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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Before We Pronounce on the Bounce, Let’s Measure It Properly Shall We?

Newsweek is first out of the box with a poll and story on Kerry’s bounce from the convention. There’s just one slight problem: the data they report in the story don’t really measure Kerry’s bounce at all.
Check this out. Newsweek‘s last poll before the convention was on July 8-9 and Kerry led Bush, 51-45. In the current poll, conducted July 29-30, Kerry leads Bush, 52-44. From this they conclude Kerry got a “baby bounce” from the convention (1 point on support level, 2 points on margin or, if you look at their Kerry-Bush-Nader data, 2 points on support level, 4 points on margin).
But, as their story sheepishly admits, half of their poll was conducted on Thursday night, before Kerry had delivered his acceptance speech! Moreover, their results differ on the two nights, with Kerry leading by 2 points in the pre-acceptance speech data and by 10 points in the post-acceptance speech data.
What possible excuse can there be for presenting these data as measuring Kerry’s bounce from the convention, when the effect of the most important event of the convention isn’t included in half the data? Perhaps there is one, but I can’t think of it.
And that’s not all that’s wrong with their bounce measure. To make their sin even more egregious, the previous poll they use as a point of comparison is way too long ago (July 8-9) to be a real before/after comparison. What if the race was closer before the convention than it was on July 8-9? Then using July 8-9 as a point of comparison would further contribute to understating Kerry’s bounce from the convention.
And in fact that appears to be the case. In the Gallup poll, Kerry was leading 51-44 on July 8-11 but only 49-45 on July 19-21. So using July 8-9 as the comparison period probably knocks several more points off Kerry’s bounce.
In short, Newsweek‘s analysis is totally bogus. Before we pronounce on the bounce, I suggest we wait until we’ve got some data that actually measures it.

27 comments on “Before We Pronounce on the Bounce, Let’s Measure It Properly Shall We?

  1. bt on

    I feel the same way as Drew. Steadfastness to the end. Emulate Kerry if you’re someone who sometimes has trouble being that way. I can’t imagine any poll result would have any effect on my level of effort. It might modify how I decide to try to help. People such as Ruy are going to help us all figure out what the poll results mean and therefore how, if at all, we need to modify what we’re doing accordingly. I’ll do as much as I can from now until November. No poll is going to change that one bit.
    After finishing up a consultancy in ’92, I “interviewed” volunteer coordinators in a half dozen swing states. Ohio was able to offer me the most to do, so I ended up volunteering for C/G there. They were desperate for some kind of presence in a large county just north of Cinci, one of the most R in that state and one that because of its size they had to try to compete in. I went in for the last 5 weeks and coordinated the county effort. 90-100 hours/week, starting with no organization in place. We were leading in the polls most of the way in that state and then the weekend before the election B/Q pulls even. Did it effect anything we did that last week at the grassroots level? Hell no. With a whole lot of help from Perot, we cut the B/Q ’88 plurality in that county from 41,000 to 23,000, give or take. Impossible to say how much difference our ground campaign made relative to the TV ad campaign and all manner of other factors–who knows, maybe none. But we created a presence in a place that had had none five weeks before the election. We spent under $2000 in that county, what we were able to raise from sales of campaign paraphernalia, plus some loose change from Columbus.
    There will be young people all around this country who will be doing similar things this time around.

  2. Frenchfries on

    Well, Drew, we might be able to ignore the polls for a week. But the media will not. There will be coverage. There will be analysis. And there will be headlines: “Complete failure”, “negative bounce”, “historic”- and so on. Which, I fear, will only aggravate the effect.
    We need another poll to save us!! (Okay, okay, I’ll calm down now..)

  3. Drew Thaler on

    I’m pretty much ignoring all polls until next week, exactly as I had planned to do before the convention. It’s still too early to measure the reaction. It’s amusing and yet sad to see people on either side hyperventilating over a single poll, or even a pair of polls. Return to your day jobs and watch the Kerry train continue to roll forward. There’ll be a bounce from the speech, and there’ll be a bounce from the debates too.

  4. Jay on

    “Drudge has a new USAToday/Gallup poll that shows Kerry losing ground. according to their poll it’s now 50-46 in favor of BC04.
    How can this possibly be?”
    It is probably an outlier. Political polls use a 95% confidence interval which means that one out of twenty will be incorrect outside the MOE.
    I write a bit more about this at the link below in my first installment on “understanding political polls.”

