Why Our Recent Polling In PA (Is Accurate) and Shows a Close Election for President

Posted on September 24, 2012. Filed under: General Surveys, In The News, Uncategorized |

Recently two polls conducted by our firm showing President Obama narrowly leading Mitt Romney in the Keystone State by 1 point (48% to 47%, sponsored by the Republican State Committee of Penna.), and a second released by the Pittsburgh Tribune Review on Sunday, September 23 showing Obama leading Romney by 2 points (47%-45%).  Both margins conflict with other surveys conducted recently including one by the Philadelphia Inquirer (Obama +11) and Muhlenberg College (Obama +9).  Following are answers to questions about our survey methodology as well as our basis for predicting a close election.

Our vote model for gauging the number of interviews conducted with voters of different demographic groups (things like party affiliation, racial background and age range, etc.) is a blend of turnout models from both the 2008 and 2004 presidential elections, but leans more towards 2004 VTO and is predicated on the belief that turnout this November will not be anywhere near ’08 levels when 5.9 million votes were cast. 

First, our ratio of interviews conducted with Republicans and Democrats in our recent polls (49D – 43R) gives Democrats a 6-point advantage based on the fact that Democrats outnumber Republicans in actual registration.  However, this ratio is slightly more Republican based on both national and state polling showing that Republicans are more likely to vote than Democrats this year given high intensity among Republicans who strongly disapprove of the President’s job performance.  Nonetheless, this +6 Democratic advantage is only one point less Democrat than the 7-point advantage these same exit polls gave Democrats in the 2008 presidential election.  Besides, simply conducting more surveys with Democratic voters (as some have suggested) doesn’t necessarily translate into more votes for President Obama when you consider that Mitt Romney is winning Democratic-leaning counties in Western Pennsylvania by ten or more percentage points.  Nonetheless, it is entirely appropriate to sample Republicans one or two points higher than in 2008 if you believe as we do that voter turnout this November will have little resemblance to the last presidential election. 

Second, our ratio of younger to older voters reflects turnout that is likely to be slightly higher with older voters given the lack of enthusiasm from younger voters.  In our surveys, 18-44 yr. olds make up 30% of all interviews and voters 45 years of age and older represent the remaining seventy percent.  For instance, according to 2008 exit polls voter turnout among 18-29 year olds peaked at 18%, but national and state polling proves interest among younger voters down sharply this year due to higher unemployment with younger voters and college graduates in particular.  So conducting approximately ten percent of surveys with 18-29 year olds is a reflection of this lower anticipated turnout among these less-enthusiastic voters.  Besides, the fact that Obama backers have suggested that over sampling older voters skews results in favor of Mitt Romney is a striking revelation in a state like Pennsylvania known for having the 5th largest population of senior citizens in the country.

Third, recent polls showing a double-digit lead for Obama are not believable, and are probably using the 2008 voter turnout as the basis of their survey model.  It is simply unrealistic to think Obama can or will win the Keystone State by the same double-digit margin he won by four years ago when you consider that most state and national polls continue to show most voters unhappy with the direction of the country after two straight years of unemployment at 8% or higher.  This is why our statewide polls conducted every month since the primaries shows the President failing to hit fifty percent in most key measurements like favorable name ID, job approval and his ballot score.  Plus, polling we have conducted in dozens of state senate and house races on behalf of incumbent legislators and other candidates, PACs and other special interest groups shows Obama’s support down an average of seven percent when compared with his vote margins in these same districts four years ago.  We estimate this 7-point drop off could mean up to 434,000 fewer votes cast for Obama this November, leaving a margin of less than 200,000 votes between the candidates.  Based on this, perhaps the Phil’ Inquirer poll showing Obama winning by a bigger margin than he won by four years ago is the real outlier.

For these reasons and others we fully stand by our results, and all indications are that the upcoming election will be closer than many others suggest.


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89 Responses to “Why Our Recent Polling In PA (Is Accurate) and Shows a Close Election for President”

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Good job, Jimmy. I was one of those polled in the second poll. See my post about these polls at williamcinfici.blogspot.com.

This pollster shows an error that’s done by less scrupulous pollsters to give clients the results they want: They don’t listen to what the respondents tell them. Instead of asking how likely or enthusiastic they are to vote, they assume how likely they are to vote based on the pollster’s preconceived notions. Those preconceived notions can be made to be anything, and that can help change the results to suit a client that wants a certain result. Voter enthusiasm is an attitude, so to know voter enthusiasm, you have to ask people what their attitude is, not look out the window and say the weather feels unenthusiastic this year, and “correct” what your poll respondents tell you to fit your preconceptions. This is also true of party affiliation. Many people move between identification as independents and partisans depending on whether they like a party’s current candidate(s) and other factors, and you have to listen to what party they say they belong to rather than assume which party more people belong to. People change their allegiances more often than they change their voter registration forms.

