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The Cell-Phone-Only Difference: A Final Look


A little over a week ago, I posted two different national trend estimates: one for pollsters who were reaching cell-phone-only (CPO) respondents by calling cell phones in addition to landlines and one for those who were only calling landlines. At the time, Obama's lead in the trend of pollsters accounting for CPOs was about 3% wider than among those who were only calling landlines.

Here are the two different trend estimates as they stand on the even on eve of the election.

National Trend Estimate for Pollsters Reaching Cell Phone Only Respondents


National Trend Estimate for Pollsters not Reaching Cell phone Only Respondents

If anything, the difference between the two trends is greater now than it was a week and a half ago. As of Monday morning, Obama's lead was 4.2% larger in the national trend accounting for the CPO population than it was among the landline-only polls. In addition, while the landline-only polls are showing some late tightening in the national trend, the surveys reaching CPO respondents do not show any such tightening.

While many of the major national polling firms have made a great effort to include CPOs in their polling this fall, it is important to keep in mind that most of the state-level surveys fail to reach CPOs. Thus, there is a possibility that the state trend estimates may be under-estimating Obama's support. What happens if we try to account for the CPO effect in the statewide trends?

The three charts below show Obama's margin in the states currently classified as leaning or toss up on the Pollster.com map. The first chart shows the Obama margins according to the Pollster.com trend estimates as of Monday morning. The second chart makes a conservative CPO adjustment by adding 2% to Obama's margin in each state. And the third chart makes a 4% adjustment to the CPO to mimic the current difference we see between the two national trends.

cpo1.PNG

cpo2.PNG

cpo3.PNG

If you make no CPO adjustment and give each state to the candidate currently leading, Obama wins 367 electoral votes, narrowly losing Indiana, Montana, and Georgia and narrowly winning North Carolina and Missouri. Making a conservative CPO adjustment by adding 2% to Obama's margin in each state pushes Indiana and Montana into Obama's column, giving him 381 electoral votes. Finally, if you make a 4% CPO adjustment to Obama's margins in each state (based on the differences in the national trends), Georgia suddenly shifts into Obama's column, giving him 396 electoral votes. Of course, it is important to keep in mind that the cell phone only population is not evenly distributed across the 50 states so not all states will be affected in the same way. But if you believe that there is a cell phone only effect that the state trends are not capturing, then states like Virginia, Nevada, and Ohio are not even that close right now and Obama has a good chance of winning in Indiana, Montana, Georgia, and possibly even Arizona.

Tomorrow night, we will have a better sense of how much a difference the CPO population has made in polling this race. Which of the national trends presented here comes closer to pegging the final popular vote tally? Does Obama win some of the states where the polls show him behind by a few percentage points? The bigger the Obama margin in the national vote and electoral college, the more likely that some pollsters missed some of his support by failing to reach the CPO population.

 

Comments
DTM:

I have come to suspect that the CPO effect (thank goodness for the acronym, by the way) is being bundled this year with some other effects, most notably perhaps a callback effect (wherein for whatever reason surveys that fail to do a lot of callbacks seem to find narrower margins). If true, that would explain why comparing CPO to non-CPO polls is resulting in larger gaps than was originally estimated.

And I think the same point about state polls applies: at least some of them are also failing to do a lot of callbacks.

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Ignobilitor:

Just wanted to thank you for not putting an apostrophe after CPO to pluralize it! The apostrophe should not be used as a warning that an 's' is coming.

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enadknock:

thanks again, brian, for your cpo numbers and analysis. i wonder if anyone (maybe pew) conducted exit polls of early voters with cpo's. that might be the acid test to confirm your findings. i have read that some non-cpo polls "adjusted" their demographic weightings to reflect cpo usage. any thoughts about that?

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s.b.:

Still on about cell phones? How about the "spiral of silence" outlined in today's London Times that is actually adjusted for in Brittish polls. People who don't support Obama aren't answering the polls. It's not just an issue of popularity but threats and intimidation and at times violence. Union members in Pennsylvania are actively lying to pollsters because their unions have threatened them. The massive failure of polls to predict this election tomorrow will have nothing to do with cell phones. They are the least of your worries.

How about those exit polls that most Republicans won't answer. See gallup yesterday. You don't think that is carrying through to regular polls this year?

