Why the Polls are Wrong

Today I witnessed a completely anecdotal event that lends credence to my notion that Coakley will stun the pollsters tomorrow. One of my employees, who had not voted in several cycles, received a phone call from her mother “ordering” her to cast a ballot tomorrow for Martha Coakley. Mind you that this woman last voted with Bill Clinton in office, but tomorrow will vote for Martha.

What I suspect, although I have no real evidence, is that most of the polling outfits are weighting their polls based on “likely voter” numbers that are at least a few days, if not a week or two, old. If so, this is a fatal flaw in the polling models. The “likely voter” numbers are shifting as we speak.

It is my belief that everybody who is going to vote for Scott Brown was well motivated by the end of last week, when the latest round of polling began. I find it truly difficult to believe that there has been a huge defection of likely Coakley voters in just the past few days, which is what most of the polls seem to be suggesting.

Instead, I believe that the percentage of Coakley voters has increased dramatically in the past 72 hours, which is not reflected in the weighting of the most recent polls.

We saw a similar situation in the NY 23 congressional race, where the final polls failed to predict a large turnout of the Anti-Anti vote. The establishment majority freaked out at the last minute when the polls said the arch-conservative tea-bag-backed candidate was going to win huge, and the Dem won instead.

I am seeing and sensing a lot of that “freak out” among Massachusetts Dems and liberals who probably would not have voted tomorrow if the polls showed Martha ahead.

Remember, there has not been a tight race, with national significance, within Massachusetts since…. I don’t know when. Obama, Kerry, Gore, etc… all had Mass sewn up long before the polls opened. This is the first time in almost a generation that Mass Dems have been forced into a corner on the national stage.

I’d bet a pitcher of beer that we rise to the occasion.

That said, I am not confident, not at all, about this race. But I am not pessimistic either. I’ll definitely be up late.

**** Sub prediction – Should Coakley pull it off, look for the wacko-right wing to start gnashing their teeth about voter fraud, ACORN, the SEIU, etc… It will be very ugly.

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31 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. You, sir, are an optimist.

    And I sure as hell hope you're right.

    • From your keyboard

      to [insert deity or lack of one here]'s ears.

      I too am getting the sense of motivated voters who might not have otherwise showed up, actually getting to the polls for Martha.

  2. In NY23 the polls were mostly taken prior to big things.

    Prior to Scozzafava dropping out. Prior to Scozzafava endorsing the Democrat.

    Maybe Obama swining by MA is also a big enough deal that it matters, but I don't get that feeling.  Also, Joe Kennedy doesn't have the level of support Scozzafava did, and he hasn't endorsed Coakley.  If anything he gave a somewhat endorsement to Brown.

    • The day before the election....

      ... but well after the shake-up, Nate Silver saw things very differently.


      His odds on Owens were worse than he has on Coakley.  The intangible factors simply cannot be quantified.

    • We had 60 people at our house yesterday phonebanking for Coakley

       - including John Walsh  (yes, he made calls.) Those are presidential campaign type of volunteer numbers. People sat in every room, in my large hall closet (a lesbian friend, no less), laundry room, and on the stair landing.  One thing I'm sure of, if Coakley voters don't turn out, there wasn't much more we could have done to remind them of the election and its importance.

      I would so love a good win and an early night tonight.  

  3. Polling

    Instead, I believe that the percentage of Coakley voters has increased dramatically in the past 72 hours, which is not reflected in the weighting of the most recent polls.

    That's the one thing that could save this thing for Coakley. The pollsters have been using the same weighting all along, assuming that the independents will be more Republican-leaning than in a typical off-year or Presidential election. It does seem that turnout will be a lot higher than it seemed it was going to be only a couple weeks ago. Of course, much of that depends on the GOTV efforts!

  4. Fingers crossed that you're right! n/t

  5. Listen to how the Democratic mind thinks...

    Polls showing Martha up are correct and wonderful while polls showing Scott Brown leading are WRONG. Listen to the diatribe coming out of John Kerr's mouth about Scott Brown's nasty tactics while even national Democratic MSM types are commenting on the invective of MArtha Coakley's ads and the amazing amount of negative ads she has made. SHE is the one taking the low road while Scott Brown has maintained and run a great campaign taking the high road at ALL times.

    Brown has a great shot at this and the Republicans and unenrolled voters of MA have never been more electrified and motivated to go out and vote. The weather will not effect out team but I think Martha's people may be as tentitive about the weather as she was...

    "... standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?''


    • Considering that the GOP has...

      ... for years claimed that polls are weighted towards Democrats, not to mention the fact that they use this excuse every time a Republican beats the odds, I find your comment amusing.

      • If I can amuse you then I am happy.

        I will be happy thinking about you and "your" polls tonight at Scott Brown's victory party... very happy!

    • If anything...

      ...we've been taking polls showing Brown up quite seriously, but also as a motivating factor.

    • If anything...

      ...we've been taking polls showing Brown up quite seriously, but also as a motivating factor.

    • Um.. yeah., AND....?

      Listen to how the Democratic mind thinks... (4.00 / 1)
      Polls showing Martha up are correct and wonderful while polls showing Scott Brown leading are WRONG.

      Yes. Why is this as surprise in a state where every other Republican ever to run has made some form of acknowledgement of the liberal tendencies of the state... Scott Brown has made NONE whatsoever.  Instead he's running the textbook generic far right candidate.  

