Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fixing GOP polling

Not in the gambling sense of the word, but in the flat tire sense of the term.

Reid Wilson, with a couple common-sense suggestions.

Pollsters should fix voter screens, used to weed out of their samples irregular voters who aren't likely to vote. Including only likely voters often leads to a more Republican-heavy sample. But in an era of fine-tuned turnout machines and get-out-the-vote drives, even those irregular voters are likely to show up. Polling all registered voters, rather than those most likely to make it to the polls, would at least give Republicans an idea of the worst-case scenario.

Pollsters should also control more for age, gender, and race than for party identification. One prominent party pollster pointed to a late survey conducted for Indiana Republican Richard Mourdock that showed him leading Democrat Joe Donnelly by 2 points. That survey, conducted by McLaughlin & Associates, showed that 56 percent of Indiana's electorate would be over age 55. Exit polls revealed that number to be vastly overstated; only 43 percent of the electorate was over 50.

Of course, these are fixes for GOP pollsters who got it wrong, but public pollsters, for the most part, did a good job as evidenced by the predictive power of the Real Clear Politics average (which nailed every battleground state, except Florida).