Sunday, November 05, 2006

Election Note

(For the international folks who may not know - we have a big election in a couple of days.)

Just two little notes. The first is that both parties know basically that everybody's so polarized these days that the only people who are undecided are probably not going to vote anyway. So they're both putting lots of cash into get out the vote efforts. The Republicans in particular are doing a lot of small scale stuff - targeting likely Republican voters in a very precise way and trying to get them to show up. The Democrats are doing something similar but are apparently a bit behind the curve in terms of actual implementation.

As far as I can tell they've both targeted me because the phone is just ringing off the hook. And it's not like this is a particularly contested area. I doubt if any races I'll be voting in will be all that close.

The second is that you keep seeing polls on "likely voters". You may not know this about polling, but there's a variety of semi-scientific ways in which these polls always massage the data. The first is that there's always a ton of adjustment for race, income, whatever might influence the result because it's impossible to get a group of people answering your poll that matches the general population (some of this is because some people talk to pollsters more than others). And in particular in an election they adjust for "likely voters" which is partially based on if they say they've voted before, if they say they're likely to vote this time, etc.

The problem is that in any close race, if basically the entire outcome is based on who can mobilize their existing folks to show up, then when you do your poll all you show is what your likely voter model is. And in a race where there's reason to believe that the micro-targeting techniques may work (apparently they worked very nicely in test races in 2004 which is why the Republicans started pouring money into it) basically all the existing "likely voter" models are total garbage.

And yet, every day, there are people trumpeting how good their poll numbers are. Well, we'll know in a few days, won't we? But given what crap even the exit polls were in 2004 (because the bored exit polling folks somehow managed to interview a lot of cute young girls who on average voted for Kerry) I don't know why anybody believes these guys have the ability to predict squat.


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