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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Guess They Skipped the Apples-to-Apples Thing in Gallup Training School

This is really unbelievable. Gallup posted an analysis on their site yesterday about estimating election probabilities based on labor day poll data that is almost completely worthless. The reason is that they focus on Kerry’s 7 point deficit among LVs on labor day (can he overcome it?), while basing their analysis almost entirely on data about RVs on labor day.
How do I know their labor day poll data is almost entirely (prior to 1996) based on RVs? Because they published these data, clearly marked as being from RVs prior to that date, in an analysis on their own site just 6 days ago (September 3)!
Don’t they read their own stuff? Clearly it makes no sense to analyze a lead among LVs this labor day, and its possible relation to the final outcome this year, on the basis of historical data about RV leads on labor day and how much they changed by election day.
Thus, the question Gallup should have been asking is: can Kerry overcome his 1 point deficit among RVs by election day, based on historical patterns? Turns out the answer to this question–really, the only question that their data can properly answer–looks pretty darn good for Kerry.
In 17 of 17 cases, going back to 1936, the labor day margin between the candidates changed enough for Kerry to tie or surpass Bush in the popular vote and, in 12 of 17 of those cases, the change was in Kerry’s direction (i.e., that is, in the direction of the candidate who was behind among RVs on labor day).
Moreover, if you compare Bush’s position to the position of incumbent presidents who won their campaigns for re-election, it doesn’t look auspicious. In 9 cases, going back to 1936, winning incumbent presidents on labor day had an average lead of 12 points and a median lead of 11 points among RVs. The only winning incumbent president who was in a worse position than Bush is this year was Harry Truman in 1948.
Maybe I’m biased, but I have a really hard time seeing George W. Bush as Harry Truman.

33 comments on “Guess They Skipped the Apples-to-Apples Thing in Gallup Training School

  1. thecreature on

    Heh, I have to admit, I echo the above sentiments of Jim J in wondering who in their right mind could even be thinking of wanting to re-elect this guy.
    I mean I can see the gay-bashers and the militant pro-lifers and such wanting to re-elect him by reviving their time-honored “civilization is desintegrating” theme. But who beyond his base could want him around any longer I don’t really understand.
    Whenever someone says he’s strong on something, I want to echo George from the episode of Seinfeld where Jerry tries to sleep with Elaine without dating her: “Where are you living? Are you here? Are you on this planet?” I mean really, what has Bush done for security (or anything else) that get these people to just blindly believe he’s better? And that’s the funniest part of all; when you actually ask, most will admit they can’t think of anything. Or they’ll cite the Afghan war, which as I recall EVERYONE was in favor of.
    But I have faith. It may not have been Kerry’s week, but the polls showing Bush ahead are quite flawed (they were taken DURING his convention speech, for pete’s sake), and the assumption that more Republicans will vote than Democrats is quite unfounded, particularly given Democrats’ strong dislike of Bush. And as I’ve said before, no incumbent has been re-elected with a margin of support as narrow as Bush’s.
    Remember, Carter was ahead in 1980, despite all the bad news, right up till late October.

  2. tim on

    here’s why keery is so frustrating…he should of said ..knowing what i know now( knowing the truth about WMD) i would not vote for the war. and for a kicker asking “why did you lie to the Senate Mr. Bush”
    how hard would that have been to say?….now bush has inverted kerry’s strength and bush’s weakness ..namely iraq..iraq should be slam dunk(quoting george tenet) for kerry. instead he threw the bal to the other team.

  3. tony on

    The problem wasn’t that Kerry said he’d vote for the war. It was that Kerry said he’d vote to give Bush the same authority, Bush translated that as Kerry saying he’d vote for the war, then the media just buying into Bush’s translation. Then when Kerry amplifies on his original theme, Bush says it’s flip-flopping and the media again buys it.
    Would it have been so hard for the media to distinguish “voting for the war” from “voting for the authority, but with a different understanding of what would follow….”?

  4. Jim J on

    I have never seen anything like this sudden dropoff of support for one candidate in the absence of a real scandal.
    Can someone explain to me how the Repub convention helped Bush so much when only about 5 million people — most already Repubs — watched it?
    I can’t believe it’s all the Swift Boat stuff.
    I think it has a lot to do with when Kerry said he’d vote for the war even knowing what he knows now. I think he jumped the shark with that one.
    What a freakin’ shame.

