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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.

 

Comments
Paul:

My weighted trend system is very close to your estimator: Clinton 29, Obama 27, Edwards 24, Richardson 5 and Biden 3 (11% unaccounted for); Huckabee 29, Romney 26, McCain 11, Thompson 10, Giuliani 8, Paul 6 (10% unaccounted for). Looks very close for both races. I would add that 15% rule adds a different dynamic for Democrats which could change the order or the magnitude of differences.

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Andrew:

I don't understand why if 19% of independents showed up in 2004 for the Democxratic primary, now DMR is using a 40% model. What makes this pollster think that twice as many independents will vote this time around?

In addition, 1% of Iowa caucus voters were Republicans. What makes DMR think that five times that many Republicans will show up this time around? (5%).

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DTM:

Andrew,

Presumably Selzer is using one or more screening questions (typical questions involve things like how strongly the person intends to caucus, how closely they have followed the race, and so on) perhaps plus some data on prior caucus participation to determine who qualifies as a likely voter. And apparently this time a lot of independents and Republicans qualified after applying Selzer's screen.

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Anonymous:

You're right. It is difficult to crown a "winer".

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I created a monte carlo simulation program to model at the precinct level, voter by voter, the decisions made that in aggregate lead to the % of county delegates won, that will be the sole numbers reported by the media.

It lets you input a spreadsheet (one row per precinct) with candidate preferences (NOT the same breakdown in every precinct since candidates have geographical biases), 2nd choice preferences, likely attendees at the precinct, delegates awarded, caucus rules, etc. I have created 7 sample spreadsheets each modeled primarily after a different poll (though I have to combine assumptions since no single poll publicly releases enough information to create single set of polling assumptions).

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this, and let me know how you like it, what you would change, etc. Also, if you know where I can get more detailed info about the modeling aspects for this caucus, I'd be much obliged.

Go to http://Winchell.org/IowaDemForecast.zip for the program and sample precinct input files.

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