Sunday, November 2, 2014

Polls missing lots of Dems that will turn out?

So what are the tea leaves showing 48 hours ahead of Election Day? If you merely looked at the poll numbers, you'd think the GOP has a slight (albeit not insurmountable) advantage, both in their chances for taking control of the U.S. Senate, and in the Wisconsin Governor's election. But past history shows that the Dems may have some unpolled advantages that could lead them to keep the Senate, and have Mary Burke take over as Governor in Wisconsin.

I'll direct you to an in-depth article from the New York Times' Nate Cohn that talks about why Dems are frequently underestimated in polls. Cohn says that one reason is that Hispanic respondents in polls tend to skew Republican, often due to a language barrier being more likely to be an issue among Dem-leaning Hispanics. We've already seen that in evidence with the Marquette Law Poll, where the pro-voter ID Scott Walker allegedly was leading among Hispanic respondents, despite the fact that Wisconsin Hispanics voted over 2-to-1 in favor of President Obama in 2012, and that Burke led 78-15 among Hispanics who had already voted. Granted, the Hispanic population in Wisconsin isn't that big, but if you're missing that demo by 40 points in a poll, even if Hispanics were to make up 5% of the electorate, that still results in a 2-point swing between poll and actual election results. A 2-point swing would give the election to Mary Burke in every poll that has been released in October other than the absurd "likely voter" screen in the Marquette Law Poll from last week.

The other group Dem group that Cohn says is typically undersampled is a group we are very familiar with here in Madison.
Even calling cellphones might not be enough to reach every voter in a state. Not so long ago, a household’s phone number was a reliable guide to its location. But no longer.

Between 10 percent and 12 percent of people with cellphones live in a different state from the one suggested by their telephone number’s area code. Those people are unlikely to be surveyed in statewide polls in the state they live in using random-digit dialing – the method used in most polls sponsored by nonpartisan news media organizations.

Common sense suggests these young, mobile voters lean Democratic. The earliest evidence is also consistent with that hypothesis: Pew Research found that people with telephone numbers that did not match their state leaned Democratic by 14 points, in a new analysis based on 5,003 cellphone respondents, provided to The Upshot. Cellphone users with telephone numbers that matched their location leaned Democratic by only eight points.
Doesn't that sound a whole lot like the thousands of people hired by Epic Systems in Madison over the last few years? If you've been to downtown Madison recently, you can't help but notice the large amount of multi-story apartment complexes being built in and around downtown. A whole lot of the residents of those places are 20-somethings working for Epic, and many of them come from out of the state to do their work. The same applies to many of the researchers and academics at UW-Madison and other universities. If they're from out of state, it is likely their phone number is not a Wisconsin number, and given their education and career choices, I'm guessing there aren't many of them that will be fans of Gov Dropout.

Cohn mentions that these demographic changes that haven't been caught by pollsters are a big reason why there have been significant misses in statewide elections in states such as Nevada and Colorado. In those states in both 2010 and 2012, Dem support in statewide elections for Senate and President was massively understated, leading to "surprising" results on Election Night, including Harry Reid's and Michael Bennett's victories in Senate elections, and President Obama winning by much more comfortable margins than the polls indicated.

Certainly in Dem-voting Madison, we see evidence of strong voter interest, as early voting is more than 25% above what it was in 2010, despite there being fewer days to early vote in 2014. Here's what the Madison City Clerk reported over the weekend.
The City of Madison has issued 15,590 absentee ballots for the November election, including 8,812 absentee ballots issued to voters in the City Clerk’s Office.

For comparison, the City Clerk’s Office issued 12,121 absentee ballots for the November 2010 election, including 5,550 absentee ballots issued to voters in the Clerk’s Office.
You have to think those Epic-oids that do consulting work out of state during the week are part of that increase in early voting, along with college students at UW-Madison, and state government workers that Walker dropped the bomb on.

Between this and the increasing desperation I sense out of the Republicans (U.S. Sen. (mo)Ron Johnson disgracefully screeching about "voter fraud" is the latest tell that these guys are scared), and I think Burke has a real chance to win this thing. Yes, some of this reflects my hopes that this disastrous era draws to a close, but when you realize that Wisconsin Dems have outperformed the poll averages by 3 points in both the 2010 and 2012 November elections, and when you realize that Burke is likely to lead among the groups that have likely not been captured by polls, and it leaves this race as a pure toss-up that comes down to turnout and voters that haven't revealed who they're backing. I can't think that favors a known, polarizing quantity like Scott Walker. And the absurd last-minute smear Scotty's racist buddy in Jefferson County tried to pull came off to many as a sleazy, Nixon-esque move that could well be backfiring on Walker.

Even if Walker somehow pulls out a 1-3 point win, it'll be much like another Dubya's win in 2004- where too many voters were too weak-minded to pull the trigger on removing the incumbent from office, combined with a frothing-at-the-mouth GOP base and massive propaganda machine allowing the dumber candidate to slip through. And within 6 months, I bet a whole lot of them will end up regretting their vote for the GOP.

Let's not get to that point in Wisconsin. Let's get it right on Tuesday, and get the Dems in office before the place gets FUBARed.

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