Given that this weblog is about politics and technology, we'll occasionally be delving into polling matters. Your author took a fairly active part in the exit poll and vote counting controversy over at DailyKos. My main schtick was to doggedly try and manage expectations. Among my main points:
Needless to say, my arguments were unpopular, but I was coming to the debate as a fellow progressive, and tried to back up my views with evidence. Also, I tried to show respect - I had no interest in mocking the people that disagreed with me, because these are causes that people invest their lives in.
The debates in the election aftermath seemed to follow a common theme, though. Generally, conclusions were outpacing fact-gathering. Conviction was outpacing education. And there was frankly a huge emotional component to it that would take a psychologist to unlace responsibly. Suffice it to say that people were, at times, replacing their grieving process with misplaced activism. This was very frustrating, even thought everyone on the progressive side was very disappointed with the results.
It didn't help that we were trying to wrestle with fairly dense subject material, like the techniques behind exit polling. My own arguments were regularly wrong, but I think they also tended to be closer to the truth than a lot of the theories out there.
First, the Social Science Resource Council (SSRC) has released a summary of the exit poll controversy named A Review of Recent Controversies Concerning the 2004 Presidential Election Exit Polls (pdf). It's informative, only 18 pages, and does not take sides - an excellent summary. It's a great way to avoid the monstrosity (pdf, 77 pages) that is Edison/Mitofsky's report on the same matter.
For those that want a super-brief summary, here is my take:
I personally support the release of the raw exit poll data. I wouldn't know what the hell to do with it, and I cringe at the thought of some of the self-professed statistical "experts" going through it, but I believe it would be worth it and would increase the public trust in our elections.
Second, many of you may remember a raging controversy among the progressive polling crowd, regarding the "weighting of Democrats versus Republicans". Polls would routinely come out showing Bush ahead of Kerry, and the criticism was constantly that the polling outfits simply asked too many Republicans what they thought, and not enough Democrats - which would inflate Bush's support and deflate Kerry's.
The problem is that some of the polling outfits would not release the party breakdown of their polls. That is changing. Mystery Pollster received this notice from Gallup:
As far as I know, Gallup has no history over the last 70 years of routinely posting the party ID composition of each survey we conduct, just as we routinely don't report ideology and a lot of other measures regularly asked in each survey. As noted, we send the party ID composition percentages to anyone who is interested (actually, we really don't get that many requests for them). But since this seems to be an area in which there is perhaps bourgeoning interest, we'll probably start posting them on our website for each survey, along with rolling trends and some explanations of how Gallup measures party ID and what it's significance is.
And this notice from Pew:
Given the evolution of the dialogue on the subject - for which MysteryPollster deserves a lot of credit -- and the greater understanding among political observers regarding the perils of weighting party ID to an arbitrary parameter (clearly illustrated by the party ID distribution on Election Day 2004), we will begin posting party ID and its trend in our toplines in future survey releases.
What's the irony about all this? Progressives were angry that the pollsters were not weighting their polls to historical Democrat/Republican percentages, where Democrats outnumbered Republicans. And then on Election Day, the breakdowns ended up being much more Republican than they were historically. So, before Election Day, the "Bush-biased" polls, while still biased towards Bush, were closer to the truth than we thought, anyway.
At any rate, the extra transparency is a good thing.
Posted by tunesmith at March 19, 2005 02:59 PM
TrackBack URL for this entry: