Federal Review

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Landslide Scenario – Turnout Based

Posted on | November 6, 2012 | 1 Comment

It is a very real possibility that a serious of bad turnout models means that Obama’s support in the states is overestimated by as many as 5 points as explained here. If they are wrong across the board by 4 points, then here’s the landslide scenario that Michael Baron and Dick Morris (among others) must be seeing. Personally, I don’t see this happen, but I wouldn’t be shocked.  After all, the polls – though seemingly wrong – would still have been within the margin of error this map depicts. Granted, it would be a historic miss by the polls – but they’ve missed badly before.  1948, 1976, 1980, 1994, 2002, 2010.


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How the Polls Might Be Wrong 2

Posted on | November 6, 2012 | Comments Off

If the polls are off by 2.5 pts in Obama’s favor -a very real possibility as explained here – then here’s the map – Romney wins with 285-253.  Here’s the map.


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How the Polls Might Be Wrong (R337-O221)

Posted on | November 6, 2012 | 3 Comments

Everyone on the right is speculating that the polls must be wrong because many are predicting that the partisan turnout model to be similar to the 2008 election, when Democrats were energized and Republicans often stayed home.  This is an absolutely wrong assumption, they argue.  Besides, the polls – even in Ohio – regularly show a double digit Romney lead among independents.

So, I decided to look at the numbers.  Gallup had a poll showing a Romney lead of 7 (which has shrunk back to 1).  Yet Gallup predicts that turnout will be more heavily Republican than in 2008. Gallup expects the breakdown to be +3 for the GOP, yet conservatively is only modeling GOP +1:  Republicans 36%, Independents 29%, Democrats 35%.  To compare the numbers, I’ve taken the internals from the other polls.  They tell us the percentage of each party in the sample, and then how the self-identified Republicans, Independents and Democrats plan to vote.  For instance, most polls say Obama will win some Republicans and Romney some Democrats.  Where the full data isn’t given by a poll (I’m looking at you ABC/Washington Post who must have something to hide!), I’ve made some assumptions based on their reported result.

I demonstrated in a recent post how an NPR poll showing Romney with a 1 point lead was consistent with Gallup which showed a 5 pt lead.  It was all in the partisan breakdown, because NPR showed a lead for Romney among independents of 51-39, and partisan sample of Dem+6.5.  Plug those numbers into Gallup’s turnout model, and you get a Romney lead of 6.  Seems to be in the MOE of the Gallup poll (in fact, the 1 pt lead and 5 pt lead were within each others’ MOE too).  So, I took all the latest polls, worked them out with the Gallup turnout model, the 2008 turnout, the 2010 turnout and the 2004 turnout (also a very close election).  Here’s how those numbers look.

Taking an average of only those polls in November – Romney likely has somewhere between a 3 deficit and a 4 point lead.  2008 was a historic “wave” election – where GOP turnout was lower than normal and Democrat was higher.  No one in his right mind believes that same turnout will happen this year as the Romney Ryan ticket is much more acceptable to suburban voters than McCain Palin, they are drawing larger crowds than Obama Biden, and Obama and Romney have even favorable ratings (though Obama has higher negatives). In addition, the same polls getting the turnout model wrong also consistently reported higher definite and probable voters among Republicans and much more enthusiasm among Republicans. So, assume a more normal election turnout, I think it’s not unreasonable to see the 2004 model (close election, equally energized bases) or the 2010 model (recent and therefore indicative of the current voting attitudes which swept a Republican to a big win in a recall election in 2012).  Note that the CNN poll on October 28 showed a dead even race, but under the Gallup model and the 2004 model, Romney would have been in double digits – landslide territory.  There are no models even hinting at that possibility for Obama – thus giving some support to the Michael Barone’s of the world.

So, if the state polls have the same problem as the national polls and are off by as many as 4 net points, then Romney would win 337-201.  Early voting partisan ID has swung by as much as 14 pts in the direction of the Republicans, so this swing from the polling isn’t out of the question.


