Pollster.com

December 30, 2007 - January 5, 2008

 

Poll of Pollsters: Rating the NH Pollsters

Topics: 2008 , Pollsters , The 2008 Race

A week ago I posted results from our poll of pollsters on how they rated and ranked their colleagues in Iowa. Tonight, their ratings of the New Hampshire pollsters.

First, a bit of review. The results below give us a sense of the pollster's relative reputations among their colleagues. Needless to say, reputation does not necessarily correlate with accuracy. The surveys of all pollsters -- those with good reputations and bad -- are subject to survey errors, random and otherwise. Even the best pollsters are fallible.

Second a review of our own methodology: Just before Christmas, we sent email out invitations to just over a hundred pollsters. A little less than half (46) responded and completed the entire survey online. Of those, 21 are media pollsters and and 25 campaign pollsters (14 Democrats and 11 Republicans). There is no "margin of error" for these data because they represent nothing more or less than the views of the pollsters that participated. Like the respondents to any survey, we promised to keep their identities confidential.

The questions we asked were the same as for Iowa. We asked: "How reliable do you consider surveys of NEW HAMPSHIRE PRIMARY voters done by each of the following organizations, very reliable, somewhat reliable, not very reliable or not reliable at all?" We also provided an explicit "do not know enough to rate" option for each organization.

In New Hampshire, the pollsters rated most reliable are ABC News/Washington Post (72% reliable), CNN/WMUR/University of New Hampshire (65%), CBS News/New York Times (61%), the Pew Research Center (59%) and the Boston Globe/University of New Hampshire (56%). Keep in mind that the same University of New Hampshire Survey Center partners with both CNN/WMUR and the Boston Globe.

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As in Iowa, the two lowest scoring pollsters are Zogby International and the American Research Group. The "not at all reliable" score is again by far the highest (54%) for Zogby.

The media pollsters are once again more positive about their colleagues work than the campaign pollsters, although both groups provide generally similar rankings.

01-05 ratings media-campaign.png

We also asked our pollster-respondents to select the "pollsters you consider MOST and LEAST reliable in New Hampshire." Once again, a local survey organization stood out. The University of New Hampshire Survey Center (combining its partnerships with both CNN/WMUR and the Boston Globe) is the first choice of slightly less than a third (31%) of our respondents. Notice, however, that slightly more (34%) have no particular favorite in New Hampshire.

01-05 trust most.png

And finally, on the question of the least reliable pollster in New Hampshire, Zogby International once again ranked first. More than a quarter (28%) of the campaign pollsters and half (52%) of the media pollsters picked Zogby International.


01-05 trust least.png

Again, reputation is just one way to judge a survey organization. A good reputation is no guarantee of accuracy. However, as we learned in Iowa, reputation can tell us a lot.


POLL: Rasmussen NH Primary


A new Rasmussen Reports automated survey of likely primary voters in New Hampshire (conducted 1/4) finds:

  • Among 441 likely Republican primary voters, Sen. John McCain runs at 31%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 26%, Rep Ron Paul at 14%, former Gov. Huckabee at 11%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 8%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 5%.
  • Among 510 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Barack Obama leads Sen. Hillary Clinton (37% to 27%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 19%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 8%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 4.5% for each subgroup.


POLL: Concord Monitor/Research 2000 New Hampshire Primary


A new Concord Monitor/Research 2000 statewide survey of likely primary voters in New Hampshire (conducted 1/4 through 1/5) finds:

  • Among 400 likely Republican primary voters, Sen. John McCain runs at 35%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 29% in a statewide primary; former Gov. Mike Huckabee trails at 13%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 8%, Rep. Ron Paul at 7%.
  • Among 400 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Barack Obama runs at 34%, Sen. Hillary Clinton at 33%; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 23%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 5% for each subgroup.


POLL: ARG New Hampshire Primary


A new American Research Group statewide survey of likely primary voters in New Hampshire (conducted 1/4 through 1/5) finds:

  • Among 600 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Barack Obama leads Sen. Hillary Clinton (38% to 26%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 20%.
  • Among 600 likely Republican primary voters, Sen. John McCain leads former Gov. Mitt Romney (39% to 25%) in a statewide primary; former Gov. Mike Huckabe trails at 14%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 7%, Rep. Ron Paul at 6%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 4% for each subgroup.


POLL: CNN/WMUR/UNH New Hampshire Primary


The first in a succession of CNN/WMUR/UNH statewide tracking surveys (CNN article, WMUR article, UNH Dem results, Rep results) of likley primary voters in New Hampshire (conducted 1/4 through 1/5) finds:

  • Among 313 likely Republican primary voters, Sen. John McCain runs at 33%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 27% in a statewide primary, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani trails at 14%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 11%, Rep. Ron Paul at 9%.
  • Among 359 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton both recieve 33% in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 20%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 5% for each subgroup.


POLL: Suffolk University New Hampshire Primary


The fourth in a succession of Suffolk University/7NEWS statewide tracking surveys of likely primary voters in New Hampshire (conducted 1/3 through 1/4) finds:

  • Among 500 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton runs at 36%, Sen. Barack Obama at 29% in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 13%.
  • Among 500 likely Republican primary voters, former Gov. Mitt Romney runs at 30%, Sen. John McCain at 26% in a statewide primary; former Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani both trail at 11%, Rep. Ron Paul at 8%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 4.4% for each subgroup.


POLL: Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby New Hampshire Primaryo


The second in a succession of Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby statewide tracking surveys of likely primary voters in New Hampshire (conducted 1/1 through 1/4) finds:

  • Among 893 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton receives 32%, Sen. Barack Obama 28% in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 20%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 7%.
  • Among 887 likely Republican primary voters, Sen. John McCain runs at 32%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 30% in a statewide primary; former Gov. Mike Huckabee trails at 12%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 9%, Rep. Ron Paul at 7%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 3.3% for both subgroups.


In Iowa, Somebody Was Right**

Topics: 2008 , Exit Polls , The 2008 Race

Needless to say, from the pollster's perspective, there were three big winners in Iowa last night: Barack Obama, Mike Huckabee and J. Ann Selzer, the pollster for the Des Moines Register.

As regular readers know, the final Register "Iowa Poll," released on New Year's Eve, showed Barack Obama leading Hillary Clinton by a seven-point margin (32% to 25%), followed closely by John Edwards (at 24%). The result was stunning, indicating a better Obama showing by far than in other recent polls. Only two polls released during the latter half of December had shown Obama even nominally "ahead," and neither margin was large enough to attain statistical significance. Earlier that day, our "sensitive estimate" (based on all other recent polls, but set to be more sensitive to the most recent) gave Clinton a 4.5 point lead over Obama. The Reuters/Zogby tracking survey released that morning (and conducted even more recently than the Register poll) showed Clinton leading Obama by 4 points (30% to 26%).

The explanation for the difference was even more stunning. "Obama's rise," the Register reported, was "the result in part of a dramatic influx of first-time caucusgoers, including a sizable bloc of political independents." The poll showed 60% saying this would be their first caucus and 40% identifying their party preference as Democratic. No other poll that disclosed similar results to Pollster.com came close on either measure. Within an hour or so of its release, the Register poll had been condemned by the Clinton and Edwards campaign pollsters as inaccurate, "at odds with history" and based on an "unprecedented new turnout model." The only way the poll would be accurate, Edwards consultant Joe Trippi said later, is if "220,000 people vote."

Despite the dark insinuation, Selzer had not changed her methodology. She had "assumed nothing" about the demographics or party allegiance of the likely caucus goers interviewed by her company. Instead, as she explained it to the News Hour, "we put our method in place, and we let the voters speak to us." In the face of massive skepticism, some of which seemed to come even from the Register's most prominent columnist, she stood by her numbers.

And yesterday, those findings were vindicated. Obama won by an 8-point margin in the official results and by approximately seven-points on the (more comparable) entrance poll head count estimate. The turnout was 239,000, nearly double the number from 2004. And the entrance poll put the share of first-time caucus participants at 57%. The only mismatch was on party -- 23% were independent or Republican on the entrance poll as compared to 45% on the Register survey.

I would urge some caution on making too much of the inconsistency on party. The jury may still be out on that issue. Pollsters sometimes get slightly different results on that question depending on the exact wording, the structure of answer categories or on the nature of other questions asked earlier in the survey.

In this case, it is also worth remembering that 100% of the caucus-goers were registered Democrats by the time the Caucuses got underway last night. Those who had been registered as Republicans or who had a "no party" status had to fill out a form to switch their registration as soon as they arrived. A friend within the Obama campaign tells me they went to great lengths to prepare newcomers for the process of switching their registration: they described the process in radio spots, campaign literature, canvass scripts, email and four direct-mail pieces sent to identified supporters. Other campaigns presumably provided similar preparation for identified caucus newcomers.

So we can safely assume that most non-Democratic registrants arrived at their caucus location expecting to fill out a form switching their party registration to Democratic. Is it a stretch to assume that many, who described their party leanings as "independent" in a telephone interview a few days before, were more likely to check "Democrat" on a paper questionnaire they filled out as they entered their caucus location?

Of course, party identification and party registration are not the same thing. The entrance poll party question asked explicitly about how "you usually think of yourself." Also, I am not sure there were enough party switchers to support a the 45% result, even if my theory about a "measurement" shift on the entrance poll is valid. However, the answer is knowable. The Iowa Democratic Party will be able to report on the number of new registrants and party switchers in a few weeks, and while she has not yet reported it, Selzer can compare those statistics to the number of non-Democratic registrants that qualified for the survey (remember, though they are highly correlated).

Either way, Selzer and the Iowa Poll got the big story exactly right, and they saw the results coming when other pollsters were showing something very different.

