The Polling Spread In Ohio: Is It Real?

Over the last few months, there has been a raging debate over the demographics that most of the pollsters are using both nationally and in state polls. As the race has narrowed down the stretch, this has become particularly relevant in Ohio, which is likely to be the decisive state if the election turns out to be a nailbiter.

Out of the last 19 polls of that state, the breakdown has been 14 (Obama) vs. 4 (Ties) vs. 1 (Romney).

The good news is that the one Romney victory was the latest poll, by Rasmussen, which had Mitt up 50-48.

Can you say mo-men-tum, boys and girls?

I knew you could!

But, here’s the real question: How many of those other polls only had Obama ahead or tied because the samples were so heavily weighted in his favor?

Best guess?: A lot of them.

Let’s begin with Public Policy Polling (PPP ) which showed on October 28 that Obama was leading 51% to 47% over Romney.

A closer look at the data shows that Democrats were oversampled by a whopping 8% (D+8). Women were also oversampled by the same 8% (W+8). Crosstabs within the poll show 88% of Democrats choosing Obama and 55% of women. You can see how this skews the results when you oversample by such a large amount.

Now we’ll take a look at the Gravis marketing results released October 28 that has Obama leading Romney by 50% to 49%. Not bad… a lead is a lead, right? Not so fast.

Gravis Marketing also oversampled Democrats by 8% (D+8). They also oversampled women by 6% (W+6). Crosstabs within the poll indicate 83% of Democrats and 53% of women selecting Obama. When you take this raw data into account that they oversampled, but not to as great of an extent, this Obama +1 compared to an Obama +4 seems very reasonable.

The third Ohio poll released on October 28 is from the Cincinnati Enquirer . They showed things all tied at Obama 49% and Romney 49%

This poll oversampled Democrats by just 3% (D+3). When it comes to gender-bias, to their credit they stated: “The data were weighted to correct for potential sampling bias on gender and region of residence for respondents.” Now that is how to properly correct for oversampling.

To summarize all three polls:

PPP Obama +4: D+8; W+8
Gravis Obama +1: D+8; W+6
Cincinnati Obama-Romney Tied: D+3; W+2*
*Women are 51% of the Ohio registered voters, thus a W+2 assumed for a gender-corrected result.

If we go back to the 2010 elections, we see that the registered voters in Ohio broke down slightly in the favor of Republicans or an R+1.
Even if the demographics have changed from an R+1 and were corrected to anywhere up to a D+2, it is apparent that all three polls would show a Romney lead. I promised you that you wouldn’t need to use your calculus to know what to look for in the raw data of a poll to determine the relevance.

First of all, as was noted in the beginning of the post, many of these pollsters seem to be assuming that the composition of the electorate in 2012 will be roughly as favorable for Obama as it was in 2008. Setting aside the fact that 2010 was the GOP’s best election cycle in the last half a century, 2008 was a wave election for the Democrats and there is absolutely no evidence that the electoral landscape looks anywhere near as favorable today for them as it did in 2008. Perhaps even more bizarrely, no one has offered up any sort of credible explanation for how the wind could be blowing this ferociously at Obama’s back without any of the signs that we saw in 2008 being present. It’s not happening.

Then there’s: this trend in Ohio that we’re also seeing nationwide.

Romney is up big with independents: In 2008 Obama beat John McCain by 8 percent among independents in Ohio. Of the seven current RCP polls that give independent numbers, Romney is up by an average of 8.7 percent…That’s a 16 percent swing in independents toward Romney from 2008′s numbers.

Last but not least, it’s worth noting that Barack Obama absolutely annihilated John McCain when it came to early voting in Ohio. How decisive was it? Well, if only the votes cast on Election Day had counted, McCain would have won the state.

So, are we still seeing that kind of enthusiasm on the ground for Obama in Ohio?: Not hardly.

Take this quotation, from CNN today: “Four years ago, Democrats made up about 42 percent of the early and absentee vote while Republicans made up 22 percent. Through Wednesday, however, the margin has narrowed: Democrats account for 36 percent of the early and absentee vote while Republicans make up for 29 percent.” The current polls have been seriously inflated for Democrats because they’re reporting Obama with 30+ percent leads in early voting (which is then automatically counted in “likely voter” samples), which seems to be vastly overestimating the Democratic advantage among these voters.

At the end of the day, maybe these pollsters will turn out to be right. Maybe there’s a massive movement out there for Obama that is invisible to the naked eye. But, I wouldn’t bet the farm on it because if the race does come down to Ohio, Mitt looks to be in pretty good shape right now.

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