Polling models will have to change significantly after tomorrow to account for non-responoders and the unwillingness of people to support a candidate in a poll that is not the "popular' candidate.

Like I said, cell phones are a red herring. There will be bigger fish to fry after tomorrow.

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s.b.:

Sorry it's Rasmusen that discusses the unwillingness of Republicans to answer exit polls and its still up on their main page.

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machomaas:

See 538. Nate Silver has a pretty good analysis of the CPO effect as well. He also talks about a conversation he had with a pollster that gives some reason for the gap in CPO, non-CPO polls, especially on weekends.

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DTM:

American pollsters are well aware of the "spiral of silence" theory (also sometimes known as the "Shy Tory" theory). That is part of why they weight their respondents to try to achieve a sample that is demographically representative of the target population. But the back story to the cell phone effect is that it apparently persists even when you weight for conventional demographics, which is a large part of why people like Brian are tracking its apparent effect in the polls this cycle.

Of course pollsters can't really compensate for people systematically lying to pollsters, but I have seen no real evidence of that occuring this year (the highly implausible stories to that effect not counting as real evidence).

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DTM:

Oh, and I never understand why people think methodological issues with exit polls necessarily apply to pre-election polls--they are really very different. Indeed, in 2004 the average of the pre-election polls was reasonably accurate, contra to the problems with the exit polls (although there were fewer problems with the 2004 exit polls than some people think, since what people were looking at were often leaked preliminaries and not final exit poll results).

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Another Mike:

I'm not sure how you will be able to single out a cell-phone only effect from other possible causes of a greater vote share for Obama. Based on what I'm reading, it certainly seems that Obama has a significantly better GOTV effort than McCain. Many surveys may be screening out these newer voters in their LV models. Or perhaps there is a reverse Bradley effect in place where Republican and Republican leaning voters don't want to admit that they're voting for a liberal. So, the CPO pollsters could be much closer to the margin, but for the wrong reason. How can you measure cause and effect here?

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JCK:

Brian,

Thank you for the pre-election analysis on the effects of CPOs.

I wanted to second DTM's question for you regarding CPO effect vs. the "call back effect," which is described by Tom Jensen at PPP

http://publicpolicypolling.blogspot.com/2008/10/longer-field-periods-and-round-numbers.html

The polls using live operators are probably also in the field longer (like the PEW polls) and are more likely to be doing call-backs, which appears to increase Obama's numbers.

By contrast single night polls, such as the tracking polls and Rasmussen state polls, used automated dialers, and thus don't include CPOs, and obviously cannot be including call-backs.

I'm wondering if would be possible to separate out these two effects.

Because we know that automated callers aren't calling cell phones, and also may not be doing call backs, how can you determine which is more important?

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DTM:

@Another Mike

Well, I'm not sure we have any reason to believe some pollsters are doing better than others with respect to gauging GOTV effects or a reverse Bradley effect, with the possible exception that pollsters who weight by party ID may be missing some information on those issues coming out of early voting.

But with CPOs we know who is doing them and who is not. So that becomes a relatively straightforward issue.

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s.b.:

DTM, the spiral of silence may be partially accounted for in exit polls, but not in regular polls, and early exit polls were still off, 7% in favour of Obama in the primaries.

So Obama is up 7% in national polls, and if the same spiral of silence is at play as was in play during the exit polls in primary states, even when pollsters tried to account for it, we could see something very different than a 7% spread tomorrow.

I don't think there has ever been an election like this where people were actually actively harrassed and threatened for supporting one candidate and at times even attacked violently. One woman who told a caller she wouldn't support Obama had the secret service show up at her door to threaten her.

There has never been anything like the media bias, accusations of racism and Chicago style campaign we are seeing here.

I love polls and there is no way I would tell someone on the phone that I was supporting John McCain. No way.

If someone phoned me on behalf of NBC, ABC or CBS, I'd give them a piece of my mind and hang up.

I think there are a lot of problems with polling this election.