[…] story on the PA poll, internals go out tomorrow but he directed me to this link which shows a D+6 sample Share this:TwitterPrintRedditDiggStumbleUponEmailFacebookLinkedIn opinions powered by […]

Kudos to Jimmy Lee, good to see someone is getting the sampling right for a change. Well done.

I concur

[…] Why Pennsylvania is much, much closer than you think […]

Since there is a consistent, multi-decade trend of differences between turnout in presidential years and off year elections, it’s quite interesting that you think this will look like an off year election, breaking a decades long trend. I can understand it looking like ’04 instead of ’08 in percentages of Democrats, minorities, etc. turning out, but ’10? I see no emperical basis for this judgement. Second, you didn’t mention a key factor, the manner in which you polled. If you polled landlines only, then there is a documented republican bias.

The pollster is comparing ’04 and ’08 models, where does he suggest his is using a turnout based on 2010?

This might have been somewhat true about a month ago but the Democrats have not only closed the enthusiasm gap they may have even pulled into the lead on that. Also any poll not including cell phones these days is going to have a significant skew towards Republicans. To me it looks like Obama will win almost as big this time as in 08.

Keith, as will be proven on Nov 6th, you are an utter fool if you think Odumbo will win PA in the same manner as in 2008…………..I strongly believe once Odumbo’s failures are set out in the debates, the tide will turn in Romney’s favor. If it doesn’t then we all might as well pack our bags because 4 more years of this fool will permanently destroy this country.

Keith, I know a lot of people who voted for Obama last time who won’t be voting for him in ’12 – a few are liberal Democrats. I have yet to meet anyone
who voted for McCain and is now switching to Obama. He might win but it sure won’t be by the margins he won in ’08.
If he does win then like Patrick said, we’re done.

Obama won PA by 10.3 in 08 and the last poll RCP posted (which happens to be a Republican leaning Rasmussen poll) shows Obama up by 12 and that is without including cell phones. In 08 there were a lot of bitter people who didn’t like how the Obama/Hillary feud played out which is not a factor this time around. I would bet on it but Obama may even win PA bigger this time. One thing for sure is the Obama is surging in virtually all the swing states which is indicative of the Democrats winning the ad wars and probably a backlash against the Rep. SuperPac ads.

Romney is a pi$$ poor candidate , far worse than Mccain ; he has the terrible math of the electoral college to overcome

Over at INTRADE where folks actually risk their hard earned money on their political views it is Obama 75% …Romney 25% …..THIS is the real odds on this election ; quite frankly it will take an act of God for Romney to win …all of you folks who really believe that Romney will win can get on Intrade and triple your money in a mere 6 weeks ; GO AHEAD , I DARE YOU !

KEITH seems like some people dont care about this country any more . why would they vote for this commie. . i think all hell will break lose if he is elected because there are people who hate him as much as like him. i think the voters on the verge of in sanity

Wow, you sure sound enthusiastic for more of the same. Do you
happen to work for Solyndra?

Obama is confidently striding out for the last mile home …..he will win this election by a greator margin than 4 years ago

No poll should be based off of any turnout model…. Most polls do not assume any particular turnout model.

Actually, all polls assume a particular turnout model and are weighted accordingly.

Most polls assume a demographic based turnout model, not one based on political party. For example white voters will likely make up about 73 or 74% of the overall vote you can measure that because race is a verifiable constant. If you consider yourself a Republican, Democrat, or Independent is a changing variable based on your opinion. Most turn out models are based mostly on age, sex, race,….a little less so on things like education and income. And while they do look at political party — the fact that this poll was a) commissioned by the GOP and b) its first thing it worried about was political party pretty much discredits it from the start

Yes, the usual “everybody is wrong but us” defense.

Here is why they are right, and you are wrong- people don’t against a candidate they vote for one. Romney’s support is more an anti-Obama support than a real pro-Romney voter group. Let’s face the horrible facts here- Romney is the worst candidate in generations, and it shows with all national polls of LVs that do not use robocalls and land-line only.

Romney is certainly not a worse candidate than McCain who suspended his campaign and said people had nothing to worry about if Obama won. Not to mention McCain had advisors like Steve schmidt who actually supported Obama.

Infact , he’s FAR WORSE …a rich , out of touch elitist with the type of personality that folks intuitively dislike ; he’s the Rep version of Al Gore
At least McCain was likable ….Romney is going down

Clearly you are too young to remember 1980. There were a lot of people in Blue states who voted for Anderson to avoid voting for Carter. That’s why Reagan won by the margins he did. If the entire Anderson vote had gone to Carter, Reagan still would have won, but he would have lost a number of additional states.

When a president does a poor enough job, people definitely will turnout to vote him out of office.

