poll-meme

Hillary Falling in Polls? Or Are the Polls Not Lying as Much?

Reports of Hillary falling in polls claim to show a shift in opinion, but maybe the polls themselves are reducing their misinformation.

One of the three headline links on Drudge yesterday reported Hillary falling in a poll:

8 POINTS VANISH IN 4 DAYS

The Washington Post headline spins the news differently: “Clinton lead shrinks, even as nearly 6 in 10 expect her to win, Post-ABC tracking poll finds.”

I love the fact that the media is starting to admit that Hillary Clinton is not as invincible as they’ve been claiming.

But I think they are still lying. Eight points in four days?

Scott Adams tweeted a different interpretation of a similar story about polling:

So, as I have been arguing, the shift is because the polls aren’t lying as much.

Of course, the pollsters themselves don’t have any idea who will win. They must guess who will bother to vote as well as ask who they would favor if they voted.

Back in 2014, before Republicans won sweeping victories, the Washington Post acknowledged how uncertain it all was.

Those who follow the generic congressional ballot polls may have noticed a certain shift toward the Republicans in recent weeks. CBS/New York Times polls show the Republicans leading the Democrats 45 percent to 39 percent in mid-September, but the Democrats up (41 percent to 37 percent) in August. A Pew poll from early September has the GOP up 47 percent to 44 percent, but a poll two weeks earlier had the Democrats up 47 percent to 42 percent. Since CBS/NYT and Pew are among the most prestigious polling organizations, we might be tempted to conclude that the Republicans gained a whopping eight to 10 points in just a few weeks.

But chances are there was little to no change at all in public sentiment about the upcoming election. The shift in the poll results coincided with a shift in pollster methodology — from assessing the opinion of registered voters to assessing opinion among that portion of the registered electorate who the polling organization deemed to be a likely voter. Although Pew and CBS/NYT emphasize that the sampling frame changed, this might not be clear to the casual observer of polls.

There are lots of other ways polls can be tweaked to produce different outcomes. There are many ways that unquestioned assumptions, wishful thinking, and groupthink can affect polls in a way that “confirms” those biases. And there is room for direct political manipulation.

I don’t know the future, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Donald Trump won easily. Why? One reason is that there are other predictors of elections besides polls. But another reason is because Hillary herself doesn’t expect to win, though I’m sure she is still hopeful.

From CNN:

In her speech Thursday, Clinton promised to preserve the first lady’s White House garden as the next president: “I can promise you, if I win, I will take good care of it, Michelle.”

“If I win”?

That’s not the way you talk if you are confident a majority will vote you into office.

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Joe Scudder

Joe Scudder is the "nom de plume" (or "nom de guerre") of a fifty-ish-year-old writer and stroke survivor. He lives in St Louis with his wife and still-at-home children. He has been a freelance writer and occasional political activist since the early nineties. He describes his politics as Tolkienesque.

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