And what about the critics that spun so furiously to discredit her results? ABC's Gary Langer adds this postscript:

On the press plane flying from Iowa to New Hampshire [this morning], our off-air reporter Eloise Harper reports, “Mark Penn admitted to knowing that the trend was shifting towards Obama this past week.”

That means that at the very moment Penn was accusing the Des Moines Register of producing unreliable data, and saying it was Clinton who had the momentum, he knew otherwise.

So to be clear. Ann Selzer changed nothing about her methods, stood by her result and earned vindication, demonstrating the considerable integrity and courage that had already earned her the respect of her colleagues. Mark Penn trashed her poll and then changed his story.

***

Charles Franklin posted his thoughts earlier on how our polling trends compare to the entrance poll and official results, and we will have more to say soon about the exit the "accuracy" of Iowa polling. Stay tuned.

**Apologies to Langer (for the title)


Frank Newport on the Iowa Entrance Poll

Topics: Iowa

Gallup Poll's Editor in Chief Frank Newport looks at the Iowa entrance polls and asks whether Huckabee can "expand his base beyond highly religious Republicans?"

  • "One finding that I'm sure is bothering Huckabee and his advisors this morning as they contemplate New Hampshire and the states beyond is the fact that only 14% of those Republicans who said they were not "born again" voted for Huckabee. He was defeated among this less religious group by Romney, with 33% of the vote, John McCain (18%) and Fred Thompson (17%)."
  • "The 14% is a real key number. I would think that Huckabee's chances of winning the nomination are fairly slim if he can't expand his appeal beyond those Republicans who are highly religious. How well he succeeds in doing this is going to be -- in my mind -- the major focus of our on-going analysis of national data and our upcoming weekend poll in New Hampshire."

The full article here.


POLL: American Research Group New Hampshire Primary


A new American Research Group statewide survey of likely primary voters in New Hampshire (conducted 1/1 through 1/3) finds:

  • Among 600 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton runs at 35%, Sen. Barack Obama at 31% in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 15%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 5%.
  • Among 600 likely Republican primary voters, Sen. John McCain leads former Gov. Mitt Romney (35% to 25%) in a statewide primary; former Gov. Mike Huckabee trails at 12%, Rep. Ron Paul at 9%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 8%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 4% for each subgroup.


Iowa: Romney's Women Trouble and More

Topics: Iowa

[Margie Omero is President of Momentum Analysis, a Democratic polling firm based in Washington, DC.]

Gender played a huge role in the Iowa caucuses yesterday...on the Republican side. Mike Huckabee's sizable lead over Mitt Romney came largely from women. According to exit polls from both the Democratic and Republican caucuses, 40% of women voted for Huckabee and 24% for Romney. Among men, Huckabee and Romney are nearly tied (29% and 26%, respectively). The full breakdown is below, with the difference between the candidates' share across gender in the right-most column (results from the exit poll may differ from final delegate totals):

1mo0104.png

In the Democratic caucus, the pattern is far less dramatic. Yes, Clinton does fare better with women than she does with men. This is likely because of turnout efforts by EMILY's List and the Clinton campaign to bring more women to caucus for the first time. She fared much better than Edwards among first-time caucus goers, although not as well as Obama, who also fought to increase new turnout (among first-timers: 41% Obama, 29% Clinton, 18% Edwards). Ultimately, Obama bested Clinton across gender. Below is the full breakdown from the Democratic caucus:

2mo0104.png

One pattern emerges in both parties' caucuses: men are more likely to vote for second-tier candidates than are women. In the Democratic caucus, 19% of men and 13% of women voted for someone other than Obama, Edwards and Clinton. In the Republican caucus, 55% of men and 64% of women voted for Huckabee or Romney. Even when we control for this pattern, there is still a larger gender gap on the Republican side than on the Democratic side, as in the table below:

3mo0104.png

These results suggest that on the Democratic side, voters are more complicated than pundits predicted. They've been quick to assume that women will automatically vote for Clinton, and men will automatically vote against her. On the Republican side, the gender gap could reflect other differences between Romney's and Huckabee's base of support-religiosity, dissatisfaction with Bush, and socio-economic status are all viable hypotheses. But Iowa also confirms that women have the ability to decide an election, even if both candidates turn out to be men.


Gary Langer on the Iowa Entrance Poll


ABC News's Polling Director Gary Langer analyzes last night's entrance poll data and finds:

  • "While a range of factors rumbled through the Democratic race, the Republican contest was essentially about one thing: religion. Evangelical Christians accounted for a remarkable six in 10 GOP caucus-goers, and they favored Huckabee, a Baptist minister, over Mitt Romney, who's Mormon, by a broad 46-19 percent."
  • "In the Democratic contest, "change" was a huge factor; 52 percent of caucus-goers said the most important candidate characteristic to was bringing "needed change," more than twice the size of the next most-desired attribute. Obama won them by 2-1, with 51 percent support in this group to 20 percent for Edwards and 19 percent for Clinton."

Full analysis here.


Iowa 2008 Trend, Entrance Poll and Outcome

Topics: Iowa

1Iowa2008PollsandOutcomeDem.png

Last week I took a look at how the poll trend estimates did in the 2004 Iowa Democratic Caucus. This morning we have two new data points for comparison.

It has been a long day and night, so I won't say much tonight. We will look at the polls in more detail after a bit of sleep.

The bottom line in 2004 was that the polls under-estimated winners and over-estimated losers. (See the plot below for the 2004 comparison.) This year again the poll trend substantially underestimated the size of Obama's win. Clinton was quite well estimated, and Edwards did significantly better than the poll trend estimated.

The complex reallocation of preferences in the Democratic caucus also affected the entrance poll, which was quite close for Obama and Clinton but underestimated Edwards' final share of delegates.

The lower tier of candidates all finished below their poll trend estimates, though at such low levels of support that none of the errors are large.

2IA2004PollsandOutcomes.png

On the Republican side, with a simpler form of voting at the caucus, the polls did a bit better, except again for substantially underestimating the winner, Mike Huckabee. Other candidates ended up with shares of the caucus vote pretty close to their poll trend estimates. Ron Paul did a little better than the poll trend and Giuliani a little worse.

3Iowa2008PollsandOutcomeReps.png

Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.


Iowa Entrance Poll Results: Republicans

Topics: Iowa

The entrance poll tables can be found at MSNBC here. The widths of the bars are proportional to the size of the groups.

1MIPRep.png

2QualityRep.png

3PIDRep.png

4LibConRep.png

5BornAgainRep.png

6ImptReligionRep.png

7BushEvalRep.png

8ReservationsRep.png

9SexRep.png

10AgeRep.png

11IncomRep.png

12decidedRep.png

13PopRep.png

14RegionRep.png

Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.


Iowa Entrance Poll Results: Democrats

Topics: Iowa

The entrance poll tables can be found at MSNBC here. The widths of the bars are proportional to the size of the groups.

1MIPDem.png

1QualityDem.png

3PIDDem.png

4LibConDem.png

5FirstDem.png

6MarriedDem.png

7UnionDem.png

8SexDem.png

9AgeDem.png

10IncomDem.png

11decidedDem.png

12PopDem.png

13RegionDem.png

Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.


POLL: Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby New Hampshire Primary


The first in a succession of Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby statewide tracking surveys of likely primary voters in New Hampshire (conducted 12/31 through 1/3) finds:

  • Among 1,076 likely Republican primary voters, Sen. John McCain runs at 34%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 30% in a statewide primary; former Gov. Mike Huckabee trails at 10%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 9%, Rep. Ron Paul at 7%.
  • Among 960 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (32% to 26%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 20%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 7%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 3% for likely Republican primary voters and 3.2% for likely Democratic primary voters.


POLL: Suffolk University New Hampshire Primary


The third in a succession of Suffolk University/7NEWS statewide tracking surveys of likely primary voters in New Hampshire (conducted 1/2 through 1/3) finds:

  • Among 500 likely Republican primary voters, former Gov. Mitt Romney runs at 29%, Sen. John McCain at 25% in a statewide primary; former Gov. Mike Huckabee trails at 13%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 9%, Rep. Ron Paul at 8%.
  • Among 500 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (37% to 25%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 15%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error for both subgroups is 4.4%.


Caucus & Entrance Poll Results Thread

Topics: 2008 , Exit Polls , The 2008 Race

Since news organizations are free to release entrance poll tabulations as soon as they have them, we will likely see results soon and from multiple sources. Marc Ambinder has some early headlines:

CBS: CLINTON, OBAMA BATTLING FOR FIRST
EDWARDS TRAILING;
NOEDGE TO ROMNEY OR HUCKABEE
FROM ENTRANCE POLLS
RICHARDSON SUPPORTERS SAID
BE MOVING IN LOCKSTEP TO OBAMA

On MSNBC, Keith Olberman just read essentially the same broad description. All sorts of live blogging is occurring. Please feel free to post links to anything interesting in the comments.

8:15 - (all times Eastern): Tim Russert a few moments ago on MSNBC: "It seems to be, based on our early data, with Clinton, Obama in neck-and-neck, a lot more women, a lot more independents and a lot more young people than voted in '04. How they divide up in those three critical areas determines whether Obama or Clinton wins the caucuses."

8:20 - More from Ambinder: "On Dem side, half are first-timers, according to entrance polls... half say they made up their minds early...Back to that Hiawatha, Iowa precinct: turnout DOUBLED from last cycle, to 333...from 129." Hiawatha is a suburb of Cedar Rapids.

8:32 - Context on "half are first-timers:" The percentage of first-time caucus goers reported on the 2004 entrance poll was 55%. However, between 2000 and 2004, turnout grew from 61,000 to 122,000. Most of the pre-caucus polls the reported it put the share of first-time caucus goers between 20% and 35%. But the last Des Moines Register poll put it at 60%.