10 million foreign national voting will more than offset what you describe.

Even Rasmussen, Rasmussen has Obama up by 12 today. Wishful thinking by Lee. Susquehanna is the outlier here.

Thanks for beating me to it. If Rasmussen shows him ahead he’s ahead Furthermore it’s not just R leaning Rasmussen but Purple Strategies, We Ask America, Gravia marketing that are showing the same thing. You can also add FOX News to that list. Rasmussen is even showing Obama ahead in Florida,Ohio and Virginia does anybody seriously think he’s using a 2008 turnout model? PPP had a poll of Wisconsin showing Obama going from -1 in mid-August to +1 in early September but the August pollwent from R+2 to +4 in September,you are not going to get a R+4 electorate in Wisconsin in a presidential election year more like D+4-6.
Why don’t we try the AP poll showing Obama going from about -3 likley voter model in mid-August to + 1 this month but it also showed him going from +1 RV last month to +10 this month. That poll only had like 63% of registered voters showing up that would be the lowest since way before 1960. In fact the % of RV’s showing up to vote has increased in every presidential election year since 1992. In that year non-white voters made up just 13% of the electorate,in 2008 it was 26%. The white % of the electorate has been going down about 3% every cycle since 1992 I wouldn’t count on that changing much.

Turnout was way down in 1996 and 2000 compared to 1992, was up in 2004 and slightly higher again in 2008, though not among RV as a higher proportion were registered. White share will likely mirror 2008 this year as the record black turnout reverts to proportional levels and Hispanic vote shows no sign yet of spiking.

Lee knows what he is talking about.

Nope he doesn’t…In 2008 something like 72% of registered voters showed up to vote whereas in 2004 69.96% showed up nationwide.

Census says only 64.9% of registered voters voted in 2008.

Nope/…Look again it states 64% of voting age citizens voted not registered voters.


It also shows 146,000,000 being registered and 131,000,000 actually voting which outs a lie to a LV model like that of the AP poll showing Obama having a 10 point lead in the RV model but only a 1 point lead per a likely voter model.

IT also shows 146,000,000 registered voters of which 131,000,000 voted.

[…] – Chris Stirewalt, FOX News GOP Risks Being the Party of Mean – Julian Zelizer, CNN Polls Based Off 2008 Dem Turnout Will Be Wrong – Jim Lee, Susquehanna 2012 Will Decide If ObamaCare Repealed – Jonathan Tobin, […]

Excellent summary. One question I have is if adjustments are being made for cell phones with out of voting registration area codes. I’ve had a number of friends move out of state but maintain their phone number, this could drop them out of the sample for their new voting district. Probably not a big enough issue in 2012, but could be extremely important by 2016.

Yep it’s close in PA….and water runs uphill…..do you honestly think you’re doing realistic Republicans (as distinct from fantasists) a service with this sort of nonsense.

If you can figure out what the results of the election is going to be just based on your opinion, why bother polling. Let’s just debate about who you think is going to win.

1% hispanic gtfo

What shocking to blunt a week full of stories about their candidate losing momentum and falling behind — the GOP happens to pay for a poll, which just happens to find that a race which even Rassmussen has as Obama +12, is really a 1 point race?

Do people really take this poll or this company seriously? Nobody weighs the ages of a poll by either being under 44 or over 44… that’s such a nonsense methodology I’d be shocked if they actually called a single person.

A lot of the polling being done has been more heavily tilted democratic than any kind of logic would dictate. That said, I look at where the candidates are spending ad money. I live in Pennsylvania, and have not seen an ad by either candidate which speaks volumes. I do believe that in closer states the points made in this article are extremely valid however and show the extreme media bias for Obama. In the tank completely. Almost on the payroll, and something close to 70% of americans in recent polls believe that to be so.

I am actually a jewish voter who would not vote for Obama if you held a gun to my head. Not because of the mideast or any nonsense such as that, but because I truly believe that he inherited a mess, but not one that was any different than other bubbles we have faced. Do people forget the dot com bubble and a hundred other over the years? They happen. But what was different this time? We had an extreme liberal spender who went abslutely and completely wild, spending whatever money he could get his hands on rewarding the already piggish behavior of his public employee union buddies, environmental extremists, and extremists of every stripe, then not only did he spend every dime he could get his hands on for every lib cause under the su, but ran up the credit card to dizzying heights and then to boot added the biggest unfunded mandate in our countries history in health care ‘reform’. Then to top it off he started spending money devaluing the dollar. And people wonder why we have not recovered? The worst president in our countries history and this Manchuena Candidate maybe single handedly will bring this country down. We already dropped from first to seventh in most innovative (patents, etc) only since 2008. More is to come.