  5. warp resident on

    Kerry is not giving lectures about Bush’s Guard service. It’s done through surrogates and the 527s. But you are guilty of a double standard if you argue that negative, over the top attacks (swift boaters, Cheney’s threat) are helpful when the republicans do it but harmful when Dems respond in kind. The recent revelations do chip away at Bush’s facade as an honest, straight shooter. Maybe not for the radical right, but we’re talking about a few percent of independents who may be taken in by this phony macho posturing. Kerry is doing what he has to do – convince people that the policies of the last 4 years have failed and it’s time for someone else. The majority have more or less accepted the first part of this. Now he has to make them accept the second.

  6. Sara on

    Virtually everything I remember from my now aqncient survey research courses is screaming that the last time you would take a poll would be over a holiday weekend. People are traveling, visiting grandma, up at the cabin, at the state fair — whatever, or at the mall school shopping. All of this would skew the sample like crazy. Yea — I know you want to measure post convention bounce, but you also want to measure when random techniques actually randomize — and who is home answering the phone over labor day weekend works against that.
    But could it be that the pollsters have reversid the basic rules of survey research? an inquiring mind wants to know.

  7. tim kaastad on

    i am talking about getting elected ..not conducting a war.
    kerry NEEDS to bushspeak…the undecided are also uninterested..make it simple stupid, and LOUD.
    bush dosent’ challenge the weaknesses of kerry…he challenges the strengths..that has alawys been roves style.
    when i hear edward say that cheney “crossed the line” o my gosh!!! dickey .b bad boy. horse shit!!!
    friend the repubs are playing for keeps..dems stop the mealy mouthing and go for the jugular…in short declaritive statements for the uninterested independants.
    watch how kerry gets no spin and bounce out of the nat’l guard thing. if he starts in on a 45 minute soliliquy on gw’s f..ng “DESERTION” i’m going scream.
    been there done that in 2000.

  8. Mike in MD on

    I just went to CBS News and downloaded the poll data. The weighted total of respondents is 33% Democratic, 32% Republican, and 35% Independent (which way the Independents lean is not specified.) The total number of RV’s is given, but not broken down by party; there is no LV screen.
    Personally, I’m a bit skeptical of the results. They have Kerry viewed unfavorably by RV’s by a 9-point margin, which is out of line with most reputable recent polls. I doubt the GOP convention drew that much blood. CBS polls have shown some rather odd swings in recent months, including in several surveys that were more favorable to Kerry than others. So I’m not sure what or who to believe.

  9. Charlie T. on

    Does anyone have the internals on the poll released this morning by CBS News showing a 49-42 Bush lead? The poll apparently was amongst registered voters. I have to admit that it was a little depressing hearing about it.
    I’m wondering if some of the same party affiliation distribution problems discussed at this website over the past few days were at play in this poll as they seemed to be in the Gallup, Time and Newsweek results. I gave a brief look at the story on the cbsnews.com website and couldn’t find anything really relating to this, except that they’re claiming that Kerry’s support amongst Democrats is much weaker than Bush’s is amongst Republicans. That doesn’t agree with what Gallup published in its poll.

  10. warp resident on

    Tim – I don’t know what Kerry said yesterday, but this issue can’t be handled in Bushspeak. If you’re gonna use short “declaritive” sentences at least you need to speak in english (let Bush declare that OBGYNs can’t “practice their love with women” or that he signed a spending measure to provide soldiers in Iraq with the “body parts” they need.) Today’s NYT editorial addresses your criticism, suggesting that Kerry has painted himself into a corner. But they also say that the mess in Iraq is Bush’s mess. So direct your anger there. I don’t think the majority in this country wants to see the US withdraw immediately and leave a bigger disaster in Iraq. But neither do they want to pursue Bush’s failure. Like it or not Bush has made Iraq part of the war on terror. That doesn’t mean it can’t be fought with anything but troops and armor. The trouble with the Bush crowd is that all they know how to do is drop bombs. You’ve heard the expression: When the only tool you have in your bag is a hammer soon every problem begins to look like a nail.

  11. warp resident on

    I also came to comment that the Labor day statistic is bunk as the republicans just had their convention the week before. When has that ever happened before? And they are still in loser territory compared to historical data that look 4 to six weeks past the conventions?
    It’s obvious that the republicans know they’re in trouble and they are being forced to more and more desperate measures. The pollsters like Gallup are clearly in a tough spot because they are pushing the envelope, trying to stretch their data to give Bush a lead. But if things deteriorate any further it will become harder for them to do so and still hold on to their credibility. Republicans are already in the middle of a voter suppression effort by making this the dirtiest, most negative campaign in history. The larger question is when do they start turning to outright thuggishness, using their patented methods of voter intimidation.