8:35 - Via The Page: "AP reports large crowds could delay entire process in nearly 1,800 spots throughout the state."

8:40 - MSNBC just reported actual delegate counts based on 8% of precincts: Edwards 35%, Clinton 32%, Obama 30%. However, these early reports come mostly from smaller precincts which, as I understand it, are more likely to be rural. For what it's worth, the Register poll reported vote preference among rural voters as 30% Edwards, 25% Clinton, 24% Obama.

8:44 - Ambinder again: " OBAMA CAMPAIGN PREDICTING 200,000 TURNOUT"

8:45 - MSNBC now reporting Obama and Huckabee ahead in the entrance poll, and they are starting to report specific numbers from the entrance poll. Presumably the analysts are now comfortable with their weighting and estimates to report specific numbers.

8:55 - CNN just projected Huckabee the winner of the Republican caucus.

9:15 - Yet more Ambinder: "OBAMA LEADING IN ENTRANCE POLLS / YOUNG VOTER TURNOUT LARGE"

9:26 - NBC News projects Barack Obama the winner of the Iowa Caucuses.

10:05 - CNN has now posted entrance poll tabulations for the Democrats and Republicans in Iowa. MSNBC has comparable tables for Democrats and Republicans (remember, the underlying data is the same).

Composition of Democratic caucus-goers:

  • 57% first time caucus goers
  • 40% age 17-44 (was 32% in 2004)
  • 25% Independent/Republican/Other (was 20% in 2004)


Waiting for Results "Outliers"

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

As we wait for early returns, here are some Iowa and New Hampshire related items overlooked from earlier today:

Gallup posted two reports on the impact of Iowa and New Hampshire today. One summarized historical data on how the early primaries influenced national polls (report, video). The second reviews how Americans react to hypothetical upset results in Iowa and New Hampshire (report, video).

ABC's Gary Langer looks at the final round of horserace numbers in Iowa and points out that "somebody's wrong."

Wall Street Journal "Numbers Guy" Carl Bialik has a nice summary of "Iowa's Caucus Math."

And the Washington Post's Jon Cohen reminds us something important about the soon-to-be-obsessed over entrance poll: "even exit (or entrance) polls are still only polls." He also points out that the question format used to measure party identification on the exit poll may yield slightly different results than the question asked on most telephone surveys.


Final Iowa Endgame

Topics: Iowa

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The last of the Iowa polls are in (I hope!). Today we got the final Zogby/Reuters/C-SPAN tracker, ARG and an InsiderAdvantage (based on only the top 3 candidates and with 2nd choices reallocated.) See the posts at Pollster.com for the individual poll results.

This updated "endgame" chart shows the results for both the standard and the sensitive trends. In addition, I've plotted each of the Zogby tracker results. The trend line only uses the non-overlapping tracker results so as to avoid over-counting the number of truely independent surveys in a tracker. For Zogby, this means we use 12/26-29 and 12/30-1/2 as the two trackers that are included when estimating the trend.

The Insider Advantage poll released results for all Republican candidates, but only the top three Democrats. They reallocated the 2nd choices of other Democrats. Today's release from Insider Advantage has the race Obama 34, Edwards 33, Clinton 32. On December 31, Insider Advantage released reallocated support as Edwards 41, Clinton 34 and Obama 25. That's quite a lot of change in 3 days. Since it seems unlikely actual support shifted by this much between 12/28-29 when the first poll was conducted, and 1/2 when the second was done, this is a good example of how unstable results can be when reallocating votes. We should be left with a lot of uncertainty.

The Zogby Tracking poll has moved a bit in the Republican race, and quite a bit in the Democratic. The Zogby results see a sharp move toward Obama and away from Clinton since Monday, with the final day's results moving enormously for a tracking poll. Perhaps this reflects real change, but it suggests that the final night of interviewing was somewhere between 12 and 16 points different from the sum of the other three nights in order to move the Clinton estimate by 4 points in the final poll. Obama also is credited with a 3 point move between Tuesday and Wednesday's results, likewise requiring the Wednesday nights results were far from previous ones.

Finally, ARG's recent results show a bit less net change in the Democratic race, but continue to exhibit the consistent ARG house effect we've seen before. On the Republican side, ARG does see a shift towards Romney but also a late rise for Huckabee, while McCain has moved down in their polling so his ARG results are now in line with the trend estimate.

The standard trend estimate largely ignores this cacophony, with small upward trends for Romney, McCain, Clinton and Edwards, and a slightly downward slope for Huckabee. Obama is awfully close to flat.

The more sensitive red estimator is more excited about recent developments, thinking it sees some late movement toward Obama, but not for any other candidate.

The last word on these graphs is that they also show the relative lack of late polls from a variety of polling organizations. Most polling is again from a handful of sources. This makes meaningful comparisons of house effects all but impossible, and means that our estimates of late trends are much more dependent on those few pollsters than we would wish. The stability of the blue-line standard estimator is the best comfort we have. Even with the reduction on the variety of pollsters, we aren't seeing dramatic changes in the trend estimate, implying the results are in line with pre-Christmas surveys from a larger variety of organizations.

It is 2:30 out here on the West Coast, so 4:30 in Iowa. Two and a half hours until the voters start to vote. Let's see what they think.

Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.


Pre-Caucus "Outliers"


Some stories nearly missed while I've been obsessing over Iowa...

My colleague, AAPOR President Nancy Mathiowetz, condemns the spread of fraudulent push-"polls" via interactive-voice-response and recommends we all start calling these "push calling" because aim to "to influence your impression of a candidate" while "surveys and polls want to elicit information from you."

Gary Langer looks at the track record of Iowa and New Hampshire at picking presidents and is unimpressed.

Kathy Frankovic examines whether "what happens in Iowa will determine the nominee" or affect the New Hampshire primary. Her answer: sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Ron Brownstein shares some demographic cross-tabs from the LA Times/Bloomberg surveys of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Frank Newport looks at Mike Huckabee's support in national surveys from highly religious Republicans.

Patrick Ruffini pours over the Republican exit poll from the 2000 New Hampshire primary and declares John McCain the prohibitive favorite to win the state in 2008.

Jay Cost posts a timely two-part "Primer on Momentum," summarizing what political scientists have concluded about the role of momentum in presidential primaries.

Dante Scalia argues convincingly that while both Barack Obama and John McCain win support from New Hampshire independents, few independents are deciding between Obama and McCain.

The Giuliani campaign releases a New Year's Eve poll memo entitled, "Looking Good."

Andrew Gelman links to an article by political scientists Bob Erikson and Chris Wlezien on whether political markets are superior to polls as election predictors.


POLL: InsiderAdvantage Iowa Caucus


A new InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion statewide survey of likely caucus goers in Iowa (conducted 1/1 for Republicans and 1/2 for Democratics) finds:

  • Among 415 likely Democratic caucus goers asked to choose between only three candidates, Sen. Barack Obama receives 34%, former Sen. John Edwards 33%, and Sen. Hillary Clinton 32% in a statewide caucus. The results are reallocated second choices of both undecideds and those who first chose a candidate other than Clinton, Edwards, or Obama.
    Three days ago, InsiderAdvantage released a reallocated vote showing Edwards at 41%, Clinton at 34%, and Obama at 25%
  • Among 430 likely Republican caucus goers, former Gov. Mike Huckabee runs at 30%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 24% in a statewide caucus; Former Sen. Fred Thompson and Sen. John McCain trail at 11%, Rep. Ron Paul at 7%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 5%.
  • All other Republican candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 5% for both subgroups.

Note, today's release did not include a first-choice vote result for either Democrats or Republicans. In addition, ihe InsiderAdvantage article does not indicate whether the survey was conducted using live interviewers or an automated method. Previous InsiderAdvantage surveys used an automated (IVR) methodology.


Romney's Iowa Campaign

Topics: Iowa

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May 27th, October 14th and November 28th, 2007. Three landmark days for the Romney campaign in Iowa.

From a distant third place in late 2006, Romney's Iowa efforts paid off on May 27th, when his estimated trend passed that of frontrunner Rudy Giuliani, making Romney the leader in Iowa. A campaign between two Northeastern Republicans had tilted from New York to Boston.

Romney held first place for 185 days, along the way picking up a strong win at the Ames straw poll in August. But the peril of becoming the odds on favorite is not getting credit for wins. The straw poll victory was noted, but always with the "as expected" modifier. The peril of the steady front runner is that wins are expected and losses are devastating. Meanwhile Huckabee's narrow win over Sam Brownback for 2nd place was the big news from the straw poll.

Huckabee built on success, and the next turning point for the Romney campaign was October 14th, the day Huckabee passed Giuliani's trend estimate and became the second place contender in Iowa. In the chart, the color changes at that point. Romney held steady in his lead over Huckabee for a while, but as the former Arkansas governor rose in the polls (with Romney steady, neither rising nor falling significantly) the lead evaporated and on November 28th Huckabee's trend crossed Romney's.

Of these three dates, May 27th was according to plan. Romney set out to overtake the national and Iowa frontrunner, and over about six months accomplished that.

What was perhaps underappreciated at the time was October 14th. That was the point at which the Iowa race in the eyes of voters shifted from a Boston-New York rivalry, to a Boston-Little Rock one. The campaigns adjusted earlier, but this was the tipping point for Iowa Republican voters. Now instead of comparing a Massachusetts Governor with a New York Mayor, voters were more likely after October 14 to think in terms of a Southern Governor as the alternative. Rural Iowa voters may have some difficulty telling one Northeastern Republican from another, but comparing one to a rural state Southerner is a somewhat easier task.