Pennsylvania is a state with Philadelphia on one side, Pittsburgh on the other, and Alabama in the middle. City voters won’t turn out in nearly the same numbers. Voter ID laws will prevent a lot of college students / elderly ppl from voting, so that’s even fewer democrat votes. Pennsylvania will be a lot closer than other polls indicate, so the author has it dead on.

I am curious if you regularly base the entire premise of a story on an unverified assumption (in this case that the pollsters showing Obama with larger leads “are probably” using 2008 turnout models). Asserting that it is “simply unrealistic” to expect these polls are accurate because the country faces many significant challenges today make it sound like we don’t need to do polling at all, since we can just gauge voter behavior from the sense of geniuses like yourself about what “is realistic.” Are you familiar with someone named Nate Silver, who got nearly every race right in 2008 and 2010? You might want to check out his data at http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/. He finds many of the polls that you dismiss to be of value, and has actually taken the time to scrutinize their methodology, rather than making assumptions about it with no evidence. Finally, your headline here suggests that you might want to take a remedial grammar lesson in the proper use of the parenthesis.

Nate Silver Notes:
1) Getting the 2008 Presidential election correct in terms of the winner did not require an allegedly advanced modeling system; all you needed was history book. Anyone with half a brain knew that the Dem candidate was going to win before the candidate was selected – our country rarely gives either party three terms in a row and then only after an extremely popular president and then only to his vice president. Bush was not that popular and McCain was not the VP.
Moreover, his prediction of the margin was not particularly accurate – off by 1.1% of the vote, it represents an error of about 18% of the actual margin.

2) His “claim to fame” is that he got all of the 08 Senate races correct. However, people fail to point out that this prediction was made only 2 days before the election. Anyone with access to a newspaper could call 90%+ of the races in that time frame. Basically, only three senate races were close that year (decided by 3% or less) with the average winner of the rest of the races having about a 25% edge. If you decided that “heads” are Dems and “tails” are Rep (or the other way around), you would make the correct call on the three remaining races about a third of the time. BFD

3) In 2010, he got 3 of 37 Senate races wrong (again, with most of the races being lopsided, including one with no opposition). Included in these three was the easily predictable win by Harry Reid over Sharon Angle (by 8 points). He completely botched the House elections under predicting the Republican landslide by 10 seats 2 days before the election.

In short, Nate is a shill (not coincidently employed by the absurdly left wing NYT) who – like Obama – is only adapt at misdirecting the slow witted into thinking he has record of success.

In 2004, 18-44 was a LARGER (read: larger) share of the electorate in PA than in 2008. I’m not sure which exit polling data you were looking at to see that demographic as only thirty percent of the electorate, but I suspect you were using the data for the 2008 (or 2004) primaries. Which would be pretty significant oversight.

[…] Good read on polling in PA: Why Our Recent Polling (Is Accurate) and Shows a Close Election for President Voter Survey Service […]

Yeah it’s close. That’s why the Romney campaign isn’t spending a penny and aren’t visiting. I guess their internal polls are making the same mistake. Even with the voter suppression act passed by the Republicans it still is looking bleak

True enough ….Romney is going to be thrashed worse than McCain

Any pollster who fails to factor in the following parameter is deluding themselves and misleading us:

MAJOR PARTY ID [1996-2012]–USA
Date R D
1996 35% 39%
2000 35% 39%
2004 37% 37%
2008 32% 39%
2010 36% 35%
2012 37% 33%

Just where in the hell do you get the 2012 electorate will be 33% Democrat & 37% Republican?

And then there’s the University of Colorado economic model that has correctly picked the winner of the presidential race since 1990. They are going with Romney: http://bit.ly/NkEZHp

Hilarious; that model has been debunked by just about everyone. You do know that it is new and has never predicted ANY election. What the authors did was fit past election results so as to conform to their criteria. They then claim that they WOULD accordingly have predicted these elections correctly and then go on to use the “model” to predict this election. The two authors are currently the laughingstock of the statistics community and the University is running for cover. But thanks for the hot tip.

Maybe you could cut the snark and provide some evidence.

Do the swing state polls assume 2008 type turnout, because they consistently show Obama in a strong position?

I disagree. Real statisticians would understand the “Likely Voter” polls already account for turnout, and thus to arbitrarily decide which party is more “enthusiastic” and will “turn out” renders a poll too subjective to be taken seriously. I think it’s worth nothing that Nate Silver, who called every state except Indiana in 2008 (which Obama won by less than .5%) and every senate race in 2008 and 2010 correctly, sees an Obama win in PA as a 95% certainty. His model, which is the gold standard to unbiased people who seek the truth, considers not only poll numbers but economic indicators and previous polling trends dating back decades. Learn more: http://www.fivethirtyeight.com


See above to get corrected about Nate the shill (hint – even he does not claim he got all the Senate races right in 2010)

Nate Silver has a lot of black box models… and he uses monte carlo methods which are like magician’s handkerchiefs for this kind of forecasting. He is also reaching further and further out of forecasting mode and deeper into stridency – like his employer – than analysis.

It’s kind of sad really, he was interesting to read at one point, now he is shaving the pig like so many of the other media types. Getting hard to find an honest read anymore.

It’s also worth noting the poll was sponsored by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, a newspaper owned by billionaire neo-con and top GOP donor Richard Mellon Scaife; of course the poll would be skewed. Until Rasmussen, a much more notable and respected conservative pollster, finds similar results, then clearly the agenda and bias of the commissioning party must be questioned.

Election fundamentals mean something, and it is ridiculous to claim D plus 11 with this economy. Just doesn’t pass the smell test.

Given the models which predict election results based on economic fundamentals, the Susqehanna poll makes a lot more sense than polls with O up 11-12.

Add to that the near total hatred for O in Greene, Westmoreland, Butler, and Beavef counties, to name a few, and I further think this is closer than most are giving it.

I suspect R et al are waiting for the final voter ID decision by Oct 2 before committing anything. If the superior court judge rules for the state, which is likely, then we will see.

Be over optimistic at your own risk, Dems.

[…] Recently two polls conducted by our firm showing President Obama narrowly leading Mitt Romney by 1 point (48% to 47%, sponsored by the Republican State Committee of Penna.), and a second released by the Pittsburgh Tribune Review …More By sprblog […]

This election is a pure turnout battle – much like 2004. That is why I don’t believe ANY polls, and this is why the MSM is trying so damm hard to depress Republican turnout by convincing voters that Romney has no chance anyway so why vote? No one really knows what the turnout will be like, but my expectation is that the youth vote will be way down since Obama did nothing for them (I agree with the author on this), but black turnout will actually be UP from 2008. Blacks see Obama as an embattled member of the Tribe, and they will turn out 100% to support him for pure tribal solidarity. The big open questions are white turnout and Hispanic turnout. I really have no idea how this shakes out, since the MSM has immense power to shape the narrative and depress turnout of GOP leaning voters.

Black turnout will not be up from 2008 – far more likely it will be down. 1: A number substantial of black churches, angry about his positions on gay marriage, have organized a campaign to let their congregations know that it’s ok not to support Obama. 2: About 5% of black voters are actually Republicans. In 2008 about half of them voted for Obama because they felt it failing to do so would disrespect their struggle for equality. The vast majority of these voters have serious buyer’s remorse and will return to voting Republican. This will push Obama support among blacks down about 2% to between 92%-94%. 3: Blacks have felt Obama’s failure to fix the economy far harder than any other racial group. They are not a passionate about voting for him this time around. About half of the “new black voters” in 2008 will sit this one out. If the same percentage of white, and non-black minority voters turn out in 2012, blacks will make up about 12% not 13%-14% (higher than in elections prior to 2008 but still a drop off).

White turnout as a percentage of the voting electorate will be up probably 2%-3% Say the white vote will be between 76% – 77%. I expect the hispanic vote to drop off because they too are displeased with Obama’s performance, how much I have no idea.

Romney will win PA by 1%. I have worked for campaigns of both parties and every pollster I have talked to this year say the polls do not make sense. Also their are two new data warehouses that are collecting data based on last elections model mixed with smaller sample sizes. If you work in anything that deals in stats, conclusions are being drawn of information that is 4 years out of date and targeted sampling of heavy areas of one party or another promotes inaccurate results. Most PA polls over sample dem’s 2:1 or in the Philly Inq poll it was 6:1. Best poll will be election day.


I’m not sure what you’re talking about. I don’t see any 6:1. The release doesn’t give any breakdowns by party but you can put the crosstabs into Excel and use simple algebra to get the numbers to add up to the eventual result of the toplines. You’ll see that the poll interviewed 8% more Democrats than Republicans. I have it at 48-40-12, although the numbers are a little flexible if you increase independents and decrease both R and D or vice versa.

There certainly wasn’t anything like 6:1

Here are the National percentages for 18-29 year olds:


1980: 23
1984: 23
1988: 20
1992: 21
1996: 17
2000: 17
2004: 17
2008: 18
2012 (Susquehanna Projection): 7

Pay close attention to the paragraph where the pollster attempts to explain this absurd projection.

“For instance, according to 2008 exit polls voter turnout among 18-29 year olds peaked at 18%, but national and state polling proves interest among younger voters down sharply this year due to higher unemployment with younger voters and college graduates in particular. So conducting approximately ten percent of surveys with 18-29 year olds is a reflection of this lower anticipated turnout among these less-enthusiastic voters. Besides, the fact that Obama backers have suggested that over sampling older voters skews results in favor of Mitt Romney is a striking revelation in a state like Pennsylvania known for having the 5th largest population of senior citizens in the country.”