  12. tim kaastad on

    zogby was right..its kerry’s to loose…and loosing he is.
    can’t he just say something simple and uncomplicted and comprehensible to the average Joe. it seems not!.
    bush is a creep and worse ….utterly uniterstestd in the lives of those who have been killed by his commands.immoral, a liar , and withour compassion and emaphty.
    and kerry is going to lose this thing because he can not speak in short declaritve sentences.
    does that mean he can’t think in short declaritive thoughts?
    yesterday he referd to the war on iraq as part of the war on terror. instead of saying he was tired or mispsoke or somehting, his people went into some long convultued explanition of why this is not that and a is c and a dog is or is not a cat.
    its kerry’s to loose and he is doing his damdest to loose.

  13. mamayo on

    And one more thing: Ruy, I’m begging you to write this up as an op-ed piece–just this little counter-analysis, plain and simple, should be lovely little item for the newspapers.

  14. mamayo on

    Complain to Gallup and demand a correction–they have a “contact us” comment form on their site. This is not just an instance of a little “push” in the analysis–this is simply erroneous methodolgy with an erroneous conclusion.

  15. Nate Roberts on

    I just saw a great bumper sticker that I really liked. . . and was wondering if anyone knew where I could get one.
    It read:
    “re-defeat Bush in 2004”
    enough said

  16. theCoach on

    I did not realize that they swtched from RVs to LVs, but it was clear this was bunk analysis.
    comparing an incumbent/challenger to challenger/challenger is apples to oranges.
    As has been noted, the RNC was just before labor day this year, obviously skewing results.
    17, even if we could use all of the elections as equal is too small a sample to mean anything.
    The relevant data, I would think would be how many incumbent Presidents won without having 50% of registered voters (smoothing out convention bounces), in a two way race.

  17. Bruce Wilder on

    The truth is that Bush is dangerously close to winning the election, and the key word is “dangerously”.
    Everytime I hear some talking head say, “Bush’s strength is national security . . .” I want to puke. Bush failed to complete his service in the National Guard. He ignored a briefing, titled Osama Bin Laden determined to attack in the U.S. With the U.S. under attack, he sat dumbfounded in a grade school classroom, then went flying hither and yon to protect his own ass. He took us to war on false pretenses. He has alienated our allies, destroyed the credibility of the U.S. before the United Nations. He has conspicuously ignored the Constitution’s habeas corpus guarantee, and defies the Supreme Court’s mild requirements. He has commissioned lawyers to “justify” torture and the violation of international accords, which used to provide some protection for our troops. His “plan” for Iraq was practically non-existent. He didn’t find Osama or Mullah Omar. He didn’t find the anthrax guy. He neglected the Israeli-Palestinian thing, letting it boil over. He practically goaded North Korea into developing nuclear weapons. Ditto with Iran. The administration now OPPOSES verification measures of any kind in an important nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The situation in Pakistan is near-catastrophic. We are losing control of Iraq.
    What possible basis is there, for considering “national security” Bush’s strong suit.?
    Are the American people a bunch of colossal ignoramuses? Is Kerry just not making the case against Bush? This is the kind of information we need to get from polls, not useless “inside baseball” on whether precedent suggests winning or losing trends, given the numbers in 1936 or 1948 or 1956.
    We’ve known the election is too close to call for the better part of a year. Enough already.
    We need to know why the worst President, at least since Herbert Hoover, with a record of unmistakeable failure, still has even a shot at winning. What accounts for that? What are the American people, who are even considering voting for Bush “thinking” ??!!!?? Seriously. What planet are these people living on? What argument or information makes Bush a plausible candidate or even a “likeable” guy?
    What the hell is likeable about that smug, arrogant, smirking, incompetent moron?????

  18. Jim J on

    I’m just trying to look at what bright side is left. The abyss that faces us if he’s reelected is so dark and huge I confess I have trouble coping with it.
    So few Americans understand how alone this nation will be with Bush in for another four. No allies for the next inevitable war(s). Economic and human rights and environmental sanctions from the EU, etc. As we become economically and militarily weaker, the world will focus on other countries for leadership. More terror attacks will come as the the myth of U.S. military invincibility continues to be disproven.
    Our scientists and educators will begin a brain drain as Southern fundamentalists increase their grip on power. Social misfits, i.e., gays and liberals, will be culled from society through the use of unfair hiring practices and possibly loyalty oaths in the workplace.
    It is so bad I can hardly stand it.