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resnyc:

Regarding the "shy tory" effect: absent any real evidence of "Union members in Pennsylvania actively lying to pollsters because their unions have threatened them," it's a huge assumption that the labor movement/politics dynamic of the U.K. bears any resemblance to that in the U.S. Unions are far more militant in the U.K., and class structure is more socially ingrained. It is not considered treasonous in the U.K. to call oneself a Socialist; whereas any factory worker in the U.S., even in a union, would be cheered by his co-workers if he cat-called Obama as a socialist or put up a poster in his locker of Sarah Palin holding an assault rifle. Only less than 8% of private-sector workers are in unions anyway, so it's dubious that small of a group (people both in a union and feeling their political beliefs oppressed by their union) would have any meaningful effect on any polling here. It's a much higher percentage in the public sector, but, again, is there actual evidence of this intimidation going on? If there were, it would be a scandal against the union and against the politician they support. Just speculating that this dynamic exists is typical propaganda - people start talking about a rumor, and it has a political effect even if it has no basis in fact. P.S.: The Times of London is owned by notorious right-winger Rupert Murdoch (who owns the Fox media empire and dozens of newspapers/magazines in the U.S. and around the world).

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SC:

s.b., why on earth would the Secret Service show up at one citizens door to threaten her for supporting Obama? That story smacks of rumor or someone trying to get attention. 1)the Secret Service has better things to do with their time; 2) What makes this woman so special out of the thousands of others polled in the past days that the Secret Service would show up at HER door (and risking a LOT doing, so I might add) to intimidate her? and 3) by all accounts Obama's ahead, why would his campaign risk a serious voter intimidation scandal if nearly every indication is that he's going to win?

That story doesn't add up, for a lot of reasons, and you should question whatever source you got it from.

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Professor T:

There is another issue that has not been mentioned: those who have no phone. That was fairly common 40 years ago, but is considered rare today.

I do charity work with a group that visits poor people in their homes. We still see about 20-25% of the people in this group without any phone service. They can't afford a landline or cell phone. They call from a neighbor's home or a family member's home.

I realize this group is small. I realize too that members of this group typically do not vote. But I have seen a spark in the eye of many of these people over the last weeks, if the presidential election is discussed. Most of these folks don't have cars either, but many of them have already made plans for how they will get to the polling stations tomorrow.

I would not be surprised to see a small impact from these persons in southern states tomorrow night. I think the impact in Georgia and North Carolina could be important to the outcome if those states.

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JCK:

s.b.,

I agree that exit polls in the primaries were generally too favorable to Obama. The pre-election polls in the primaries, if anything, understated Obama's support (see WI, IN, IA, VA, GA, SC if you don't believe me). NH was a lone exception to this trend.

I don't see any reason to believe that an effect associated with exit polling has any bearing on pre-election polls.

All you're provided is anecdotes. Even if we accept them as true on their face (which I'm personally skeptical of, especially the Secret Service story), you still need to show that the effects of such incidents are sufficient to call into question the accuracy of the polls.

Finally, because many of the polls are adjusted for demographics, including party ID, even if conservative voters are responding at lower rates than liberal ones, much of the effect of that bias should already be accounted for in the pollsters' top line numbers.

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dkfennell:

It is without a doubt an extraordinary election when these kinds of urban legends are spread:

One woman who told a caller she
wouldn't support Obama had the
secret service show up at her door
to threaten her."

Either the right wing thinks people are stupid, or they are stupid, or it's the last gasp of a "faith-based" political movement. It's actually astounding that such a legend has to be debunked. Is it simply that the internet has destroyed critical thinking capability among its users?

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s.b.:

Sc it is not rumour it was reported in the press. The woman was phoned by the Obama campaign. She was on her cell phone in the car at the time. She told the Obama campaign she would not support Obama because he killed babies. (A simplistic pro life arguement or course) The secret service showed up at her door the next day stating that she had threatened to kill Obama. Her husband heard the phone call as he was in the car. The secret service threatened to tell her neighbors etc. She said fine and reported it to the press.

Has there ever been another election where the secret service show up at someone's door for telling a campaign they won't won't support their candidate? Has there ever been a campaign where someone's entire private information is released to the press, tax returns etc for asking a candidate a question when the candidate showed up in his front yard?

You don't think what happened to Joe the Plumber had an effect on weather or not people will tell some anonymous caller who they are supporting for President?

The Unions I am referring to are in Pennsylvania, not nationally. Annecdote yes. True, probably. We all know about the coverage from the Nevada caucuses where union members were told they could only get time off work, or even caucus, if they supported obama etc. These stories were widly reported.

Again if people's jobs are threatened do you think they are going to talk to pollsters?

