the poll is valid. Rove knows that perception is everything. The poll is meant to reinforce the impression that the country is overwhelmingly unhappy with Obama and the Democrats and is eager to elect Republicans. Karl understands that voters want to be on the side of winners. He's merely driving the herd.

Posted by: ameshall on August 10, 2010 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

If you get Dems (and some of the general population) resigned, now, to the Senate flipping, it'll be just that much easier for them to accept it when it does flip -- due to the hacked voting machines.

Posted by: exlibra on August 10, 2010 at 10:20 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly