Monday, November 12, 2012

Rasmussen explains polling miss

Scott Rasmussen explains why his polls were more favorable to Mitt Romney than warranted -- minority and youth turnout was higher than he thought, while older voters were more quiet than he assumed.

A preliminary review indicates that one reason for this is that we underestimated the minority share of the electorate. In 2008, 26% of voters were non-white. We expected that to remain relatively constant. However, in 2012, 28% of voters were non-white. That was exactly the share projected by the Obama campaign.

It is not clear at the moment whether minority turnout increased nationally, white turnout decreased, or if it was a combination of both. The increase in minority turnout has a significant impact on the final projections since Romney won nearly 60% of white votes while Obama won an even larger share of the minority vote.

Another factor may be related to the generation gap. It is interesting to note that the share of seniors who showed up to vote was down slightly from 2008 while the number of young voters was up slightly. Pre-election data suggested that voters over 65 were more enthusiastic about voting than they had been four years earlier so the decline bears further examination.

One of this election's polling lessons might be that, in these days of early voting, "very enthusiastic" doesn't mean much more than "enthusiastic" and "enthusiastic" doesn't mean much more than "planning to vote."

Throughout this cycle, pollsters of every ilk pegged GOP enthusiasm as higher than Democratic enthusiasm, but by the time voters were counted, that proved to be -- if not a sham -- somewhat meaningless.

Going forward, there are lots of things to discuss, but one of them is the usefulness of measuring enthusiasm. When voters have an entire month to cast their ballots, it's pretty easy to work up the courage to brave a non-existent line about one mile from home.