Monday, October 4, 2010

Polls still biased, Feingold/ Barrett doing better than media says

The media is still lazily running with poll figures that still don't match the reality of who votes in Wisconsin. The most recent Marist poll has Scott Walker up 8 points over Tom Barrett, and Ron Johnson up 7 over Russ Feingold among 500 "likely" Wisconsin voters. But then you go inside the numbers, and there are some suspicious assumptions. The biggest problem is the overestimating of conservatives in these polls. In the Marist poll, Feingold leads by 21 points among self-described moderates, and Feingold leads by 80 points among liberals, while Johnson leads by 72 among conservatives. With those numbers, shouldn't Russ be up big? Well, not if you think conservatives are around 48% of those voting, as this poll does.

The problem for RoJo and the other GOPs is that the electorate is NOT 48% conservative. Kristin Solis recently ran an article mentioning this overstating, and it features a great graph showing the ideological breakdown of voters . It shows the liberal-moderate-conservative breakdown consistently around 20-45-35. For the sake of argument, I'll be nice to the Sykesists, and make Wisconsin's electorate at 20-40-40. Then, we'll plug in the numbers from this poll to that 20-40-40 electorate, and see what we get.

Feingold - 90% liberal support + 58% moderate + 12 conservative = (.9 x .2 = 18.0%) + (.58 x .4 = 23.2%) + (.12 x .4 = 4.8%) = 46.0%

Johnson- 10% liberal + 37% moderate + 84% conservative = (.1 x .2 = 2.0%) + (.37 x .4 = 14.8%) + (.84 x .4 = 33.6%) = 50.4%

So that 52-45 just dropped to 50-46 based on a realistic setup of the electorate, 4 sounds a lot closer than 7, don't it? Let's do the same for Barrett vs. Walker.

Barrett - 90% liberal + 56% moderate + 13% conservative = (.9 x .2 = 18.0%) + (.56 x .4 = 22.4%) + (.13 x .4 = 5.2%) = 45.6%

Walker - 7% liberal + 34% moderate + 83% conservative = (.07 x .2 = 1.4%) + (.34 x .4 = 13.6%) + .83 x .4 = 33.2%) = 48.2%

So this race has just shrunk from 51-43 to 48-46, a statistical toss-up.

And I'm not even mentioning the Marist poll's different results when the wider universe of "registered voters" come in instead of the "likely voters" the Journal-Sentinel ran with. Both of those polls have Barrett and Feingold 4-5 points closer. So in other words, if you adjust the wider voting universe to fit what the real electorate tends to be in Wisconsin BARRETT AND FEINGOLD LEAD.

We also aren't mentioning age bias. For example, Wisconsin has 2nd highest turnout and percentage of voters under 30 in the last midterm election, and had the highest share of voters under 30, at one in 6. But nevertheless, most polls of Wisconsin have the percentage of people polled under 30 at 5% or less. You think people under 30 might vote for Russ Feingold or Tom Barrett? You bet they will, and if the polls reflected how many of them were out there, Barrett and Feingold would rise in the polls. Why are these organizations ignoring this reality? Couldn't be because a Feingold/ Barrett win gets in the way of their narrative of "Republican resurgence through voter anger", could it? NAAAAH!

Bottom line, if a normal Wisconsin electorate turns out, Feingold and Barrett are in great position to win (even more so when we'll see in debates that Walker and Johnson have NOTHING to offer past talking points and failed ideas). Don't let the sliding media fool you, not only can Barrett and Feingold win, but if they seize the momentum I can definitely feel on the ground (the Barrett/ Feingold signs have sprouted all over the place since Obama came to town), they WILL win.


  1. Read Illy-T's post and clicked on a link which led me here. I'm a moderate Democrat. It just seems you are painting a rosy picture here. I'm hoping that we are not underestimating the "throw the bums" out mentality that seemingly pervades our country. Yes, I believe Feingold and Barrett can win, but deep down I just don't think they will pull it off. I believe those individuals who voted for Obama but are turned off by Democratic policies, for a lack of better term the "swing" or "casual" voters, will make the difference.


  2. Anonymous- Thanks for the response. I think people are more turned off that things didn't change at the drop of a hat when Obama came into office, and I freely admit there hasn't been nearly enough done to get us out of the mess we were in. But if you look back at what was being said this time 2 years ago (I have some doozies, check the archive), we'd probably accept it today.

    The media has misunderstood "voter discontent" with "wanting Republicans", and have fit the poll stories to go with that agenda and then try to make it self-fulfilling prophecy as people go along with conventional wisdom. I don't think it's true in the real world, people still hate the GOP, and when you adjust these polls for WHO WILL ACTUALLY VOTE, it proves that theory wrong.

  3. Nice to know the Journal-Sentinel's Craig Gilbert reads this blog. Hi Craig! thanks for noticing the untold story of this election- bad polling and wrong memes.