We'll see tomorrow.

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s.b.:

JCK, you are talking about caucus states, which don't count, and states with large black populations that are all democrats. This effect will be moderated in a general election and all of those states are red states. In primary states that were not a mostly black electorate, Obama underperformed polls.

Yes blacks will have higher turnout, but instead of 8%, they will make up maybe 10% of the electorate if a high white turnout doesn't totally negate increased black turnout. That gives obama what a .8% advantage Max, Max.

Studies have shown a 2.6% increase in black turnout when there is a black candidae but also a corresponding 2.1% increase in white turnout. Since white voters make up the majority of the electorate the net in votes actually is overwhelmingly white.

There may be no increase in overall % of the electorate being black.

Not a lot.

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s.b.:

dkfennell were the personal attacks on Joe the Plumbers and his information being published an urban myth too?

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s.b.:

Besides, even without any of Obama's campaign thuggery,the MSM's daily portrayal of anyone who doesn't support Obama as a racist is enough to make polls meaningless. Are you going to answer a poll for NBC or ABC or CBS or the NYT if you support McCain, when the assujmption of these so called news outlets is that you are racist? No you won't.

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JP:

s.b., you are changing your story as you go. First you said it was a pollster who called the woman, then the Secret Service turned up at her house. Then you said it was the Obama campaign. Which was it?

The question is, what did the woman say on the phone? If she somehow threatened Mr. Obama, then it is the Secret Service's job to investigate such a threat.

But understand, the Secret Service is part of the Treasury Department of the United States. The political appointees at the Treasury Dept. are currently Republicans; appointed by Mr. Bush. These people, I would venture to guess, are not terribly interested in investigating people who say they refuse to support a Democrat for President. This is paranoia in the extreme.

As to the issue of the press vetting Joe the Plumber, Mr. Wurzelbacher (sp?) -- he has the McCain campaign to thank for that. It was Mr. McCain who made Mr. Wurzelbacher a public figure by mentioning him repeatedly in the third Presidential debate, and then bringing him into his stump speech. Further, Mr. Obama did not show up on J the P's lawn. Mr. Wurzelbacher approached Mr. Obama and asked him a question. It was the McCain campaign who saw an opening there, and decided to run with it. I mean, let's face it; Joe the P is now a celebrity. Of course the press is going to find out everything they can about him.

As far as union intimidation is concerned, I can't figure out how a union could punish a member for picking up the telephone in the privacy of his own home, and then telling a pollster he's going to vote for Mr. McCain. How would they know? See, not to be obvious, but this is why pollsters call people at home. As opposed to bursting into their workplaces and demanding how they're going to vote. The voting booth is private. And the pollsters are trying to recreate the privacy of the polling booth.

Further, most of the polls are not run by networks. Does anybody know the political affiliation of the Gallup Organization? Or of Pollster.com for that matter?

s.b. you're right about one thing. The vote is going to be tomorrow.

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s.b.:

Jp first of all i always said it was the obama campaign that phoned the woman. I believe my exact words were, an obama supporter.

Second of all, you are missing the point.

There has never been a reason to be a "silent Tory" in the US until this election.

A Tory being a conservative for those who are unfamiliar. yes unions in the UK are strong and labour in general is strong and persuasive, and at times commit thuggery hence the "silent Tory".

You don't think the Obama campaigns tactics and the MSM spin suring this election are as strong and intimidating as the pursuations of labour in Britain?

I do. As I said, there has never been a need to be a "silent Tory" in the US until now.

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s.b.:

Jp first of all, I always said it was the Obama campaign that phoned the woman. I believe my exact words were, an Obama supporter. If an Obama supporter is phoning, it's by definiton the Obama campaign.

Second of all, you are missing the point.

There has never been a reason to be a "silent Tory" in the US until this election.

A Tory being a conservative, for those who are unfamiliar. Yes unions in the UK are strong and labour in general is strong and persuasive, and at times commits acts of thuggery hence the "silent Tory".

You don't think the Obama campaign's tactics and the MSM spin suring this election are as strong and intimidating as the pursuations of Labour in Britain?

I do. As I said, the point is that there has never been a need to be a "silent Tory" in the US until now.

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s.b.:

Jp first of all, I always said it was the Obama campaign that phoned the woman. I believe my exact words were, an Obama supporter. If an Obama supporter is phoning, it's by definiton the Obama campaign.

