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The Truth About Polling: Yes, Romney Is Probably Tied or Winning

Knowing the nuts and bolts of polling science leads to this rational conclusion.

Charlie Martin


September 27, 2012 - 7:49 am
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Now, it’s tempting to jump for the conspiracy theory and think Quinnipiac is slanting the poll, but they’re being very upfront about it. They have a method they like and they’re running with it. They’re not adjusting to an assumed turnout model, which seems at least as reasonable in a real-world way as having an assumed model. But the effect is the same: whether they have a skewed sample, or they make a turnout model adjustment, if what they’re going with doesn’t match the real world, the results will be skewed.

So what do you, as a lay reader, do? Well, you can work out a correction with algebra, but you’ll be pretty close if you assume that every percentage point you correct the distribution will change the results by one percentage point, too. So, if we have, say, Obama 53, Romney 45 and a D+8 sample, then we can look at a range of assumptions:

D+ Obama 53 Romney 45
D+8 53 45
D+7 52 46
D+6 51 47
D+5 50 48
D+4 49 49
D+3 48 50
D+2 47 51
D+1 46 52
even 45 53
D-1 44 54

Now, you’re ready to think for yourself. Do you really think turnout in Ohio will be 38 percent Democrat, 30 percent Republican? That was how it went in 2008, with the Lightworker in full cosmic wonder.

But notice if the real turnout is only D+7, we’re in that margin of error. If it’s D+4 the odds are 50/50. If it’s D+1, then we’re back to where the poll is starting to really predict a win for Romney.

The real lesson of all of this is: the only poll that really matters is the one on Tuesday, November 6. Or if you’re a Democrat, Wednesday, November 7.

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Charlie Martin writes on science, health, culture and technology for PJ Media. Follow his 13 week diet and exercise experiment on Facebook and at PJ Lifestyle
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