  5. lk on

    There miht not be a bounce that amounts to much. Andif there isn’t, I don’t think we should worry about it.
    Right now there isn’t much flexibility possible. Most people have made a choice and most have chosen firmly. There aren’t many swing voters to cause a bounce.
    I noticed that some Reublican talking head was predicting a big bounce–14 points or something like that. I was puzzled until I realized that the Repubs were trying to create a letdown. They wanted to generate the expectation of a big bounce so they could declare the convention and Kerry failures ifthe bounce was small or smallish.
    The only thing that matters is that Kerry is ahead generally and seems to be building in the important battle ground states.

  6. Ed on

    I think ,like so many of these so called experts say, that this country is so polorized that no one is changing their minds and the numbers will probably remain the same NO MATTER WHAT and that means terror attacks, Bin Laudin capture, good economy, or bad economy. Think about it, what would it take to change your minds.

  7. Allan Bartlett on

    I agree with you Robert. Kerry is managing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory it seems. I still think the futures market is the most accurate barometer for the race. The CNN poll may be a confirmation of the futures market from Friday when Bush received a small bounce. The bottom line though is if the CNN poll and the futures market are accurate then Kerry I would say is not in a very good position. We still have the GOP convention to go. Then again this might be just one of those cycles where all the conventional wisdom gets turned upside down. If Kerry could get a negative bounce out of his convention then it is certainly possible that Bush could get the same outcome from his convention.

  8. John Mcc. on

    “How can this be?”
    The answer is “Drudge”
    PRINCETON, NJ — A new CNN/USA Today/Gallup survey, conducted on Friday and Saturday following the Democratic Convention in Boston, finds that the presidential race remains close, with President George W. Bush receiving 50% support among likely voters, and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry 47%. Among the larger group of registered voters, Kerry leads 50% to 47%.

  9. Robert on

    Drudge has a new USAToday/Gallup poll that shows Kerry losing ground. according to their poll it’s now 50-46 in favor of BC04.
    How can this possibly be?

  10. John Mcc. on

    Not only Michael Moore but more significantly Kevin Phillips and CNN’s Carlos Watson believe turnout will be significantly higher this year, the latter opining that it could increase to 115 million up from 105..
    Still the RV showed no change in the Gallup Poll.
    Not a good poll…

  11. Oleary on

    About the CNN Poll…For one thing, if Michael Moore is right, a lot of new voters will vote for Kerry this year. That means that measures of so-called “likely” voters, usually based on if you’ve voted in the past, are inaccurate. In addition, the sample was in the 700 range for likely as opposed to the normal approximately 1000 registered voters sample and would have a margin of error of roughly plus or minus 4%. I just don’t see this poll as accurate, but if it is, this country deserves what Bush does to it, and it won’t be pretty.
    We might also take into account the heinously irresponsible failure of the major broadcast networks to show responsibility to the public by showing the convention in it’s entirity instead of “Last Comic Standing”

  12. Frenchfries on

    How kind of you, Allan. But I bet you wouldn’t drop by so often if all you got here was just spin, would you? Let’s just wait and see what the next days will bring.
    By the way: Take care. Tom Ridge just went from yellow to orange for stockbroker facilities.
    And beerwulf, thanks for the encouragement. I’ve braced myself now. Really sorry, was just a temporary bout..

  13. beerwulf on

    Politics isn’t a game for people who panic easily, Frenchfries. And Allan, there’s a difference between spin and analysis. My own feeling is that CNN’s poll is a low outlier. The standard wisdom (which I agree with) is that RV’s are a better gauge than LV’s because in late summer nobody really knows how likely they are to vote. There’s a reason PollKatz and Polling Report survey a lot of polls – differences in methodology, sampling errors, and so on tend to cancel each other out when you do a meta-analysis.
    Any given poll is only a snapshot, and an imperfect one at that (which is why pollsters bother to compute MOE). Calm down and let’s get on with the election.

  14. Frenchfries on

    Just saw new numbers on CNN – and they’re not good at all: They have Kerry up 50:47 among RVs – but DOWN 47:49 among LVs!
    I’m just sort of panicking…

  15. dean on

    And withh the integrity and clarity that we have all come to expect from big media, Face the Nation’s grey-haired emcee (whatever his name is) just cited an unnamed poll, but probably the Newsweek one, as having shown a 4 point bounce for Kerry/Edwards. Naturally, he didn’t mention that half the poll was taken before Kerry’s speech.
    That would have added nuance to the discussion, and Face the Nation wouldn’t want that. Too much for our little pointy heads to handle.