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Federal Review Composite Poll, Election Projection and Simulation

Posted on | November 6, 2012 | 1 Comment

As I’ve been doing since 2000 – before the RCP average was a glimmer in some political geek’s left brain – I present the Federal Review Composite Poll.  In 2000, 2004 and 2008 I kept a running update during the year, but just didn’t have the time to keep creating an electoral map, and my attempt at creating one in Flash or Java just never got off the ground.  Before presenting this year’s final numbers, let me briefly explain.  This is a weighted average.  The weighting isn’t ad hoc and subjective – there’s no secret sauce.  I merely weight each poll based on its sample size and mid-date of its sample time frame.  Early in the campaign, the polls are weighted so that the most recent week’s polls are averaged and weighted 1.5 times the average of the prior week’s polls, which are 1.5x the week before that.  If a pollster polls the same state 2 weeks in a row, that pollster is represented twice, but at different weights.  I don’t throw out the older poll because it still conveys relevant information – either a mere swing in the margin of error, in which case keeping the poll helps to balance out any error in the newer poll.  It also tells us if there’s movement in the race – but doesn’t allow the composite result to capture the movement fully until it is confirmed by other polling.

Now, at the end of the campaign, the time based weighting is more compressed.  The polls with a sample time frame mid point within a 4-day period (instead of 7 days) are averaged and weighted 2.5x the weighted average of the prior 4-day period.  Why 2.5x and and 4 days?  Because it most accurately approximates the final result in both 2004 and 2008.  And my track record is pretty good.  In 2004, the composite predicted a Bush win (while others were predicting Kerry), missing only Wisconsin, which I called for Bush with a composite result of less than +2.  Kerry won by 0.4.  In 2008, I missed Indiana (didn’t everyone?) and North Carolina in my published results. I would have called NC for Obama, but I didn’t believe my numbers, thinking that a recent poll was overweighted – so I adjusted my weighting.  I’ve learned my lesson. In 2004, my average in swing states was an underestimate of Bush’s margin by 0.7, with the largest being underestimates of Bush by almost 5 points in Florida and 2 points in Michigan and Minnesota and Ohio. So, the composite poll, in reliance on pollsters and their models, has a slight pro-Democrat bias.  In 2008, the pro-Dem bias was smaller in swing states, only 0.4 because, I think, lower turnout in a blow-out election meant that the actual results were closer to the polling data.

I don’t use any special sauce, like Nate Silver at the New York Times and Huffington Post.  They both do something – that they don’t fully explain – with historical data related, such as partisan voter index (comparing how a statement like NC is about 8 points more Republican than the national popular vote, for instance), or they weight some pollsters lower because they’ve determined some “house” effects – that Rasmussen, for instance, tends to have a GOP bias (I’ve done my own analysis and find that Rasmussen is actually more inline with final results than the biggest offenders like PPP or Marist).  Nevertheless, I don’t adjust weighting because I just don’t like the pollster.

I also conduct a simulation of the electoral vote – some 16,000 trials based on a probability for each state generated from the composite number (as the mean), and the standard deviation of the polling.  Because my biggest error was a 5pt swing of Florida in 2004, any state where the composite margin is 6 or greater, that becomes 100% for the candidate leading. I don’t miss those. And if the polls show a lead of 6, there’s no point in generating a probability when we all know who’s gonna win. As a result, Romney has a 0% chance of winning Minnesota, and Obama has a 0% chance of winning Indiana.

So, who’s going to win?  My numbers don’t tell you who’s going to win.  And the dirty little secret that Nate Silver and the Huffington Post won’t tell you – because they are intent on driving their own narrative – is that their numbers don’t tell you either.  Why?  Because probabilities based upon normal distributions can’t be said to be statistically correct until you reach have confidence that the predicted result (i.e., n>2PM or n<2PM – where 2PM is two-party margin andnis the mean of the margins). It’s even more difficult when the data is a necessarily inaccurate measure of a non-static thing – in this case, changing opinion.  If opinion changes over time – then the mean necessarily moves more slowly than the actual changing opinions (hence my time based weighting).  As a result, you’ve have distribution unevenly divided around that mean.

