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Topic: presidential polling theory?
Replies: 3   Last Post: Nov 5, 2000 11:11 PM

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Posts: 80
Registered: 12/13/04
Re: presidential polling theory?
Posted: Nov 3, 2000 9:59 PM
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If all of the rsults are close together and the leading candidates are
close then the race is close. If one candidate is consistently ahead
in most of the polls, it is pretty much a done deal. If the results
are all over the map, then the surveys are partly defective but the
race is also close, because a lot of people are probably undecided.
The sizes of samples is less important than the randomness of the


In article <8tv94f$vmd$>,
Bill Daly <> wrote:
> In article <>,
> (Randy Poe) wrote:

> > Caught just a piece of a news story on the radio a couple of days
> > where they were talking about the difficulties pollsters face trying
> > to get meaningful projections in this close US presidential race.

> > pollster was saying that he knew of cases where two polls differed
> > 15 points in the same state, and he seemed to be implying that was
> > connected to the closeness of the race.
> >
> > This started me wondering what sort of model could explain that.
> >
> > We're trying to estimate p = the fraction of voters who will vote

> > Gore. We do this by measuring p-hat, a fraction of people polled who
> > say they'll vote for Gore. Mostly I guess p-hat is assumed to be
> > normal with mean p and variance depending on sample size.
> >
> > Obviously the sample has to be truly random and unbiased in some

> > for this to work, and presumably the polling companies have
> > they use to try to eliminate bias. This guy seemed to be implying
> > the nature of the race could either be introducing biases, or
> > increasing the variance of p-hat in some other way.
> >
> > What could be going on here?
> >
> > - Randy
> >

> Scott Rasmussen (of the Portrait of America poll) was interviewed on

> the other night. He was asked to explain why two polls in the NY
> race were so far apart. His answer was that the NY Times assumed that
> 31% of the voters would come from NY City, while Zogby assumed instead
> 26% or 27%. This is certainly enough to explain at least a part of the
> discrepancy, though not perhaps the whole of it. For the record, the
> Times assumption is based on the results in the 1996 Presidential
> election, while the Zogby assumption is based on the results in the

> Senate election.
> It used to be that pollsters used a large enough sample size (about

> in a Presidential election) to keep the expected error down. However,
> this makes it expensive and slow to do a poll, and there is still a

> of jitter in the numbers. Nowadays, they sample a much smaller group
> then twiddle the numbers to conform to their expectations, resulting
> a self-fulfilling prophecy. This makes their clients in the media
> happier, at the expense of being "mathematically incorrect". The press
> is by and large innumerate anyway, so no one is likely to complain.

> only poll today which behaves as I would expect a mathematically
> poll to behave is Gallup, and that's the one the press distrusts most.
> The existence of systemic bias is easy to prove. In the absence of

> one would expect that for any two contemporaneous independent polls,
> spread in one should be greater than the spread in the other about 50%
> of the time. An actual comparison over the last 10 days shows that the
> Battleground poll has Bush leading by a wider margin than the Zogby

> for 9 of the 10 days, with the 10th day being a tie. This is highly
> unlikely if there is no bias. Comparisons between other polls lead to

> similar conclusion.
> Regards,
> Bill
> Sent via
> Before you buy.

Sent via
Before you buy.

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