Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Polling problems

Take a look at the exit polls for NH when people are asked when they made up their minds:Something weird is going on here. If we assume that the exit polls are an accurate reflection of when people made up their minds and how they voted, there is a substantial shift to Obama post-Iowa, but only a modest shift back to Hillary in the final day.

If we pool the "In the last three days" (among whom Obama beat Clinton by 3 points) and the "Sometime last week" (among whom Obama beat Clinton by 15 points) categories, that accounts for 31% of the electorate, among whom Obama beat Clinton 39-32. So that would be Obama's post-Iowa momentum, which propelled him from a tie in the polls to an alleged double-digit advantage going into election day. And then Hillary totally wipes out this surge with her little 3-point advantage among the 17% of voters who decided on the last day? That's not nearly enough.

I'll buy that there was a late surge for Hillary, and that it was probably fueled by sympathy for her and for female candidates in general, and may have been crystallized when she cried in Portsmouth or during her impressive debate performance. (And it may have even been caused by Chris Matthews.) But the same-day surge toward Hillary reported in the exit polls is just not consistent with all the tracking polls we were seeing right up to election day. It seems to me that Obama's poll position in New Hampshire has been way overstated all along.

Another possibility is that independent voters, who were expected to show up for Obama, instead participated in the GOP primary and voted for McCain. But the exit polls don't really support that. 42% of the Democratic electorate was independent, compared with 34% of the Republican electorate. And the Democratic electorate was much larger than the Republican one (284,000 Dems compared to 233,000 Reps).

So what's going on here? Was it really a race effect?


AnnM said...

I'm not replying to your question, only nitpicking your characterization: "...fueled by sympathy for her and for female candidates in general, and may have been crystallized when she cried in Portsmouth..."

I saw the media portrayal that she "cried" or "teared up", and finally went to watch the clip myself. She did not cry, or even tear up. It was more like she got a little misty eyed.

In fact what I saw was a woman at ease with the discussion she was having, who felt very strongly (passionately even) about policy having an impact on the lives of individuals, arguing it matters who occupies the white house. She did not lose it, in any way, instead she clearly demonstrated mastery over her emotions.

I can't help but think most of the people who watched that clip out of curiosity were impressed by that short discussion. They didn't "feel sorry" for her, but were likely annoyed by the characterization in the press.

Seth Masket said...

Fair point. It wasn't exactly a cry. More like a little crack in her voice. But it certainly was described as a cry in the coverage of the event, and it seems pretty clear that it helped her politically. I don't have too much evidence on this, but I buy the idea that a number of voters who didn't necessarily plan to vote for her decided to do so to combat her treatment by the media.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Based on your analysis and the initial poll predictions, it would seem that social desirability is likely. Even in an exit poll, people who had made up their minds that day or even in the previous week may be reluctant to say so for whatever reason. (Perhaps they feel silly for admitting it or would rather act as if they knew who they were voting for all along so that they seem "loyal" or whatever.)

Clearly something happened. Maybe it was just Hilliary's misty moment. Or maybe it was her comment that "some of us go out and do this against some pretty difficult odds" that brought the issue of gender back to center stage for a lot of the older female voters. We'll probably never know. Was it Chris Matthews? It could have just as easily been Keith Olberman coming down on Clinton the day before the NH primary for being "emotional," "cring," and "playing the fear card". He pretty much stigmatized any Democrat who would vote for her in NH the following day. His segment can be found here:

On the issue of sexism, if I were a female who didn't pay any attention to policies, previous voting, previous deeds and misdeeds, etc., she'd have my vote simply because the media has been shitting all over her and leading the public to do the same--for being a WOMAN. Who knows, if it continues to get even worse for her, I may give her my backlash vote. Dear Lord, don't let it get worse.

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