Second of all, you are missing the point.

There has never been a reason to be a "silent Tory" in the US until this election.

A Tory being a conservative, for those who are unfamiliar. Yes unions in the UK are strong and labour in general is strong and persuasive, and at times commits acts of thuggery hence the "silent Tory".

You don't think the Obama campaign's tactics and the MSM spin suring this election are as strong and intimidating as the pursuations of Labour in Britain?

I do. As I said, the point is that there has never been a need to be a "silent Tory" in the US until now.

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OhioMike4Justice:

As one of those individuals who actually make the phone calls for the pollsters (and have been doing it since 2000) I can say with certainty that there is little if any hesitation to respond to a political survey for fear of being identified as racist or non-union or white or black or whatever. The identity of the respondent is not known as polling is done (other than internal polls) on a random basis without the benefit of household identification. I work for a firm that recently incorporated CPO respondants and it is my opinion that these calls do make a difference.
And although I am a first time contributor and have been a phone bank person for years, the knowledge that I have gained from pollster.com has added much to how I view polling. I have viewed many other polling sites this election season and cannot identify any other that is as thorough as pollster.com

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polls_apart:

@s.b.:
You say that Union intimidiation is somehow preventing Union members from responding truthfully to polls, but then go on to say that you won't respond truthfully to polls. I assume this is to throw off polling results. Aren't you then happy with the results of Union intimidation, if indeed it has any effect upon how members respond to polling?

@resnyc:
You mentioned that Unions have only 8% of private sector jobs. They do have a large slice of public sector jobs, and are concentrated in certain states (such as Penn., Ohio, and Mich.) where they can have a significant effect on the outcome, much as the Jewish vote does, even though they constitute only 2% of the population.

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DTM:

@s.b.

JCK covered all the things I was planning to cover. Just one factual followup on the primaries:

The primary states where Obama outperformed his pre-election polls included Oregon, Montana, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri, and Connecticut, all states without an unusual percentage of black people. You are correct, however, that if you included popular vote estimates for the caucus states, it would be even more apparent that Obama's outperformance of the pre-election polls did not depend exclusively on black people.

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polls_apart:

@s.b.:
You seem to feel that people will be intimidated by MSM spin. It seems to me that the Republicans and McCain started this by stating that they were going to run against the press. In John McCain's case, this is especially ironic, since he used to be a press favorite until sometime during this campaign. Something has happened to sour the press on McCain. You think it has to do with Obama, while I think it has more to do with the change in McCain as the campaign has proceeded.
I think John McCain had a fairly clear path to the presidency after Bush's re-election in 2004. He could have declared himself to be an Independent, held to his previously declared positions on tax cuts, and chosen either Lieberman or Bloomberg as his V. P. as part of his Presidential campaign. He would have been abe to conduct a more successful version of the Perot campaigns.

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polls_apart:

Make that "able to conduct", not "abe to conduct".

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polls_apart:

@s.b.:
Actually, during the heyday of Fox News and right-wing radio talk show hosts, I felt that liberals were being somewhat intimidated by these forces. I'm glad to see that you feel the shoe appears to be on the other foot. Perhaps we have attained parity between left- and right-wing media bloviation. If so, that's a good thing.

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JP:

No s.b., YOU are missing the point. The point is that the United States Secret Service does NOT intimidate people who say (to anybody) that they will not support one candidate or the other. The whole idea is absurd. Assuming the polls are correct and Mr. Obama is leading, Mr. McCain still has the support of 43 or 44 percent of likely voters. That's got to be close to 50 million people. If you are correct about Secret Service intimidation, they are going to be pretty darned busy for the next couple of days.

But putting aside any efforts to be amusing -- look. The United States Secret Service is a proud, dedicated organization; men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our fellow citizens who have the courage to run for high office. It is offensive and ridiculous to suggest that these people, who do plenty of other dangerous law enforcement activities as well, would be willing to go to a voter's home and attempt to intimidate him or her. They wouldn't do it. Nobody would ask them to do it. The Secret Service has NO political agenda.