Once Huckabee became the primary alternative rather than Giuliani, the terms of the debate changed. This was most evident in the shift of conservative Protestant Christian voters in the state to Huckabee. Such voters may have had a hard time differentiating between the Mormon and the thrice divorced Catholic, but the Mormon vs the Baptist minister was easier to grasp.

The third turning point, November 28th, ended the 185 day reign of Romney in first place. Since then the polls have mostly seen a Huckabee lead, and the trend estimate, at least, sees little change in the small margin. The race remains a choice of Boston vs. Little Rock.

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Tonight will determine whose supporters were committed enough to attend a caucus and whose stayed home. Romney's organization and financial advantage may yet pay off there.

But the hidden blessing of November 28th was that it gave Romney the chance to "win" Iowa. Had his lead held up from May 27th until January 3rd, a first place finish would again have been "as expected". Good. Far better than a loss. But not the momentum builder and validation that a candidate hopes for out of Iowa.

November 28th changed that. If Mitt Romney pulls out a victory, however small the margin, he will have "come back" to win, and will get the boost that Iowa can offer to candidates who are not yet national household names. (And remember, Romney still stands in only 3rd place nationally, barely over 15%. He needs what Iowa can do for him.)

In the scenarios of what can happen after tonight, Romney needs the Iowa win to help in New Hampshire against the "risen from the dead" McCain surge. A loss makes the news from now until Tuesday all about the Huckabee's win and McCain's surge-- two things the Romney campaign would not like to carry into New Hampshire.

Until late November, everything had gone according to plan for the Romney campaign. They had built leads in Iowa and New Hampshire and had just moved into first place in South Carolina. While still lagging in national polls, the Romney machine was well poised to sweep three early events and ride momentum into Florida and then Super Tuesday. November 28th changed all that. Now a loss in Iowa threatens the next two states. But paradoxically November 28th also marks the moment Romney got the chance to be a "surprise" winner again.

Which scenario plays out now rests in the hands of Iowa Republican caucus goers.

Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.


POLL: ARG Iowa Caucus


A new American Research Group statewide survey of likely caucus goers in Iowa (conducted 12/31 through 1/2) finds:

  • Among 600 likely Democratic caucus goers, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (34% to 25%) in a statewide caucus; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 21%, Sen. Joe Biden at 8%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 6%.
  • Among 600 likely Republican caucus goers, former Gov. Mike Huckabee runs at 29%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 24% in a statewide caucus; former Sen. Fred Thompson trails at 13%, Sen. John McCain at 11%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 8%, Rep. Ron Paul at 6%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 4% for each subgroup.


POLL: Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby Iowa Caucus


The fifth and last in a succession of Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby statewide tracking surveys of likely caucus goers in Iowa (conducted 12/30 through 1/2) finds:

  • Among 905 likely Democratic caucus goers, Sen. Barack Obama receives 31%, former Sen. John Edwards at 27%, Sen. Hillary Clinton 24% in a statewide caucus; Gov. Bill Richardson trails at 7%, Sen. Joe Biden at 5%.
  • Among 914 likely Republican caucus goers, former Gov. Mike Huckabee runs at 31%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 25% in a statewide caucus; former Sen. Fred Thompson trails at 11%, Sen. John McCain and Rep. Ron Paul at 10%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 6%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 3.3% for both subgroups.


POLL: Franklin Pierce College/WBZ New Hampshire Primary


A new Franklin Pierce University/WBZ statewide survey (story, Dem results, Rep results) of likely primary voters in New Hampshire (conducted 12/27 through 12/31) finds:

  • Among 403 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton runs at 32%, Sen. Barack Obama at 28% in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 19%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 8%.
  • Among 407 likely Republican primary voters, Sen. John McCain receives 37%, former Gov. Mitt Romney 31% in a statewide primary; former Mayor Rudy Giuliani trails at 10%, Rep. Ron Paul at 6%, Gov. Mike Huckabee at 5%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 4.9% for each subgroup.


Iowa: Clearing My In-Box

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

I have to admit I experienced a bit of Iowa Caucus overload yesterday, and as I'm not in Des Moines with every political reporter in the Western World, I went off the grid for a bit and spent much of the day yesterday with family. As such, my mental "in-box" has filled to overflow with thoughts about what the last round of polls are telling about the Iowa Caucuses. What follows is an attempt to sum up and empty the in-box:

1) We Have No Idea Who Will Win. Yes, despite tens of thousand of interviews, polls of every shape, size and method and our own fancy charts featuring regression-derived trend lines of varying degrees of sensitivity, the only thing we can say with confidence is that the Democratic and Republican races are close. It is hard to know much more than that given the small margins and, more importantly, the huge variations in the kinds of likely caucus goers sampled.
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2) Methodology Matters. That conclusion has been the theme of virtually everything I have written about the Iowa Caucuses this year. As we learned from our Disclosure Project, no two pollsters select and define the "likely caucus goers" exactly the same way, and the differences in their methods are directly related to the vote. On the Democratic side, it has long been clear that John Edwards does better in polls that include bigger percentages of past caucus goers, and more recent surveys show Hillary Clinton and especially Barack Obama doing better as the samples include more first-time caucus goers.

Polls always show some differences due to pollster "house effects," differences that are usually more about how hard interviewers push uncertain voters than about how they select likely voters. But in the case of the Iowa Caucuses, differences in method produce huge variation in the kinds of voters selected as likely caucus goers. And what is truly surprising is that those differences appear to be growing in the final round of surveys (and speaking of the Des Moines Register survey, I'll have much more below).
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3) Our Regression Estimates (and Poll Averages) Don't Help. They don't help, that is, in providing a more precise estimate of who may be ahead or behind. What Charles Franklin's trend lines do, and do very well, is provide the best possible summary of the combined wisdom of all the public polls in the race. Since those polls are all over the place in terms of the kinds of people they are sampling, however, that combined wisdom may be off the mark.

Our colleagues Gary Langer and Jon Cohen, directors of polling for ABC News and The Washington Post respectively, wrote an op-ed over the weekend with "tips for decoding election polls." It is worth reading in full, despite their advice to "avoid being seduced by averages" (Langer also blogged a similar warning about "getting sucked into the horse race clutter"). They argue that "a collection of good and bad polls" will not provide a "better estimate" than one good poll. In theory that's true. In reality however, especially when we look at general election polls, the differences among polls are usually not much more random than the "margin of sampling error" would predict. That is why, our averages and those posted by RealClearPolitics, were more "accurate" in Senate and Governor races in 2006 than those from individual polls.

But in the case of the Iowa Caucuses, the warning about averages from Langer and Cohen is probably right. Polls are measuring different kinds of people, and those differences are producing results that vary far beyond the statistical margin of error. Our current regression estimates are incredibly close, with only a point or two separating Clinton, Obama and Edwards among Democrats and Huckabee and Romney among Republicans. However, those estimates essentially split the difference among the various methodologies. If the consensus guess about the best way to "model" the turnout is wrong, then the averages will be wrong too.
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4) So What Do We Know About the Horserace? The Democratic race is now obviously a three-way contest between Clinton, Edwards and Obama and between Huckabee and Romney on the Republican side, with a (though that would be what one former colleague of mine calls the "duh" finding). But we know more than that.

On the Democratic side the variation in the composition of the likely electorate tells us the likely story of the race. We just don't know the ending yet. The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder put this as succinctly as I've seen anywhere:

If Obama is going to win the caucuses, he's probably going to win big, thanks to an enormous infusion of new caucusers. If Clinton wins, it's because hard corps Democrats turned out in larger numbers.

The Republican story is similar, although the relationship to poll methodology less clear. Most surveys have shown that Mike Huckabee does much better among a base of rural Republicans and fundamentalist christians, and one question may be whether polls are over or under-representing evangelicals. Polls use different kinds of questions to measure this population, so comparisons across polls are difficult. But it is worth remembering that one of the biggest misses in pre-Caucus polling was back in 1988 when Pat Roberston finished second (ahead of George H.W. Bush) with 25% of the caucus vote. Polls had shown Robertson running a distant third, receiving 17% in one poll, single digits in most others.
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5) Does John Edwards really win second choice? Maybe, maybe not. One poll finding that has taken hold as conventional wisdom over the last week or so is that Edwards wins second choice. This conclusion, along with the generally accepted assumption that his ground organization, largely intact since 2004, will be in a better position to gain when candidates that fail to meet the 15% viability requirement within each precinct are forced to choose a second choice (Ambinder again has a concise review).

The c.w. on second choice comes from four recent polls -- Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg, CNN/ORC, Mason-Dixon/MSNBC/McClatchy -- that all showed Edwards "winning" second choice followed by Clinton and Obama (in that order) among all likely caucus-goers. The key issue is not second choice overall, but the second choice of the supporters of candidates (Richardson, Biden, Dodd and Kucinich) who look like they will fall short of "viability." Keep in mind that this reallocation process occurs separately within each precinct. so if there are regional patterns that push any of the bottom-four over 15%, or any of the top three below, a simple-statewide reallocation will be off.

Four recent polls have done the reallocation of Richardson, Biden, Dodd and Kucinich supporters statewide, and guess what? Once again, the Des Moines Register poll tells a different story. The other three all show the reallocation working in Edwards's favor -- and by a net six and eight points by respectively, Mason-Dixon and InsiderAdvantage. Zogby's first numbers from Sunday show small single digit benefit to Edwards and their report today implies the same. The Register reports, however, "that the results would change little if the votes for the lower-rated candidates were redistributed among the front-runners." So here is yet another unresolved conflict that only the actual results will resolve.