Despite these limitations, I still use the normal distribution because otherwise I’d be guessing where the race is headed by making “adjustments” (cf Nate Silver, who’s polling averages shows a Romney lead in Florida Obama leading after “adjustments”).  My numbers are below – and I consider the race a toss-up for the reasons described – and because of my doubt about turnout models that I’ll explain in a later post.

The Composite Poll – the weighted average – shows an Obama win with 303-235 Electoral Votes and a popular vote that’s tied at 48.  I’ve also provided numbers assuming that the undecided voters “break” for the challenger 2 to1.  Despite this theory of a pro-challenger break, I’ve yet to see it.  With that “break”, Obama still wins 290-248.


click to enlarge

Karl Rove and Dick Morris argue that an incumbent will get on election day what he got in the last poll.  Well, let’s assume instead that Obama loses every state where his composite number is below 49.  In that case, Romney wins 275-263.  But with the probabilities projected by the model, the probability for an Obama win is about 80%, and for a tie is less than 1%.  Statistically, who wins is a toss-up, but you can confidently say there will be no tie.

click to enlarge


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NPR Poll Agrees with Gallup – Romney may be up 6

Posted on | October 30, 2012 | 1 Comment

NPR released its latest 2012 Presidential Poll, showing Romney with a narrow lead, 48-47.

Gallup, meanwhile has Romney up 51-46 as of the same date.

Why the difference?  NPR estimates that Democratic turnout will exceed Republican turnout by 6%.  Gallup says that Republicans will exceed Democrats by 1%.  Here’s how it breaks down.

So, the polls have the same results – just different ways of determining likely voters.  Who’s gonna be right?


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Newspaper Endorsements for President 2012

Posted on | October 28, 2012 | Comments Off

Many newspapers tend to endorse the same party’s candidate election after election – so it is instructive to see where editorial boards have moved from one party to another.  It’s even more enlightening during a reelection campaign if a paper endorsed the current president in the last election, but is making the case for his challenger this time around.

The following is a list of newspapers that endorsed Obama in 2008, but now endorse Romney.

The following is a list of newspapers that endorsed McCain in 2008, but now endorse Obama.

Finally, several papers aren’t endorsing this year.  Most endorsed Obama in 2008.

Sources:  http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/data/2012_newspaper_endorsements.php and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspaper_endorsements_in_the_United_States_presidential_election,_2012


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Did the Obama Administration Illegally Waive the Welfare Work Requirement? (Is the Romney ad a Lie?)

Posted on | August 30, 2012 | 3 Comments

They may as well have, because they have solicited requests for waivers from the work requirement, but they do not have the statutory authority to grant waivers from the work requirement. Let me walk you through the law. Bear with me.

The work requirement for welfare is laid out in Section 407 of the Social Security Act – and welfare is called “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families” or “TANF.” The Congress did not grant any authority to waive the requirements in Section 407. Section 402, however, can be waived. Here’s how HHS explains it: Read more


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Did they think they were still working for Bill Clinton?

Posted on | April 14, 2012 | 2 Comments

The New York Post reports that a dozen Secret Service agents sent to Colombia to provide security for President Barack Obama were returned home amid allegations of misconduct involving soliciting prostitutes.


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Mike Wallace, RIP

Posted on | April 8, 2012 | Comments Off

I predict that, even as we speak, dozens of political cartoonists have started sketching out the obligatory cartoon of Mike Wallace conducting a hard hitting interview of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates:

CBS newsman Mike Wallace, the dogged, merciless reporter and interviewer who took on politicians, celebrities and other public figures in a 60-year career highlighted by the on-air confrontations that helped make “60 Minutes” the most successful prime-time television news program ever, has died. He was 93.