It implies that 2008 was an anomaly that “peaked” when it was actually right within the historical norm and even on the low side. Exact numbers are used throughout the article but somehow 7% turns into “approximately ten percent” in this context. 7% is an absurdly low projection. The truth is that the relative number of young voters hasn’t changed much over time and it is unlikely to change much this year. The author doesn’t base his numbers on any actual polling. Instead it is all based on his apparent personal opinion that higher unemployment is going to cause young people to stay home in droves. There are just so many specious assumptions that go into this theory. First it assumes that the same person is less likely to vote if he is unemployed than if he has a job. No evidence is given to back this assumption. There are several reasons to believe the exact opposite. Second, it assumes that the unemployment rate of young people relative to older people is considerably different than it was 2008. Again, I don’t have the numbers in front of me but I don’t think this is true. If unemployment is a serious problem for turnout projections, then presumably it would also affect keep older unemployed workers home. Unless, there was a dramatic change in the relative number of young unemployed workers, it shouldn’t affect the relative number of young voters. Third, it forgets about the fact that the vast majority of people are not unemployed. Remember the change is not particularly dramatic.

The current unemployment rate is 1.5% higher than it was in 2008. Lets assume for the sake of argument that unemployment has been a much bigger problem among the young than among the old. I’ll say that unemployment has gone up by 3% among younger voters and 1% among older voters. I’ll also assume that unemployed people are 20% less likely to vote. That means that the net effect is that relative youth turnout should drop by 4/10 of one percent ((.03-.01)*.2). The pollster appears to be assuming that the same effect will cause a drop in relative youth turnout by over 61% (.07/.18)

There is just no evidence whatsoever that there will be any significant drop in youth turnout. He also appeared to significantly underestimate minorities and urban areas. This is really amateur hour. It appears that the poll sponsor wanted a pro-Romney result and was willing to fiddle with the demographics as much as needed to get to the bottom line result he wanted. This is a textbook case of changing the evidence to match the conclusion instead of using the evidence to reach a conclusion.

On a macro level, I think people might be a little bit quick to write Romney’s political obituary. He is clearly very far behind, but he could catch up. Pennsylvania is probably out of reach but other states aren’t. If you are a Romney supporter, you need to be realistic. You still have a chance but it is a small one and making up numbers won’t improve your chances at all.

Still, the bottom line is that pollsters are supposed to be neutral and use realistic assumptions. This pollster is clearly not neutral. He can’t accept the fact that young people are telling him they are planning on voting for Obama so he is making up absurd reasons why they won’t vote at all. When the youth turnout eventually comes in the same narrow window it always does, I think he should be forced to explain exactly why he was so confident that they would be so severely underrepresented.

Let me also point out that the reason why the ’80 and ’84 youth turnout percentage was higher was because the baby boom meant that young people were a greater percentage of the overall population.

Young people have never voted as much as old people, but the percent of them that vote relative to the percent of the overall population that votes is remarkably stable.

what was the % of youth turnout in PA in 2010? Take a guess.



Midterms are always going to get lower youth turnout. Its a simple fact that people who vote less than others will usually vote even less during midterms. The relevant comparison is to presidential elections. Even using the midterm comparison though, it should be noted that it is still nearly double the percentage that Susquehanna seems to think is appropriate for 2012.

thanks for the cbsnews link to 2010

looking at the link, the partisan spread in 2010 was D 40/ R 37/I 33. so a spread of D + 6 seems about right

and another thing: looking at the Senate Race stats, 50% decided in the last month, and 35% in the last week prior to the election

I wouldn’t get too confident one ay or the other until about 2 weeks prior to the election based on this.

Would you?

Neutrality is a myth, Jeff. All pollsters approach data from a preconceived political narrative about the world and modify them accordingly. Republicans think it’s just ridiculous that anyone could even think of voting for “Obumer” and so seek to downplay enthusiasm. Democrats think it’s just ridiculous that anyone could even think of not voting for the icon of racial progress, and so play up enthusiasm.

The data are merely pawns in the defense of our chosen political narratives. To claim that when others fail to meet your standards they are violating some principle of objectivity is to fall into a philosophical trap the academy has long abandoned and seen as false. What everyone in our world means by “neutral” is “my way of viewing the world.” In fact, those who claim neutrality are often those who are seeking the most to exert power and influence over others, rather than having them come to see some “reasonable” position.

Your political narrative is pretty clear–as is your bias for President Obama and his reelection. This is why you move to “macro” observations that seem to have little to do with a useless poll, and feel it necessary to paint a bleak outlook for those you oppose. The difficulty here, given the history of polling in this country, is that the situation is highly unpredictable. It is far too early to call given that none of the general debates have taken place. Your narrative drives your macroscopic preferences–the defeat of Romney–not the evidence itself.