David Yepsen's column provides some specific numbers that appear to be the second choices of supporters or the candidates with single digit support, although he describes the results as a reallocated second choice (something noticed by commenter MSS). I emailed for a clarification and will update when I hear more.
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6) Are Trends Our Friend? While Franklin and I have been cautious about what the trend estimates say about who would win or lose, we have seen value in the trend lines as a measure of, well...trends. Generally speaking, Franklin's blue "standard estimator" has been consistent with the trends reported by individual polls in Iowa (and elsewhere) over the course of 2007. Are the trend lines showing any particular pattern?

Here I recommend reading Franklin's graphical review of "endgame trends." He drew both his blue "standard" estimator and "ready red" sensitive estimator through the results since mid-December. The lines are based on all data, including earlier polls, and those show virtually no trend, save for a minor uptick for McCain and possibly Edwards. If you have doubts about how well the lines fit the data, he blows up the last two weeks so you can judge the "fit" of the line for yourself. Again, the major issue is that "the noise of the individual polls around these trends is large" (see point #2 above).

As long as we are on the subject, the Des Moines Register added a bit more fuel to the spin wars by posting a graphic (scroll to the end of the story, bottom right) showing "trends" in the Democratic race based on two-day rolling averages calculated over the course of their four day field period. Unfortunately, the sample sizes involved were so small that, as far as I can tell, none of the observed "trends" were strong enough to attain statistical significance. I agree with the commenters who question the Register's decision to characterize the trends as meaningful.
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7) Holiday Polling Effect? - On the day after Christmas, I blogged a theory about the potential for a holiday polling effect that might temporarily depress Barack Obama's standing, creating the false sense of a downward trend. My sense is that we have seen just such effect centered around interviews conducted over the four-day Christmas weekend. I had planned to include that thought in this in-box clearing, but then reader Michael did me one better in the comments below. I'll promote the comment and let him explain:

I recently went on vacation. As a devoted reader of this site and Obama supporter, I recall checking the trends and smiling: Obama was trending steeply up, at ~29%, Clinton was declining/flat, at ~26-27%

Get back after a little over a week abroad, and you can imagine my surprise to find Obama trending down, at ~26%, Clinton trending up and at ~29%. What happened in 5-10 days that flipped the race on its head??? At first I thought maybe the news about Benazir Bhutto and the apparent campaign "gaffe" by David Axelrod.

But then something interesting happened.

Obama started polling back in the high 20's and low 30's. His sensitive trend estimate started to spike. His standard trend estimate went from declining to near flat.

What's more, Hillary's trend standard trend estimate has started to flatten. Her sensitive trend estimate has plummeted.

Which lead me to an interesting thought: Before I left for vacation, Obama was trending up at 29%. A few days after I got home from vacation, Obama's sensitive trend estimate shows him gaining ground and actually now at 30%, right in line with pre-vacation trends.

Only, in between, his numbers plummeted.

Before I left for vacation, Clinton was falling (though there were some signs of her stemming that drop before I left). She was in the high tenths of 26% of the low end of 27%. A few days after I return from vacation, and her sensitive estimate puts her at...27.5%

The sensitive estimate, basically, is right in line with where the race was at 10 days-2 weeks ago. But everything in between has been the complete reverse of that period.

The period where everything flipped on its head was, of course, a time when most everyone who can go on vacation does go on vacation. And the DMR poll's cross-tabs certainly suggest that among the block of voters I'd guess are more likely to leave home over the winter holiday, Obama cleans up: ~40% to 20% each for Hillary and Edwards amongst college educated and those making over 60K. Meanwhile, the less-educated and less-affluent constituencies that support Clinton and to a lesser extent Edwards strike me as precisely the type of voter who will be home more often over the winter holiday.

I couldn't have put that much better myself. As commenter DTM points out, Michael's hunch about the kinds of people who travel is exactly what the data in my earlier post suggests. Michael probably didn't see it because he was. . . on vacation.

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You can see the down-and-up pattern in the black last-5-poll average trend line connecting the individual polls in Charles Franklin's recent endgame trends charts. You do not see the same pattern in the regression trend lines (that Michael saw in our daily report of estimate end points), because the slope the lines adjusts every day as we add more polls to the charts to better fit the underlying data.
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[image via Ben Smith ]

And so finally . . . back to the Des Moines Register/Selzer & Company poll that shows more independents and first-time caucus goers in the Democratic sample than other polls. Some things worth remembering:

8) The Register/Selzer poll did not change its 'turnout model" - One common misperception regarding the new Register poll is that it altered its "model." Clinton pollster and lead strategist Mark Penn no doubt contributed to the confusion with his rapid response claim that the poll "adopts an unprecedented new turnout model for the caucuses" (emphasis added).

The mix of independents and first time attendees in the new Register sample may be unprecedented, but it "adopts" nothing new in terms of methodology. They used the same sampling procedure and screen for the new survey as the one in October showing Clinton with a six-point lead that Penn was happy to cite. The difference is that the same methodology that yielded a sample of 23% first time caucus goers in October yielded 60% first-time caucus goers and 40% independents this week. That's not a change in the "model." It's a finding.

Here is the way Selzer explained it to the News Hour last night (via Hotline):

JUDY WOODRUFF: oday's Iowa poll is out. You're assuming that 60 percent of the voters in the Democratic caucuses will be first-time caucus attendees. How did you assume that? Why did you assume it?

ANN SELZER, Des Moines Register: Well, actually, I assumed nothing. That's what my data told me.

We put our method in place, and we let the voters speak to us. And we found that 60 percent of the people who told us they were definitely or probably going to the caucus indicated that it would be their first time at caucus.

It's not all that much bigger than 2004. It was 45 percent then. But this stands to be a historic caucus, in terms of turnout. [...]

JUDY WOODRUFF: You're also saying that 40 percent of the voters in the Democratic caucuses are going to be independents. How do you know that?

ANN SELZER: Well, again, that's what our data is telling us. And is that a surprise? Sure. It's something that would raise an eyebrow, because that's more independents than would have come to any previous caucus.

But as you know in this campaign, just keeping your ear to the ground, there are a lot of people who are independent who are planning to come to caucus. The campaigns are certainly courting independents.

And the trick with all of this is that Democrats, to people who proclaim that they are Democrats, are more for Hillary Clinton. And so, people who are more independent are more likely to vote for Barack Obama.

So you try playing with those numbers, and you can come up with any different scenarios. But, again, this is what our data is telling us, and we feel comfortable with it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, again, you were looking at voters who say they are either definitely or...

ANN SELZER: Or probably...

JUDY WOODRUFF: ... probably.

ANN SELZER: ... going to attend. And that gives us the advantage, Judy, also to take a look at just those definite attenders and say, "OK, well, what's the core of what's going to happen here?" And when you look only at those, it is still a Barack Obama win.

Yes, there are other aspects of Register surveys past and present that I wish they would disclose. They do not, for example, tell us the percentage of adults that the current sample represents, although given the increase in independents and first-timers, that percentage is undoubtedly higher than the 12% they disclosed to me in October. But Selzer could not be more clear about the consistency in her method. In all of her surveys this year, she assumed nothing about either the size of the turnout or about the characteristics of likely caucus goers. She let "the voters speak to us."
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9) That Register/Selzer number is based on party identification, not party registration. In order to participate in the Democratic caucuses "non-Democrats" (i.e. those registered as Republicans or with "no party" registration) must fill out a form to register as Democrats on caucus night. A straight-shooting friend -- who is also a prominent, Clinton supporter -- called me several weeks ago to argue that even the 20-25% Republican/independent share reported by most of the public polls (including the 2004 entrance poll) is too high, because Caucus regulars say such switches have been far more rare.

What virtually every survey measures, however is some form of self-reported party identification. Here, for example, is the wording of the question used by the Register on all of its surveys -- the question used to produce the widely cited 40% independent/5% Republican finding:

In politics as of today, do you consider yourself a Republican, Democrat, or independent?

And the question that appeared on the network entrance poll (and on virtually all network exit polls) that showed 19% Democrat, 1% Republican in 2004.

No matter who you are supporting tonight, do you usually think of yourself as a [check one] strong Democrat, not strong Democrat, independent, Republican.

Given the difference I wondered how many registered Democrats in Iowa think of themselves as independent. I asked a few pollsters that have used a samples drawn from lists of registered voters how actual registered Democrats answered the party identification question. The answers (and keep in mind that question text and formats can affect the results):

  • 12% of actual registered Democrats on the CBS/New York Times Iowa survey identified as independents.
  • 17-18% of actual registered Democrats on the internal polls of one of the Democratic candidates (not Clinton or Obama) identified as independents.

What these results tell us is that a good chunk of the 20-25% that have reported being "independent" in the 2004 entrance polls and earlier polls in 2007 have been independent minded registered Democrats. The number of new registrants or party switchers may have been as low as 5-10%. Of course, the 40% Democratic and 5% Republican result is still a big change, but perhaps not as big as some may assume.
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10) "I'm calling on behalf of the Des Moines Register Iowa poll" - Commenter Mark suggests four different methodological reasons why the Register poll might differ from the others. All are perfectly reasonable and worth considering. But in so doing, we might want to think about aspects of the methodology might lead only the Register to pick up an influx of first time caucus goers in the last week of the campaign.

For example, Mark wonders if "registered Democrats are getting huge numbers of calls from campaigns, and are thus not answering their phones," while no-party voters are getting fewer and thus more likely to participate in the survey. That seems plausible, but leaves open the question as to why other polls are not seeing the same effect? Perhaps they are all setting quotas or weights based on party or past caucus history, but if so, they have shut out the possibility of picking up any increase in independents or new-comers.**

In that vein, let me add one possible distinction that others have overlooked: The Register poll has one huge advantage. Its interviewers are the only ones that can say in their first breath when a potential respondent picks that they are calling on behalf of the must trusted media brand in Iowa, especially among Democrats: The Des Moines Register "Iowa Poll."