  19. Tim on

    Jim J.. we really don’t want that. But if it comes to it the country will need to purge itself of everything Bush come 2008. Notice the fact that there’s been a Bush on every ballot since 1980.. save 1996. The Dem’s will need to lay the groundwork during a second Bush term to what Ruy’s blog is all about… a Democratic majority. That means repudiating everything Republican.. laying everything out to the American people. I lot of I told you so’s will have to be said.
    Also notice another trend… if you want budget deficits as far as the eye can see.. elect a Bush to executive office. The Dems have always had to clean up after the Bush mess.

  20. Jim J on

    Gallup’s machinations are good. A slight Bush lead will scare enough people to come out and vote for Kerry who might not otherwise.
    A huge Bush lead, however, works to demoralize and suppress our turnout. Hopefully Bush’s “bounce” will continue to bleed from many cuts and Kerry can close in the homestretch.
    You know, even if Bush wins, it might be fun to watch him continue to bleed because of his own policies and mistakes, LBJ style. I think plenty of us deep down might like a total Bush meltdown more than a Kerry presidency.

  21. Silent E on

    Ruy, question:
    how many of those incumbents or challengers had their conventions just before Labor Day?
    Bush’s convention was later than usual, so his Labor Day numbers are artificially inflated by his convention bounce, while the numbers of the incumbents he’s being compared to have already subsided from their bounces.

  22. gabby hayes on

    Gallup has had Bush at 50, 51, or 52 since July 31st.
    They were the “pollsters” who tried to convince everyone that Kerry got a NEGATIVE bounce during the Democratic convention.
    They are 100% trying to help Bush. They showed him at 50 or above every single poll since July 31st. Bull!
    They tried to drop the hammer on Kerry in the DNC, then they tried to drop it a second time coming out of the RNC.
    They’re advocates. Deduct three from Bush, add three to Kerry, when dealing with Gallup. They are wrong by AT LEAST that much.

  23. Ryan on

    I was skeptical of this “poll” from the start.
    At first Bush had a 12-point lead, now it’s down to 7.
    Now, with the evidence that Bush was a deserter and the Iraq death tolld exceeding 1000, I think Kerry will likely jump ahead.
    Hopefully Bush isn’t delaying the capture of Osama for political gain. I think that if Osama is captured between now and November second, it would look too suspicious anyway…

  24. gabby hayes on

    They have missed the last four presidential elections by an average of almost 4 million voters, and that’s just between the Republican and the Democrat. They’re obviously not getting paid because they’re good.
    You don’t really think they are trying so hard to sell Bush because it’s true, do you?
    Go back and look at their numbers after the Dem Convention. Remember the poll that announced Kerry got a negative bounce? THEM.
    Their current “work” is a study in contrived polling, designed to get a specific result. They are major advocates for Bush this time, and have been trying to give him a boost for 6 weeks.

  25. gabby hayes on

    Good stuff, Ruy.
    These two paragraphs bear repeating:
    “In 17 of 17 cases, going back to 1936, the labor day margin between the candidates changed enough for Kerry to tie or surpass Bush in the popular vote and, in 12 of 17 of those cases, the change was in Kerry’s direction (i.e., that is, in the direction of the candidate who was behind among RVs on labor day).”
    “Moreover, if you compare Bush’s position to the position of incumbent presidents who won their campaigns for re-election, it doesn’t look auspicious. In 9 cases, going back to 1936, winning incumbent presidents on labor day had an average lead of 12 points and a median lead of 11 points among RVs.”
    GALLUP has sold out, and they are campaign operatives, not pollsters.

  26. Armando on

    More than that Ruy –
    That don’t count 2000 – but htey count all the FDR landslides. Something weird happened at Gallup with this. Wonder what?

  27. Wagster on

    “Maybe I’m biased, but I have a really hard time seeing George W. Bush as Harry Truman.”
    More importantly, it’s hard to think that Kerry could be as feckless as Dewey was.

  28. Greg on

    Maybe I’m one of those doom and gloom Democrats too but I’m more and more convinced that George W. Bush is going to win. I mean, when you look at all the different polls, Bush is either tied or ahead but on almost all the fundamentals, Kerry is ahead. Why is it that people almost all prefer Kerry until the pollsters ask the all important question?


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