Not at all. I don’t think neutrality is difficult at all. I think I could reasonably easily come up with a projection for the percentage of youth turnout. I could also do it for the percentage of minority turnout and all of those other categories. If you reread my post, you’ll see that what I’m saying is the percentage of people from each demographic group that votes is extremely stable. Its just how they vote (what polls are for) and how much they represent of the country (Census data) that changes. I think that a pollster can maintain neutrality fairly easily. He just asks the questions and doesn’t try to fiddle with the demographic percentages.

I also would note that saying something is more likely or not more likely doesn’t change it. Romney can come back. He can win this. If this was a baseball game, I’d say his odds were about the same as a team down by 1 after seven innings. A comeback wouldn’t be at all surprising but the odds are still against it.

There are certain people out there that are saying that its like he is down by 10 in the bottom of the ninth. He clearly isn’t. I don’t think this is over at all, but I do think the polls (at least the honest ones) clearly show Obama is winning.

BTW, I don’t think i’m biased at all. Somebody could just as easily put out a poll showing that Obama is running a dead heat in Texas. All they’d have to do is inch down the turnout among senior citizens and whites to unrealistic levels. I would call bullshit on that as well.

A survey earlier this year of 16,000 voters age 18-25 showed that they are MUCH less likely to vote in 2012. Obama’s support among those who intend to vote breaks along racial lines. He gets 95% of blacks in this age group, 70%+ of hispanics, but only 49% of whites. Over all he wins this age group 48%-45% with the rest undecided. He won this age group more than 2-1 in 2008. Don’t look to the young to save him, about 30% of those that voted in 2008 say either they aren’t voting or it is unlikely they are going to vote. At best he’ll win a much smaller turnout narrowly and he may well lose it narrowly.

Your language and tone betray your Repub leanings. Of course it is unlikely that the young people (who are predominantly for Obama) will turn out in the same numbers as they did in 2008. But you say that you will “[over]sample Republicans one or two points higher than in 2008 if you believe as we do that voter turnout this November will have little resemblance to the last presidential election. ” To say it will “have little resemblance” to the 2008 turnout is overstating it. It ill be closer to 2008 than to 2004. Your bias and wishful thinking is creeping in. Obama will end up winning Pennsylvania by a comfortable margin, between 8% and 12%. One of the pertinent facts you completely ignore is that Pennsylvania is one of the few states left with almost no early voting or absentee ballots allowed. It is almost all on Election Day, period, and the DEMOCRATIC ELECTION DAY GET-OUT-THE-VOTE-MACHINE IS FAR SUPERIOR TO THAT OF THE REPUBLICANS. *** I find it interesting that you felt this was not even worth mentioning.
If the Mitt Romney campaign wastes millions in Pennsylvania on ads and getting out the vote, he will be throwing his money away. Which I think is great.

True enough ….Romney is going to lose BADLY ; worse than McCain

Exit polls and pre-election voter identification are two different things. You can’t use the exit poll margins from prior elections to evaluate party identification this year. For example, Obama won by 7% in 2008, but polls prior to the election found a larger gap, even though they predicted the final Obama-McCain result pretty well. Gallup found a 12% advatage for democrats in its final pre-election poll. Pew showed 11% more.

Keep kidding yourselves; the Romney campaign has clearly conceded the state. If you’d taken the trouble to look at ad expenditures you’d know this.

I tend to see a blended model for 2008 turnout. Keeping some of the higher minority turnout levels, but not at the 08 levels, a lower youth turnout, and a higher Republican turnout. I would peg it much closer to the 2000 election or even to 2004 than to 2008. Amusingly their results show the exact same results as 2008. It’s just comical how ridiculous they sound saying that. If they showed a 5 or 6 point lead, I would buy into it under the presumption of higher minority turnout, but an increased R turnout model, yet they don’t. So amusing.

lib’s old problem: going back to a pre 9/11 school of thought.

lib’s new problem: they are still living in 2008, without learning anything from the 2010 congressional elections. 2010 was not a “bump in the road.”

[…] pollster wrote a detailed explanation here, which is worth a read. It boils down to this: SP&R considers voter turnout from the Obama wave […]

[…] pair of recent presidential polls by Voter Survey Service find an extremely close race in Pennsylvania, with President Obama leading Mitt Romney by just 48% […]

There is another factor that is coming into play and that is a demographic shift. The only urban area of PA that did not see a serious decline was Philadelphia. All the other area have seen significant decline and the vast majority of the individuals who have left were Democrat. The ratio is about 70-30. Harrisburg, York, Reading, Lancaster, Pitttsburgh, Altoona, etc. have all lost heavily and a detailed look at the census reports indicates the drop is about 250,000. For example, York has seen its population decline to 27,500 from 44,500 in 2000. In 2008, 23,500 people voted in the city, but recent voter roll purges have brought the total number of voters down to 17,900. The difference is virtually all democrat. Harrisburg has declined to 47,000 from 72,000 and 40% of its registered voters have disappeared from the state. With a genuine decline in small but important Democrat strongholds, Obama has become every more dependent on Philadelphia.