[Correction: I had this partly wrong. The interviewers describe the survey as "The Iowa Poll" in their introduction, but do not cite the name of the newspaper. They inform respondents of the Register's sponsorship at the end of the call, though interviewers will cite the name of the paper if pressed for more information by respondents.. Although the Register has always branded its survey as "The Iowa Poll," the association with the paper may be less than universal. Thus, this difference may be less important than I had initially assumed. Apologies for the error].
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11) So is the Register/Selzer right? Honestly, I am unsure, but let me clarify (and amplify) a few points I made in my first post.

First, you should not accept the Register results just because their 2004 poll may have been slightly more accurate by some measures as compared to other polls. They did catch more of John Edwards' rise sooner than any other poll in 2004. However, commenter p_lukasiak is right to point out that the "definite" voter cut is the one that scores slightly better, while the current result is based on all likely voters (though see Ann Selzer's comments in #9 above about the "definite" result this time). I am among those who have probably made too much of the fact that only the Register got the order of the top four finishers right in 2004. Given how close the candidates were bunched on the Register and other polls, their success on that score may have been a matter of random chance.

Second, you should also not accept the Register results as accurate just because of it's stellar reputation. Reputation does not, in and of itself, translate into magical powers of accuracy. Even the most well respected pollsters are fallible. Their surveys are still subject to most of the potential errors as those with lesser reputations. The Register's methodology may have caught an imminent influx of new participants that other surveys have missed. Their methodology may also have a previously unseen flaw that allowed too many independents slip through their likely caucus-goer screen because of an interest and enthusiasm unrelated to a true intent to participate. And of course, both may be true. We will know soon enough.

However, as I wrote Tuesday morning, whether we believe the result or not, we need to understand the courage and integrity it took for Ann Selzer to put out the results she did. One commenter, badgerfan, wondered:

[I]sn't what the DMR did in this poll just setting themselves up to have it both ways? If Obama wins, it will most likely be because of an unconventional turnout model. If Obama does not win, then everyone can shrug and say I's and R's or new D's jsut didn't participate.

Badgerfan happens to be a personal friend, but he's flat wrong here. Everyone will "shrug" if the result is wrong? Fat chance. Have you noticed the intense criticism this poll has taken since it's release in virtually every news story about the race? If Ann Selzer had wanted to play it safe, she could have weighted her results by past caucus participation or party identification (or both) as many other pollsters do. Her results would have been in line with other polls, far less controversial and no one would have questioned her judgment. But she didn't do that. As an Iowa based survey researcher, she put her own reputation and that of her most important client on the line because she believes in her methods and trusts her results.

None of that proves the accuracy of the results, but that sort of integrity and courage is exactly the combination you want in a pollster. Those qualities are a big reason why her colleagues rate Ann Selzer's work on behalf of the Des Moines Register as favorably as they do.
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12) "Unprecedented" - And finally . . . the campaigns that were unhappy with the Register poll held nothing back yesterday in their efforts to knock down what was obviously an unfavorable story for their candidates. But what no one seems to have noticed is that by spinning so strenuously Obama's opponents risk spinning themselves into a corner.

Consider what some of the campaign pollsters said yesterday about the Register result:

  • Clinton pollster Mark Penn: "An unprecedented new turnout model...an unprecedented departure from historically established turnout patterns in the caucus."

  • Edwards pollster Harrison Hickman (here and here): "The poll is at odds with history" and "at odds with known tenets of partisan caucus participation."

  • Biden pollster Celinda Lake: "I'm sure [the independent percentage] will be higher, but [40%] just seems impossible . . . That would be a revolution."

At very least, by elevating bit of polling wonkery -- the argument over independents -- into a two-day front page story, Obama's opponents have helped hand him more than a "momentum" story on the eve of the caucuses. His precinct captains now also have a strong electability argument to make tomorrow night: Obama attracts independents.

But more important, what if the Register is right? What if an influx of first-time caucus goers propels Obama to a modest victory margin? Given their spin yesterday, it will be quite a challenge for the other campaigns to shrug it off as an inconsequential result they saw coming all along. Now, if Obama wins with the help of a wave of caucus newcomers, it's not just a "win," it's an "unprecedented departure," a result "at odds with history," perhaps even a "revolution."
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POLL: Gallup Panel Iowa's Impact


A new Gallup national panel survey of 1,008 adults (conducted 12/0 through 12/13) finds:

  • 67% of Americans would view Barack Obama winning the Iowa caucus as "a sign that he will seriously challenge Hillary Clinton for the nomination;" 31% would view it as a "temporary victory."
  • 70% would view Hillary Clinton losing the Iowa caucus as a temporary setback; 28% would view it as "a sign that her campaign is in serious trouble."
  • 71% would view Rudy Giuliani losing both the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary as a sign that his campaign is in serious trouble; 28% would view it as a temporary setback.

"Respondents were drawn from Gallup's household panel, which was originally recruited through random selection methods. The final sample is weighted so it is representative of U.S. adults nationwide."


POLL: Pew National Primary


A new Pew Research Center national survey (release, results) of 1,430 registered voters (conducted 12/19 through 12/30) finds:

  • Among 471 registered Republicans and those who lean Republican, Sen. John McCain receives 22%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani 20%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee 17% in a national primary; former Gov. Mitt Romney trails at 12%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 9%.
  • Among 556 registered Democrats and those who lean Democratic, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (46% to 26%) in a national primary, former Sen. John Edwards trails at 14%.
  • "1,089 respondents were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 341 were interviewed on a cell phone, including 113 who had no landline telephone"
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is five percent for both subgroups.


POLL: Suffolk University New Hampshire Primary


The first poll in a succession of Suffolk University/7NEWS statewide tracking surveys of likely primary voters in New Hampshire (conducted 12/31 through 1/1) finds:

  • Among 500 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (37% to 20%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 16%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 5%.
  • Among 500 likely Republican primary voters, Sen. John McCain leads former Gov. Mitt Romney (32% to 23%) in a statewide primary; former Mayor Rudy Giuliani trails at 11%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 10%, Rep. Ron Paul at 8%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of samplig error is 4.4% for each subgroup.

Note: Yesterday's Suffolk University/7News was a stand alone sample. Today's survey starts fresh with a different sample of likely voters.


POLL: CNN/WMUR/UNH New Hampshire Primary


A new CNN/WMUR/UNH statewide survey (CNN story, WMUR story, UNH Dem results, Rep results) of likely primary voters in New Hampshire (conducted 12/27 through 12/30) finds:

  • Among 511 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton receives 34%, Barack Obama 30% in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 17%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 5%.
  • Among 433 likely Republican primary voters, former Gov. Mitt Romney runs even with Sen. John McCain (both at 29%) in a statewide primary; former Mayor Rudy Giuliani trails at 12%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 10%, Rep. Ron Paul at 7%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 4.3% for likely Democratic primary voters, and 4.7 for likely Republican primary voters.


POLL: Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby Iowa Caucus


The fourth in a succession of Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby statewide tracking surveys of likely caucus goers in Iowa (conducted 12/29 through 1/1) finds:

  • Among 933 likely Democratic caucus goers, Sen. Hillary Clinton runs even with Sen. Barack Obama (both at 28%) while former Sen. John Edwards receives 26% in a statewide caucus; Gov. Bill Richardson trails at 7%.
  • Among 882 likely Republican caucus goers, former Gov. Mike Huckabee runs at 28%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 26% in a statewide caucus; Sen. John McCain and former Sen. Fred Thompson both trail at 12%, Rep. Ron Paul at 9%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 7%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 3.3% for both subgroups.


POLL: Strategic Vision (R) Iowa Caucus


A new Strategic Vision (R) statewide survey of likely caucus goers in Iowa (conducted 12/28 through 12/30) finds:

  • Among 600 likely Republican primary voters, former Gov. Mitt Romney runs at 30%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee runs at 28% in a statewide caucus; Sen. John McCain trails at 16%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 13%.
  • Among 600 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Barack Obama runs at 32%, former Sen. John Edwards at 29%, Sen. Hillary Clinton at 27% in a statewide caucus; Sen. Joe Biden trails at 5%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 4% for each subgroup.


POLL: InsiderAdvantage Iowa Dem Caucus


A new InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion statewide survey of 788 likely Democratic caucus goers in Iowa (conducted 12/28 through 12/29) finds Sen. Hillary Clinton receiving 30%, former Sen. John Edwards 29%, and Sen. Barack Obama 22%. The margin of sampling error is 3.4%.

Note: The InsiderAdvantage article does not indicate whether the survey was conducted using live interviewers or an automated method. Their last Iowa survey used an automated (IVR) methodology.


Iowa Endgame Polling

Topics: Iowa

1IowaEndgame.png

Happy New Year, and let's look at the endgame of Iowa polling.

There have been seeming sharply contradictory polls since Christmas. Within the week ARG has had Romney up 9 over Huckabee while Research 2000 had Huckabee up 7 over Romney. We've also seen Clinton up 7 over Obama in ARG and Obama leading Clinton by 7 in the Des Moines Register/Selzer poll. And none of this looks to be because of very strong late trends. Depending on when you start and how hard you squint you can see some modest trends or no trends at all in the polling since mid-December. Our trend estimators, both standard blue and sensitive red, see small trends over each day, but the noise of the individual polls around these trends is large. (These trend estimates are based on ALL the Iowa data, not just the polls shown in the plots. They are the same estimators you see at Pollster.com and here.)

