Monday, September 25, 2006

Poll Magic

As I have stated in the past, the art of polling has fallen into the same disrepute as statistics. And I have some bones to pick with the two polls that have been released recently.

#1. If you do not release your methodology, it is hard to take your poll seriously. There is absolutely no reason to do this other than trying to hide something. If you are trying to hide something, there has to be bias in your poll. It is as simple as that. If your job as a pollster is to ferret out what is happening in the electorate from an objective sample, you will want to release your methodology to stamp your reliability. Neither of these polls have done that.

Both third party polls taken during the primaries DID do this.

#2. Obviously the Greenburgh-Quinlin-Rosner poll was sloppy and can almost be tossed aside in terms of value. I would bet a dozen Krispy Cremes (and those are hard to get now) that this poll by far oversampled Democrats. We do not know why this poll was commissioned, or what feedback was being targeted by the Giffords campaign that led to these results. It could have been Pima County residents for all we know. Again without the methodology, the results are almost as useful as an online poll.

Also, look at the favorablility ratings for Graf. 82% of respondents know who he is, only 32% think favorably of him, and yet 35% will vote for him? Who are these people that have no idea who Graf is, or actually have an unfavorable opinion of Graf, but will vote for him anyway? Also notice that there are 11% of respondents who know Randy Graf but have no opinion on him. This seems very unlikely. It appears to me that people were being pushed to answer certain questions, perhaps not in a specific way, but nevertheless it diminishes the sampling credibility of the poll. An "I don't know" is perfectly valid as a choice.

And finally, anyone looking at this poll with an analytical bone in their body would immediately know that Gabby is not 19 points up. That was just silly.

#3- I believe the Star poll to be more sound fundamentally, but definitely not beyond question. Again, no breakdown is listed. What I can tell you right off the bat is that women were oversampled in comparison with men. It is also telling that in the Star poll released during the primaries, they DID give the breakdown and defined "likely voter."

Here is the thing that also makes me question the poll. If you buy that 45.8% of the voters view that Border control is the number 1 issue for this race, and that Gabby beats Graf on this issue, that means that Graf has to be beating Gabby on other issues such as the war and health care in order to make the numbers stand up. This is very counter to the conventional wisdom going both directions which could happen, but is unlikely. I also do not buy that Gabby is outdistancing Randy in the outlying counties, unless the sample size of these counties is statistically insignificant (which would explain a lot.)

The over sampling of women and the probable bad sampling of the outlying counties would suggest to me a rushed, inexact poll that the Star knew was flawed, but released anyway minus the internals. "600 likely voters" is probably the truth, but you also need to account for party registration, location, et al. I doubt that this was done.

So while this poll is certainly better than the Giffords poll, it does not, nor cannot tell the entire story.

I would argue that the last valid, verifiable, accurate poll that was taken was the Star poll just before the primary. And that poll is getting moldy.

I am sure that there are others who disagree. But take notice that whenever the poll methodology tightens up, so does Gifford's lead.


Framer said...


Damn you for making me do math!

If we assume a 50-50 split in men vs. women polling, based on the percentages given, men vs. women the total poll results would be:

47.6 Giffords
36.5 Graf

This cuts the percentage by 1.5 points. I would argue further that more men will vote than women in the actual election, so the results are probably closer to just below 10% for Giffords if all the other ducks are in a row, which they probably aren't.

Notice there is far more growth room in male undecideds as well.

Additionally, If Graf truly is within 0-5 points with Gabby on Health Care and the Iraq War, then this has to be a tremendous boost. All he would have to do is clarify his his views on illegal immigration which are not near as extreme as you or anyone have been led to believe and further clarify Gabby's record on the issue which is pretty close to non-existant.

I still do not believe that Gabby is leading in the outlying counties. It would take more than this flawed poll to convince me of that. And you must admit that the absence of a breakdown is pretty glaring.

I do believe that the errors were probably due to sloppiness and not partisanship or a desire to deceive. The Giffords poll on the other hand. . .

Framer said...


I never claimed that Graf was in the lead at this point, nor close to it. I just can't believe that the internals of the first Star poll were laid out and they "forgot" to do this with the second poll. The only reason you do not do this is because they are flawed and the pollster knows it. The Star does not have the time or funding, however, for a redo.

The oversampling of women was demonstrable. Randy Graf came within 130 votes of beating the entire Democratic side with Primary votes in Pinal County (I would give Giffords a wash or, at best, a slight lead in the other two outlying counties, but not enough to make up for Pinal.) I will need more than this poll to show that Gabby is ahead.

You do have to understand that I have a huge skeptacism of polls since long before this race. Took a class once from a very good pollster in college that led me to this, especially polls done by local publications. I want to see at least three REAL polls (the Star is marginablly acceptable, the Gabby poll is not) before I start drinking from their wisdom.

If the race is around 10% (which we are not all that far apart on) then it is certainly far from over at this point Especially as Gabby has agreed to six debates. I'm not going to say this is a mistake, because it is the right thing to do for the electorate. It does, however, expose her to a great deal more risk, as many will be expecting Graf to kill at least three live puppies during the first five minutes and will be pleasantly suprised when he turns out to be very humble and articulate.

I do tip my hat to Giffords for agreeing to six debates. That was classy.

Just as you notice that Graf is hoovering aroung his previous primary numbers, I am noticing that Giffords is settling close to the Kerry numbers of two years ago. Do you think that Graf can convince any of those Republican undecideds that Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House would be a bad thing?

At least it will give us something to keep blogging about until Basketball season.

Framer said...



You really need to take a break from politics for a while. You're rattling off stuff only you understand now.

You are, of course always welcome, but people are just going to start ignoring you if you keep this up.

Don't be the guy in the corner of the room talking to yourself. You're better than that.

Anonymous said...

It was a mistake for Gabby to release her numbers because her numbers will never reach 19% again. That will give the impression that she is slipping.

Anonymous said...


Did it ever occur to you that the political orientation of an area can change, especially with a large influx of population? Again you site all sorts of incongruous facts but your overall theme wanders. Yes, Jim McNulty briefly represented the district for two years until Kolbe beat him. Back in 1984 Kolbe did not run as a soft on the border, gay congressman. I remember because I was living in Tucson at the time and followed the campaign closely.

Can the area really be that conservative if Al Melvin just got elected? As to the right to life and firearms issues maybe you should check to voting records of Tim Bee, Jonathan Paton, Marian McClure, and Jennifer Burns. Even Toni Hellon was a stalwart on the right to keep and bear arms.

Yes, Randy used to be a golf pro. Is there a point to that message? Ronald Reagan used to be a B movie actor. From what I understand Gabby ran her family business into the ground and then sold it off to a large corporation.

Anonymous said...

Still does not sound like a glowing success story to me. She fixed it up enough to sell, is that what you are saying? Her ads to not give that impression.

Anonymous said...


I stipulate to your version of the story, mostly because I do not know otherwise. But Garry’s ad says she was a successful businesswoman.

Taking over already running business and closing down non-performing stores is not my definition of a successful businesswoman. She did not start or build up a business but cut one down in preparation to be sold. Her ad gives a false impression. She sounds like a real Gordon Gekko.