  16. Nate Roberts on

    Dear Joe Zainea,
    _Where_ exactly did you post the new survey of Electoral College tracking/projection/prediction sites?

  17. Ed Fitzgerald (unknown) on

    I thought that the corporate parent of the Washington Post owned Newsweek?
    BTW, somewhat off topic, for those interested in the state of the Electoral College, I’ve posted a new survey of Electoral College tracking/projection/prediction sites here.
    Kerry still leads. Of 24 sites surveyed, 16 show him winning, another 5 as ahead. Only 2 show Bush as winning, and one other shows him ahead.

  18. Joe Zainea on

    I’ve said it here before, Newsweek/MSNBC and WAPO are tied together somehow in various arrangements related to news and opinion content sharing. Relatively new leadership at WAPO, I believe, has shifted that organization’s political stance to the right, taking Newsweek and MSNBC along with them.
    The difference in WAPO’s editorial attitude is related to the Bush administration’s unrelenting hostility to any media outlet that doesn’t toe the mark they lay down. A news weekly that is denied access to senior administration officials is a publication headed for trouble.
    Bush’s people don’t hesitate to flex their muscles and I believe much of what we have come to see as the media’s stupor, starting from the run up to the Iraq invasion, is related to fear of access denial.
    In addition to the shoddy work on the post convention bounce, we can also see a reluctance on the part of Newsweek and other frightened outlets to inform the public on continuing American casualties being sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    One can only hope that as Kerry’s campaign gathers strength that the media will rediscover their spines and perhaps do a little reporting on the status of the Plame affair or the question of whether the recently indicted “Kenny Boy” Lay attended Cheney’s secret energy conference. One can only hope.

  19. frankly0 on

    On top of everything else, the Newsweek article says that Kerry’s speech was on Friday night, when it was on late THURSDAY night, idiots!
    Get SOMETHING right, will you please??

  20. DaveInFlorida on

    Ruy is probably right about Newsweek’s bounce analyis but a 52-44 lead still sounds pretty good to me in such a polarized race.

  21. Alan Snipes on

    Forget about the Newsweek Poll. The good news is that their second day polling had Kerry up by 10. There will surely be a bounce in other polls but some of it will undoubtedly fade as the month goes on. However, if Kerry can maintain a gain of 2-3 points AFTER the Republican Convention he will be in great shape indeed! Let’s keep our fingers crossed and work, work, work as hard as possible registering voters in the batlleground states and warn the media that they better keep their facts straight or we will be on them like a cheap suit.
    So far, so good.

  22. demtom on

    I said this over at Daily Kos, but will repeat it here:
    This isn’t an appropriate measure of post-convention bounce; the numbers released Monday, measuring three days of post-speech afterglow, will be the most accurate reading.
    However…Newsweek has been releasing this Saturday poll for as many election cycles as I can remember, so we can at least compare it to previous editions. And the comparisons are very favorable for Kerry.
    The last incumbent/challenger face-off was 1996. Dole got to within a few points of Clinton in the Saturday release, but never any closer.
    The same thing happened in 1984 — Mondale closed the gap with Reagan, but it was his high-water mark.
    I think we can say with certainty, challengers that don’t lead after their own conventions can go home right there.
    Successful challengers, on the other hand — specifically Clinton, Reagan and Carter — have immediately run to measurable leads. And this one Kerry’s got is clearly well past margin-of-error. (It’s not as big as Clinton’s or Carter’s, but the Perot in-and-out exaggerated the former, and the ongoing Ford/Reagan nomination battle affected the latter)
    Anyway, honestly, who gives a damn about the margin of the bounce? Look at the margin of the lead. There, Kerry’s in excellent shape.
    And, my two cents on the GOP post-convention: I don’t care if Bush leaps up 6-8 points. If the result doesn’t put him above 50%, he’s going to lose.
    People sometimes make this more complicated than it needs to be.

  23. herodotus on

    Absolutely right. And on top of the problems you mention there is the fact that the way-too-early poll of July 8-9 was taken right after Kerry named Edwards as his VP, so he was already enjoying a bounce from that. And that Edwards bounce had mostly faded by the time of the convention. I am happy to have the information given in the poll, but to pretend that it measures the convention bounce is outrageous.


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