The current trend estimator puts the Republican order at Huckabee 31.2%, Romney 26.8% and McCain 11.9%. For the Democrats the trend estimates are Clinton 29.5%, Obama 26.6% and Edwards 25.2%.

The variability in the polls means that there is lots of room for cherry picking the poll you like. Since the Des Moines Register/Selzer & Co. poll came out last night, the Edwards and Clinton campaigns have found fatal flaws in what was (before Monday night) the most respected poll in Iowa. No surprise there.

(See Mark Blumenthal's write up of our Pollster.com "Poll of Pollsters" on the reputational rankings of the various pollsters.)

The closeness of the Democratic race makes folly of any attempt to crown a winer based on the polls. Aside from the polling difficulties, the unknown ability of the campaigns to mobilize their supports, and the effectiveness of turning out first time caucus goers is enough to make staying up Thursday night worthwhile.

On the Republican side, Huckabee leads in the trend, but it is worth noticing how consistent Romney's poll results have been since Christmas compared to how variable Huckabee's numbers have been. Add to that the bad media days Huckabee has been suffering, including yesterday's press conference to announce he would not run the negative ad he then showed, and I think you have to wonder if this endgame may yet shift by Thursday night

Cross-posted at Political Arithmetik.


POLL: Suffolk University New Hampshire Primary


A new statewide survey from Suffolk University/7NEWS in New Hampshire (conducted 12/27 through 12/31) finds:

  • Among 300 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (36% to 22%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 14%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 7%.
  • Among 300 likely Republican primary voters, Sen. John McCain runs at 31%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 25% in a statewide primary; former Mayor Rudy Giuliani trails at 14%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 9%, Rep. Ron Paul at 6%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 5.7% for both subgroups.

Correction: The original version of this post incorrectly identified the sample sizes for this survey. From today forward, the 7NEWS/Suffolk University poll will conduct 250 interviews a day among Democratic and Republican likely voters and will report a "two-day rolling average of 500 Democrats and 500 Republicans" each day.


POLL: CNN Iowa Caucus


A new CNN/Opinion Research statewide survey of likely caucus goers in Iowa (conducted 12/26 through 12/30) finds:

  • Among 373 likely Republican caucus goers, former Gov. Mitt Romney receives 31%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee 28% in a statewide caucus; former Sen. Fred Thompson trails at 13%, Sen. John McCain at 10%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Ron Paul both at 8%.
  • Among 482 likely Democratic caucus goers, Sen. Hillary Clinton receives 33%, Sen. Barack Obama 31%, former Sen. John Edwards 22% in a statewide caucus; Gov. Bill Richardson trails at 7%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 5% for likely Republican caucus goers and 4.5% for likely Democratic caucus goers.


POLL: Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby Iowa Caucus


The third in a succession Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby statewide tracking surveys of likely caucus goers in Iowa (conducted 12/28 through 12/31) finds;

  • Among 925 likely Democratic caucus goers, Sen. Hillary Clinton runs at 30%, Sen. Barack Obama at 26%, former Sen. John Edwards at 25% in a statewide caucus; Gov. Bill Richardson and Sen. Joe Biden both trail at 5%.
  • Among 903 likely Republican caucus goers, former Gov. Mike Huckabee runs at 29%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 25% in a statewide caucus; Sen. John McCain trails at 12%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 10%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 8%, Rep. Ron Paul both at 7%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 3.3% for both subgroups.


POLL: Des Moines Register/Selzer & Co

Topics: 2008 , Iowa , The 2008 Race

The much anticipated final poll from the Des Moines Register and Selzer & Company is out. They conducted interviews from December 27-30 with 800 likely Democratic caucus goers and 800 likely Republican caucus goers (those who say they "definitely or probably will attend" the caucuses). The Register has full coverage of the Democratic results, the Republican results, leading issues, an overview from columnist David Yepsen and a description of their methods.

The Register's lead for the Democrats:

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has widened his lead in Iowa over Hillary Clinton and John Edwards heading into Thursday's nominating caucuses [...] Obama's rise is the result in part of a dramatic influx of first-time caucusgoers, including a sizable bloc of political independents. Both groups prefer the Illinois senator in what has been a very competitive campaign.

Obama was the choice of 32 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers, up from 28 percent in the Register's last poll in late November, while Clinton, a New York senator, held steady at 25 percent and Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, was virtually unchanged at 24 percent.

Next, the Republicans:

Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist minister riding a wave of support from fundamentalist Christians, tops Mitt Romney for first place [....] In a battle of former governors from Arkansas and Massachusetts, Huckabee leads Romney, 32 percent to 26 percent. [....]

The new poll [also] shows a resurgent Arizona Sen. John McCain grabbing third place in the Republican race for the first-in-the-nation caucuses. McCain tallies support from 13 percent in the poll -- a 6-point improvement since late November.

The two polls stories, plus Yepsen's column, are well worth the click. Unlike the last two releases, the stories include tables of results by demographic groups.

A few quick observations. What "will raise some eyebrows among party pros," as Yepsen puts it, is the fact that a "whopping" 60% of the Democratic caucus goers say this will be their first caucus and only 54% say they are Democrats (40% identify as independents and 5% as Republicans). Compare these results to what other polls have shown earlier in 2007 and it becomes clear that this Register sample predicts a very different set of caucus participants than in years past.

Yepsen also notes that if pollster Ann Selzer had weighted the new results by party identification "to look like they did in 2004, Clinton could beat Obama 31 percent to 29 percent."

However, one of the most critical challenges in polling the Iowa Caucuses is that no one knows for certain who will turn out this week. When different surveys produce results that vary beyond the margin of sampling error, their differing conceptions of the likely caucus goers explain most of the variation.

So is the Register/Selzer poll right or wrong about a the potential for "a dramatic influx of first-time caucus goers" and independents on the Democratic side? I know our comments section, and the political blogosphere, will be alive with speculation, but we really will not know for certain until Thursday night.

What I can say is that when we polled campaign and media pollsters last week, the Des Moines Register and Selzer were the runaway winners as the most trusted Iowa poll. My hunch is that their reputation results partly from an awareness of their past success and methods but mostly to an appreciation of what is at stake for the pollsters. Selzer is a Des Moines based researcher, and this survey is easily the most important her company has conducted since their last pre-caucus poll in 2004. Under those circumstances, other pollsters trust her to sweat the details.

Having said that, we all know that the conditions for survey research are treacherous this week, and even the best pollsters (and methods) are fallible even under the best of conditions. But with everything on the line, Selzer has done what good pollsters are trained to do: She put her trust in her methods and the results they produced, even when those results contradict conventional wisdom.

Update: The Edwards campaign issues a critical analysis of the Des Moines Register/Selzer poll.

Update II: Another critical assessment from the Clinton campaign.

Update III: New polls were also released late yesterday by InsiderAdvantage (showing Clinton and Edwards leading Obama) and early this morning by CNN/ORC (showing Clinton with more support than Obama but within the margin of sampling error). We will have full poll updates later this morning.

Update IV: Overlooked this earlier this morning - Marc Ambinder notes: "Obama's internal polling does not show this high a proportion of independents choosing to caucus" (via Kaus).

Update V: Kaus also notes that the 2004 Register poll "came out only a day before the caucuses--not three days before." True, but although the Register poll was released on the day before the Caucuses (Sunday, 1/18), they completed interviewing two days earlier (surveys conducted over four days, from 1/13-16, Tuesday to Friday). So that poll had the same three-day gap as this one.

One intriguing footnote: That final 2004 Register poll showed Kerry with 26%, Edwards with 23%, Dean with 20%, Gephardt with 18%. On the same Sunday, Zogby/Reuters also released a three-day rolling average tracker with fresher interviews (conducted Thursday to Saturday, 1/15-17) but with Edwards running five points lower (Kerry 24%, Dean 23%, Gephardt 19%, Edwards 18%). Edwards had 17-18% over the nights of interviewing that coincided with the Register poll.

Now to be fair, Zogby did show Edwards rising at the rate of a little less than one percentage point a day over the week leading up to their Sunday release. However, on the final Zogby release, on Monday (interviews conducted Friday to Sunday, 1/16-18), Edwards suddenly jumped 3-points (showing Kerry at 25%, Dean 22%, Edwards 21%, Gephardt 18%). Given the 3-day rolling average, the Edwards number on the final night of interviewing had to be in the 25-30% range. Such a result is plausible, given that Edwards received 26% on the network entrance poll, and Edwards was certainly surging in the campaign's final week. But draw your your own conclusions as to why the Register caught more of the Edwards surge earlier.

PS: Happy New Year!


"Please Stop Calling This Customer"

Topics: 2008 , IVR , IVR Polls , Push "Polls" , Response Rates , The 2008 Race

Washington Post polling director Jon Cohen reported an easily overlooked but important statistic yesterday, especially to anyone thinking about the reliability of the last round of Iowa polls. Using the Iowa tables here at pollster.com, he determined that public polls in Iowa this year have interviewed nearly 80,000 "likely caucus goer" respondents:

As a ratio of voters polled to expected turnout, this must be something of a record. (In 2004 about 120,000 people participated in the Democratic caucuses, and in 2000 about 90,000 in the GOP contest.)

And it's not just the public pollsters calling. Campaigns have been known to set up a phone bank or two to gauge opinion, solicit support and cajole voters to actually show up and spend hours caucusing in the middle of winter.

A month-and-a-half ago, already deep into the "silly season" but well before the final stretch, eight in 10 likely Democratic caucus goers and nearly six in 10 on the GOP side said they'd been called on the telephone by at least one of the campaigns. And Pew reported the pervasive use of robo-calls (though most Iowans who get such automated calls about the campaign said they usually hang up).