      Let me remind you that Scott Brown is one of only 5 (five) State Senators in the State House. This fact alone ought to put 'how the Democratic mind thinks' in perspective.

      • He is, but he keeps...

        ... repeating the word 'independent' as if repetition will make it believable.

      • $quot;...textbook generic far right candidate.$quot;

        He is running as a right candidate (as opposed to following the other successful statewide GOP election candidates like Weld, Cellucci (sp?)) but he keeps harping on the word 'independent' as if he were, or even could be in the context of being the minority party junior senator of the minority national party that, as a rule, doesn't let people stray from the script. Ezra:

        What they personally believe is not a very good guide to how they generally vote. There are differences at the margins, when few are paying attention, but on major issues, when the country is watching, there is virtually no difference between the voting records of the fifth most liberal Republican and the fifth most conservative Republican.


        ... The choice in Massachusetts is not between Brown and Coakley nearly so much as it is between a Democrat and a Republican.

  6. My prediction

    Whoever wins today will not win re-election in 2012.

    Brown will be defeated for re-election, or Coakley will get primaried.

  7. For the forst time in my adult lifetime...

    I am proud to call myself a Massacusettstian ( thanks MIchelle)

    When Scott wins today he will send a message to the power brokers that over tax and under deliver on Beacon Hill - that message is "Your Next"

    Scott will send a message that back door deals and favors for the "insiders" like Coakley are coming to an end.

    Scott, thanks for what you have done! You can change this State for the better by simply sending a message. I know your work in DC will help us in so many ways.

    Where do I sign up to help retire Lurch? That campaign will be a dozy

    • Their next what?


      • Beacon Hill?

        Apparently gp2b3a thinks Scotty is running for the State Senate. I say we play along and send him to Beacon Hill so he can get to work "sending a message" to the "insiders" instead of screwing things up on Capitol Hill.  

        • Reminiscent

          of a similar pro-Brown comment on the Lowell Sun's Topix discussion board. I can't find it now, but it also featured a claim that a Brown victory would "send a message to Beacon Hill." This may be a common confusion among his supporters.

          • Trouble is, it might just be a message to Beacon Hill

            Regardless of what happens today, I suspect a number of prominent Democrats can expect to face some enthusiastic challenges this fall.

    • your next or you're next?

      Might want to get that straight before "your" signs are printed or "you're" going to look silly.

      • Nobody will be awake, anyway

        It's going to be a "dozy" election, so people will have a touuzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....

        sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
    • P.S.

      You got two '0' ratings.  This post doesn't warrant a 0, or a 3 IMO.  So, I gave it a 4.

      I rarely rate posts to which I reply, especially ratings of 4 or lower.  But, since I do think it deserves a 4, and since a 4 brings up the average considerably, I figured what the heck.

      So, you new folks on BMG... welcome!  Please don't abuse the rating system!

  8. Recent polls are sketchy

    As someone who has done a fair amount of polling, I find many of these recent surveys sketchy, in part because they used Interactive Voice Response technology instead of actual interviews.

    I also find it interesting that John Zogby yesterday predicted a very narrow Coakley victory.

  9. took a look last night at adjusted poll numbers

    I did a rough re-adjustment of the polling numbers last night (don't have the file with me) as most oversample Republicans and and undersample Democrats, corrected them to the same proportions as teh BMG/R2K poll which seems most realistic for a general election. Assuming all the extra Republicans were voting Brown and the missing Dems were voting Coakley, the average of the 10 or so polls in the last week was Coakley 49 to Brown 51.

    So, if both groups of patrisans turn out in full force, and the independents go 2 to 1 to Brown, it looks like a neck and neck race. That said, I think the Brown campaign is still a lot more fired up and could pull it out, but the Democrats seem to also be going much stronger than a week ago.

  10. Female backlash?

    Amid the bad news on the polling front, I have one ray of hope that your anecdote supports.  I worked the 2008 NH primary for Edwards (yeah, yeah), and I got something of a feel for the largely female wave that confounded the polling and put HRC on top in the last couple of days.

    A lot of NH women then decided they were tired of men running HRC down and made the extra effort to vote for her.  MC has not put herself forth as a female icon in the same way, but there is no shortage of potentially offensive male sentiment behind SB to create a backlash...

  11. Enthusiastic voters where I vote

    I just got back from holding a Coakley sign outside my polling place.  Huge turnout!!! I have been holding signs for candidates at polling places for years, but never have I had such positive responses from the voters.  I know this is just one polling place, but it was very encouraging.  BTW, my town that usually votes with the state,

  12. it's axiomatic that the polls are wrong...

    ...when they don't agree.  Whey you have two polls saying two different things, one has to be wrong. At best, only one is correct, and it's equally likely both are wrong.  Four different polls with four different results. Same story.  Eight? Ten?   The more they diverge (within a given time frame) the more we can be certain of their uncertainty.

    but in classic (shell-shocked...) Democratic tradition, numeracy doesn't (shouoldn't?) stand in the way of a good panic.  It revs up the circulation, putting the old adrenals to a workout... I guess this is change of a sort since it used to be rage that got us all worked up.  

  13. Ed Rollins had it right

    That's old Republican strategist Ed Rollins, who once said:

    "Here in America, we hold elections to find out if the polls were right."

    True, that.


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Fri 21 Nov 6:47 AM