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ObamaCare at the Supreme Court

Posted on | March 27, 2012 | 3 Comments

Let me try to put the primary issue in context.

Everyone should have access to health care, and access to health care requires people be able to pay for health care. The determination is made that the best way to be sure that you have the ability to pay for health care is to purchase health insurance.

So, everyone should have health care, says our elected leaders. So, how do we do it?

Well, if someone doesn’t have health insurance, or can’t pay, we should require hospitals and doctors to provide the care – at least that’s the thinking. But that costs the doctors and hospitals money. If they can’t make money, then they go out of business and no one gets health care. So, perhaps what we do is let people buy health insurance only when they need health care (evil corporations shouldn’t hold your current ailments against you even though it increases their costs and risks), so pass a law saying you can’t be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

But if you only buy insurance when you need it, then you haven’t been paying into the system previously, and thus the economic model for insurance can’t work, as insurance relies on having enough people pay into the insurance pool who never actually use as much of the cash as they put in, thereby subsidizing those who paid-in but pull out more.

But we’ve declared we don’t like uninsured people who can’t pay, because hospitals are still required to provide a level of treatment, and because those folks can’t afford long term care, they die early.  We don’t like that.

So, the government decides everybody should be able to pay and should have insurance, and we will subsidize those who can’t afford it.  This raises the demand for insurance, and insurance naturally raises the demand for health services.  If you have pre-paid for a service, less a minor buy-in of a co-pay or, for larger issues, a deductible, you are more likely to be sure to consume those services – without regard to price.  Thus, demand increases without regard to price (the economists say this demand is inelastic).  When demand increases, price increases as supply tries hard to catch up.

Similarly, when demand for insurance increases, price for insurance increases.  When government officials determine that everyone should buy a product, they know they are increases demand and that causes price to go up, so now we have to limit the price of what’s now demanded.  Limiting the price turns the provision of insurance into a losing proposition – insurance companies would go out of business and then only the rich can pay for health care (though, demand would drop too, thereby lowering cost, but no one seems to think about that).  So, to fix the problem government created by increasing demand, it needs to subsidize the insurance system by forcing low-risk people – those for whom it makes less economic sense – to buy insurance.

In short, government regulation creates an economic problem, which government tries to correct by forcing the purchase of a product.  The result of which may keep insurance prices down, but will do nothing for prices of actual health care, which will increase as demand increases.  But then government will fix that by either capping the prices of certain types of care, or by reducing demand by denying (or allowing or requiring insurance companies not to pay for) certain procedures. These would be your “cost control” or “death panels” (example, you here it today, should Dick Cheney not have been able to get a heart transplant because of his advanced age?).

Even simpler:

1.  Everyone should have health care.

2.  Everyone should be able to pay for it or there won’t be health care.

3.  Insurance is a good way to pay.

4.  Everyone should have health insurance, even if they are already sick and a higher risk – but not at a higher price that accounts for the higher risk.

5.  Health insurance costs too much as demand increases, so cap it and define the benefits so that everyone can afford it.

6.  Capping the price means there’s not enough money to pay for all these health services.

7.  Make low risk people purchase insurance when they normally wouldn’t so there’s more money in the pool to redistribute to the others.

8.  Health care demand increases, because more people have pre-paid for services by buying insurance.

9.  Increased demand for health care causes prices to rise.

10. Limit the demand and lower the cost by prohibiting the purchase of certain services in certain cases with that health insurance. (If you are rich, you can probably buy a longer life with your own money.)

11. Go to the Supreme Court and tell them that requiring people to buy insurance is a necessary and proper use of Congress’ power to regulate commerce because, otherwise, it’s other regulations of commerce will destroy the insurance industry.

12. Lose in the Supreme Court, run for re-election arguing that we tried to help, but the Supreme Court won’t let the government force you to buy insurance from private companies, but they’ll probably let us force you to pay the government to provide health care directly.

13.  Single Payer.


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