The only part of the state that is doing well is the western regions with shale gas which has hired tens of thousands. The attacks on coal and on shale gas (EPA is going to try to shut down fracking after the election) are known and campaign promises don’t blot out the fact that Texas money and attitude is booming in Pittsburgh. Another factor is the “Sandusky” effect. Outside of Philly, Pennsylvania is one of the most religious states and the Sandusky arrest and trial have had a genuine impact. Coupled with Obama’s switch to pro-gay marriage, there will be a suppression of support for Obama. If Philadelphia could turnout like 2008, Obama would have a reasonable chance. However, the voter ID law has had a real impact. Only one provision dealt with the photo ID’s, the other 3 major sections dealt with other reforms and it is likely they will not be part of an injunction. They include stepped of polling area security (ala New Black Panthers) and limits on the Democrat’s use of muscle to intimidate Republicans in Philly. Detailed state wide standards and procedures for provisional balloting to prevent abuses typically found in Philadelphia such as including the ballots before any review, storing them in a lock box before and after the count, and establishing uniform procedures to challenge a voter and force them to use a provisional subject to review. The last reform was a requirement for all counties to purge the voter rolls or the State can step in and do it. Philly has not purged in well over 20 years and a post 2008 audit found 12% of registered voters were dead, illegal, incarcerated, or non-resident for at least 8 years. 2700 people who voted in Philly in 2008 used home addresses where the houses had been torn down more than 20 year prior to the election. If the voter purge and increased security are in place, it is estimated that the democrats will loose another 200,000 votes even if Philly has a turnout of 68%. it is estimated that turnout will be around 64% in Philly so Obama has a problem.

lastly, the mortgage foreclosure impact has abated in most of Pennsylvania, but it is increasing in the SE Philadelphia region. Real estate held until last spring, but has declined rapidly this year in most of the SE. Races that were thought to be tossups or favor Democrats in the Philadelphia suburbs are now shifting toward Republicans. The Philly Inquirer polling was concentrated in this 5 county SE area with 75% of respondents located here. If Obama had the same support as 2008, he should have had better numbers than 11 percent since he won the region by well over 18%. his support in Philly is also softening due to his gay marriage position. all the indications are that Romney is neck and neck with Obama.

[…] pair of recent presidential polls by Voter Survey Service find an extremely close race in Pennsylvania, with President Obama leading Mitt Romney by just 48% […]

As I understand it, this pollster is saying that their own preconceived model of voter identification and turnout is more valid that the results they are hearing from the people they are polling. And they seem determined to apply this rigid model even as the electoral climate has gone through radical changes following the convention, Romeny’s 47% and other bloopers, and rising concerns over threats posed by the GOP to Medicare and Social Security. The flawed methodology rather candidly displayed above explains why I consider it better to go with an average of different pollsters’ results. If this pollster is employing a flawed model, as I think they are, and if another pollster is employing a flawed model that favors Obama, as some possibly are, then they will cancel each other out. And the mulitple other polls, clustering to ne side or the other of the truth, will combine to suggest a reasonably accurate result.
The current RCP average for PA favors Obama by 8.0% This includes Susquehanna’s +2 as well as other polls showing Obama at +7, +12, +9, +12, +6, and +8. Let me make four quick points: 1) Nobody shows Romney ahead, 2) If Obama wins by +2% (or even by one vote), they he still wins PA, 3) Susquehanna not only looks like an outlier, but an extreme outlier, since all the other polls are clustered between +6 and +12, 4) The Romney campaign has pulled out of PA.

If Romney’s team really believed that they were competitive in PA, wouldn’t they be competing for those crucial 20 Electoral Votes? I think my 4th point is the most telling of all. Not even Romney’s team believes the Susquehanna poll.

[…] several others released in recent weeks; pollster James Lee explained his firm’s methodology in this essay. Essentially, the firm gives more statistical weight to its sample based on Pa.’s demographic and […]

[…] several others released in recent weeks; pollster James Lee explained his firm’s methodology in this essay. Essentially, the firm gives more statistical weight to its sample based on Pa.’s demographic and […]

[…] data, outside observers dismissed it as an outlier and moved on.  Chief pollster Jim Lee penned a compelling memo defending his methodology and assumptions, but it garnered little notice.  When a separate […]

[…] pollster James Lee has explained that his firm uses a turnout model based on 2004, when George W. Bush came within 2.5 points of […]

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