Second, if Republicans or anybody who wants John McCain to win -- if any of these people are not responding to polls because they are disgusted with the news media, they are making a huge mistake. I'm sure pretty much every political scientist will support the notion of the "band wagon" effect; and if it seems that Mr. Obama is going to win big tomorrow, that will effect how some people vote. Not a lot, but some. People like to be on the winning side. That's just the way we are. So, "Silent Tories" here in America, start to speak up! You're depressing your man's numbers.

The point is, s.b., that I reject your entire premise.

There is no Secret Service intimidation. Impossible. This isn't Russia.

No methodology or possibility for unions to intimidate their members when said members are responding to a private poll in the privacy of their own homes.

No reason why a voter would refuse to respond to a poll because it was being conducted by NBC/Wall Street Journal, or Fox, or CBS/Mason Dixon, or Gallup or anybody else. (I think most Republicans would be overjoyed to say to NBC, "I'm voting for McCain/Palin, so there!").

No reason why an individual being polled would refuse to participate because the exit polls in 2004 were faulty. That is totally whacky.

Finally, I don't think many folks out there are concerned about losing their privacy like Joe the Plumber has. And don't feel sorry for Joe. He's probably working on a book deal by now.

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polls_apart:

@s.b.:
Article on Secret Service and alleged death threat: (Looks like it's "she said...she said")

http://www.lufkindailynews.com/search/content/news/stories/2008/10/07/secret_service.html


By JESSICA SAVAGE
The Lufkin Daily News

Monday, October 06, 2008

A Lufkin woman received a surprise visit from the Secret Service last week because of a "death threat" comment she reportedly made about Sen. Barack Obama to a campaign volunteer asking for her support of the presidential candidate.

Two federal agents arrived at Jessica Hughes' home Thursday to ask her if she said, "I will never support Obama and he will wind up dead on a hospital floor."

Jessica and Micah Hughes say two Secret Service agents showed up on their doorstep Thursday after a campaign volunteer for Sen. Barack Obama accused her of making a 'death threat' during a phone conversation a day earlier.

Hughes said her words were deliberately twisted by a volunteer who was apparently unhappy Hughes was rude during a phone conversation the two had. The Lufkin mother, a Republican, said she received a call on her cell phone Wednesday from a woman with the Obama Volunteers of Texarkana.

"She asked if I was an Obama supporter, to which I replied, 'No, I don't support him. Your guy is a socialist who voted four times in the state Senate to let little babies die in hospital closets; I think you should find something better to do with your time.' (And then) I hung up."

(Hughes is referring to a "born alive" Illinois bill that did not pass in the Illinois state Senate in 2005 and had previously been opposed by Obama because he said it undermined Roe v. Wade, according to FactCheck.org, a non-partisan organization. A federal version of the bill, which Obama said he would have supported, passed by unanimous consent and was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002.)

Obama Campaign Communications for Texas director Josh Taylor declined to comment Monday, refusing to answer any questions and referring the matter to the Secret Service, which he said is conducting an investigation. A message left with a Secret Service agent in Houston was not immediately returned.

Hughes said she was surprised to see two Secret Service agents at her door, and upset to learn that the conversation she had with the volunteer apparently had not been recorded.

"I find it hard to believe that (campaign volunteers) don't tape these calls. They call people unsolicited and they aren't monitoring the calls or recording them? I think that is absolutely ridiculous," she said.

"I mean, how often must this happen — that someone is rude to a volunteer that they don't want to talk to?"

Hughes said she wants to file a countercomplaint against the volunteer.

"She has made a charge that will follow me the rest of my life," she said.

"I find that repugnant and violating — that some person got her undies in a bundle because she didn't like what I had to say."

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polls_apart:

@s.b.:
I find this to be a case of "she said...she said". I made calls for the Obama campaign in Virginia yesterday on a borrowed cell phone, and, no, we do not record our calls. After this, perhaps we should consider doing so, as much for the protection of the caller as the callee.

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polls_apart:

This woman in Lufkin...she wouldn't be related somehow to the woman from College Station who was working for McCain in Pa? The one who claimed she was robbed and attacked by a black man who didn't like her McCain bumper sticker, and carved a backward "B" in her face? She confessed to fabricating the story and is now being held in Pa. for filing a false police report.

Sorry. Just couldn't resist.