I can add two confirming anecdotes. The first comes from a comment left by "Randy Iowa" here at Pollster just last night:

Is there a Do Not Call list that i can get on? I have received a survey call everyday this week and at least one candidate has called everyday as well.

I emailed Randy, and sure enough, he is an Iowa voter. He says that "80%" of the calls he received were automated. Interestingly, he is also a non-affiliated voter (not registered with a party) registered independent who has never participated in a caucus (though has "voted Republican my entire life"). (By the way, the short answer to Randy is no. Pollsters and political campaigns are exempt from the federal do not call restrictions, though at least one group is trying to change that).

I wonder how many calls those identified as past caucus goers are getting? Here is one possible answer in he form of an email I received about an hour ago from a "help desk" operator at a major residential telephone company. He apparently assumed (mistakenly) that Pollster.com conducts surveys:

Subject: Please stop calling this customer

This customer is getting upwards of 20 calls a day from automated poll services, she lives in Iowa and her phone number is 563-[redacted]. Please stop calling her.

Not surprisingly, the recipient of the calls lives near Davenport Iowa.

Aside from spectacle of the sheer volume of "poll" calls, we might want to think about what all that calling is doing the the response rates the real pollsters are getting. And if pollsters are having a harder time getting voters to respond this week, are those suddenly reluctant voters skewing the results? We may never know, of course, but if nothing else, I would be very nervous were I using an automated (IVR) methodology to collect survey data in Iowa right now. More important: I wonder how many many Iowans have been ignoring their ringing phones altogether the last few days?


How to Plot Rolling Average Results?

Topics: 2008 , Pollster.com , The 2008 Race

With today's update, we confront the technical issue of how to incorporate rolling-average tracking surveys into our trend charts. What follows is a quick summary of what rolling-average tracking is and how we will incorporate the results of these surveys into our trend estimates. A warning: This post is mostly technical. We just want to make sure we document our procedure for those who sweat such details.

Rolling-average surveys, like the Zogby tracking in Iowa, do a relatively small number of surveys each night but report the rolled-together average of the last several nights of calling (usually three or four). So yesterday's release was based on interviews conducted on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, while today's release is based on interviews conducted on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We will save the discussion of the pros and cons of rolling-average tracking for another day (though readers are free, as always, to chime in with their comments).

In 2004, Zogby did rolling average tracking in Iowa and six different organizations ran rolling average tracking in New Hampshire. The various media/pollster partnerships have shifted somewhat since, but we assume that the first waves of other New Hampshire rolling average surveys will begin to appear soon.

When including rolling-average results in the data that produce our trend line estimates, we want to avoid including each day's numbers as the base of interviews largely overlaps and the frequency of releases means that rolling averages tend to dominate simpler one-sample surveys (which usually spread interviewing over multiple days). So we will update our charts in a way that ultimately plots only every third release (for a three-day rolling average), but includes the most recent release as the final point for that pollster.

Here is the procedure we will use to avoid including data based on overlapping samples. Suppose a pollster uses a three-day rolling average:

  • On the first day, we will plot their first release on the chart.
  • On the second day, we will plot their second release and temporarily remove the first day's data from the chart.
  • On the third day day, we will plot their third release and remove the second day's data from the chart.
  • On the fourth day, we will add back the first day's release (and it will remain permanently) and also plot the fourth day's release.
  • Going forward, we will continue to plot only the most recent release for each three-day window, restoring every third release so the chart ultimately includes no overlapping samples.

The table of results that appears below the standard chart on each poll page will, however, include all poll releases (with links to source data) for every pollster. Those surveys not plotted on the chart will be marked with an asterisk (*).


Three Estimates (Explained) for IA & NH

Topics: 2008 , Pollster.com , The 2008 Race

As of today, our Iowa and New Hampshire charts pages now include two new features: A summary of the current estimates for each candidate based on the trend lines on our charts (including the frequently requested "sensitive" estimator), and a regularly updating set of "sensitivity" analysis charts that compare each trend line or all candidates.

Charles Franklin posted an in-depth analysis on December 21 that walks through the rationale for these three trend estimates and their meaning in greater detail, but here is a quick capsule summary:

  • Standard Estimate (blue) -- The charts at the top of each page reflect our standard estimate, a local-regression based trend line. The standard estimate is deliberately set to be conservative in that it takes a good bit of evidence of "real" change (i.e. more than one or two contrary polls) before the trend will show a sharp turn. With lots of polling, this estimator has an excellent track record of finding real turning points of opinion while not chasing the "wild geese" of opinion polling.
  • Sensitive Estimate (red) -- Appears in the "Sensitivity Analysis" charts toward the bottom of each page. The sensitive estimator uses the same "local regression" methodology as our standard approach, but sets the degree of smoothing to about half that of the standard blue estimator. The sensitive estimator should detect short term change more quickly than "blue", but it will also chase phantom changes due to flukes of a few polls that happen to be too high or too low.
  • Last-5-Poll Average (black) - Also appears in the "Sensitivity Analysis" charts toward the bottom of each page. Unlike the regression based trends, this estimate draws only on data from the five most recent polls. It shows more short term variation due to the impact of the "house effects" in polling organization practices.

Our experience is that each of the estimates tend to move in rough agreement with each other, typically showing differences in the range or a percentage point or two of each other. Polls are generally not able to estimate such small differences in candidate support, but feel free to make your own call based on how well the trend lines "fit" the available data.

Remember that our charts plot the trial-heat vote results on all public polls released in each state. The trend lines represent estimates based on a combination of all available data.

Readers frequently ask how our estimates differ from the averages that appear on RealClearPolitics. Their method comes closest to the last-5-poll average, although they vary the number of polls in their average on any given day depending on the timing and frequency of recent surveys. Vive la difference!

Readers also ask about how regression trends differ from simple averaging. Here is Franklin's answer, from a recent post:

Our trend estimate is just that, an estimate of the trends and where the race stands as of the latest data available. It is NOT a simple average of recent polling but a "local regression" estimate of support as of the most recent poll. So if you are trying to [calculate] our trend estimates from just averaging the recent polls, you won't succeed.

Here is a way to think about this: suppose the last 5 polls in a race are 25, 27, 29, 31 and 33. Which is a better estimate of where the race stands today? 29 (the mean) or 33 (the local trend)? Since support has risen by 2 points in each successive poll, our estimator will say the trend is currently 33%, not the 29% the polls averaged over the past 2 or 3 weeks during which the last 5 polls were taken. Of course real data are more noisy than my example, so we have to fit the trend in a more complicated way than the example, but the logic is the same. Our trend estimates are local regression predictions, not simple averaging. If the data have been flat for a while, the trend and the mean will be quite close to each other. But if the polls are moving consistently either up or down, the trend estimate will be a better estimate of opinion as of today while the simple average will be an estimate of where the race was some 3 polls ago (for a 5 poll average-- longer ago as more polls are included in the average.) And that's why we estimate the trends the way we do.


POLL: Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby Iowa Caucus


The second in a succession Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby statewide tracking surveys of likely caucus goers in Iowa (conducted 12/27 through 12/30) finds;

  • Among 899 likely Democratic caucus goers, Sen. Hillary Clinton runs at 30%, Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards both at 26% in a statewide caucus; Gov. Bill Richardson and Sen. Joe Biden both trail at 5%.
  • Among 876 likely Republican caucus goers, former Gov. Mike Huckabee runs at 29%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 27% in a statewide caucus; Sen. John McCain trails at 13%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 8%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Ron Paul both at 7%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 3.3% for both subgroups.


POLL: ARG New Hampshire Primary


A new American Research Group statewide survey of likely primary voters in New Hampshire (conducted 12/27 through 12/29) finds:

  • Among 600 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton runs at 31%, Sen. Barack Obama at 27%, and former Sen. John Edwards at 21% in a statewide primary; Gov. Bill Richardson trails at 5%.
  • Among 600 likely Republican primary voters, Sen. John McCain runs even with former Gov. Mitt Romney (both at 30%) in a statewide primary; former Gov. Mike Huckabee trails at 11%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 9%, Rep. Ron Paul at 7%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is four percent for each subgroup.


POLL: MSNBC/McClatchy Iowa Caucus


A new McClatchy/MSNBC/Mason-Dixon statewide survey of likely caucus goers in Iowa (conducted 12/26 through 12/28) finds:

  • Among 400 likely Democratic caucus goers, former Sen. John Edwards runs at 24%, Sen. Hillary Clinton at 23%, Sen. Barack Obama at 22% in a statewide caucus; Gov. Bill Richardson trails at 12%, Sen. Joe Biden at 8%.
  • Among 400 likely Republican caucus goers, former Gov. Mitt Romney runs at 27%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 23% in a statewide caucus; former Sen. Fred Thompson trails at 14%, Sen. John McCain at 13%, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Ron Paul both at 5%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is five percent for both subgroups.


POLL: Reuters/C-Span/Zogby Iowa Caucus


A new Reuters/C-Span/Zogby statewide survey of likely caucus goers in Iowa (conducted 12/26 through 12/29) finds:

  • Among 934 likely Democratic caucus goers, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 31%) runs four statistically insignificant points ahead of Sen. Barack Obama (27%) in a statewide caucus; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 24%, Gov. Bill Richardson at Sen. Joe Biden both trail at 5%.
  • Among 867 likely Republican caucus goers, former Gov. Mike Huckabee runs at 29%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 28% in a statewide caucus; Sen. John McCain trails at 11%, former Sen. Fred Thompson, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and Rep Ron Paul all trail at 8%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each. The margin of sampling error is 3.3% for likely Democratic caucus goers and 3.4% for likely Republican caucus goers.


 

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