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Observer:

Well the verdict from the pollsters is almost in. Result: A comfortable, perhaps an overwhelming win for Obama. Is this likely to pan out tomorrow? Yes probably, so how do I as a McCain supporter have grounds for hope. Basically I hope that the pollsters have it wrong:

1. There are a huge number of polls this year. A lot of them are obviously being done by people new to the game.

2. We keep being told that this election is different: First AA candidate, first Rep VP woman candidate and we are told that turnout by young and AA voters, predominantly Obama supporters, will be exceptional.

3. Exceptional GOTV organisation by Obama we are told.

4. Unprecedented levels of early voting.

One thing that gives me pause is that the pollsters, even the established and experienced pollsters seem to have bought into the idea that it's different this time, e.g. the Gallop enhanced LV model. Rasmussen I understand did not previously use party ID targets.

Increasing use of technology, for example with auto calls and efforts to contact or at least allow for cell phone users are another reason to regard the whole polling exercise as different this time. The fact that we have 8 regular national tracking polls is unprecedented.

What I am saying is that pretty well all pollsters are covering a lot of new ground here. They have all loaded in a lot of new assumptions because 'things are different this time' and the election is different this time. We are way away from any assumption that because pollster 'X' is always pretty reliable they must be correct this time. Look at the difference in Gallop figures over the past 6 days.

Obama is doubtless ahead, it might be by a lot but it might not. This election, perhaps more than any other (it's different this time) seems to have so many new variables that maybe the pollsters as a whole are making big mistakes. Some of them must be.

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s.b.:

The term "silent Tory" or "spiral of silence" wasn't coined for no reason. It happened. it was real. It also happened in Australia in adifferent way for a non media backed candidate.

There's no point in even discussing the strange convoluted logic of some of the responses other than to say this effect was real and could be in play here.

We will see tomorrow. I hope pollsters will address this phenomenon, if the national polls are wrong tomorrow instead of just dismissing it as racism. Interestingly we are seeing a disconnect in the national and state polls. In the state polls that matter McCain and Obama are neck and neck, tied or within the margin of error. A McCain win would not be out of line with state polls.

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Observer:

@s.b.

I agree with all you say, even more so with the latest batch from Fox/Rasmussen which also might not have picked up on any 'Bankrupt Coal' affect.

I think it possible that Obama will run up a good but useless national lead in the blue states, mainly because of his national spend. But in those states where McCain has concentrated his resources, he might pull it out.

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JP:

OK, s.b., I read the article. It's clear that the Obama volunteer either mis-heard or deliberately twisted what Mrs. Hughes said, or the Mrs. Hughes is lying about what she said. Whatever the truth may be, it is the Secret Service's job to check out threats made against a Presidential candidate; no matter how unlikely a threat may appear at first glance.

You can understand that since Mr. Obama is the first African American candidate to run as the nominee of a major party, the Secret Service is very concerned about any kind of threat against him. Of course they are concerned about threats made against Mr. McCain as well, but our country does have a history that raises concerns about an individual who may be our first black President. But as a McCain supporter, you may be sure that the Secret Service would look into the case if someone said, or sounded like they said, that Mr. McCain will end up "on the hospital floor".

Thank God the great majority of the threats against either candidate, or the President himself, are meaningless -- misunderstandings like this one, crackpots, or just some hot-tempered person who is careless about what comes out of his or her mouth. The Secret Service looks into a great many cases like this, discovers there is nothing to worry about, and moves on. Mrs. Hughes need not worry that the Secret Service will be watching her the rest of her life. They don't have the personel for that, even if they wanted to.

Instead, perhaps what Mrs. Hughes should take away from this incident is something that a great many of us should think about: how to behave in a civil manner. When the volunteer called, maybe she should have just said, "No, I will not be supporting Mr. Obama. I am firm for Mr. McCain, and will be voting for him." Then hang up. Is it necessary to abuse some person who is a volunteer for a candidate she does not support? Both of these people have a right to their views. They can vote for, or work for, the person they want to in our democracy. We can have our disagreements, but we should treat each other with respect and civility.

I understand there has been a problem with civility and appropriate behavior on this site. This is a shame. We can have strong views, important issues we believe in, and still respect the right of others to disagree. After all, isn't this what our service men and women around the world are fighting for? We disgrace ourselves, and dishonor them, when we fail to treat each other with respect and fail to use civil language when we disagree.

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dkfennell were the personal attacks on Joe the Plumbers and his information being published an urban myth too?

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