Is It A Sure Thing Republicans Take The House?

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Democrats, Elections, Polls, Republicans

Well, of course the answer is no and Nate Silver offers five reasons why. I’ll summarize here, but you should really check out this blog post. It’s pretty long, but a great read. Of course it will all be null and void in about four hours.

Reason #1 – The Cell Phone Effect:

This one is pretty simple, really: a lot of American adults (now about one-quarter of them) have ditched landlines and rely exclusively on mobile phones, and a lot of pollsters don’t call mobile phones. Cellphone-only voters tend to be younger, more urban, and less white — all Democratic demographics — and a study by Pew Research suggests that the failure to include them might bias the polls by about 4 points against Democrats, even after demographic weighting is applied.

Reason #2 – The “Robopoll” Effect:

Automated surveys, while they have performed fairly well in the past (although in the past, importantly, they did not show these systematic differences from regular surveys), have a number of potential problems that essentially boil down to extremely low response rates, which could potentially bias the samples. For instance, it may be that only adults who are extremely engaged by politics (who are more likely to be Republican, especially this year) bother to respond to them.

Reason #3 – Gallup’s Methodology:

Gallup’s traditional likely voter model has consistently shown terrible results for Democrats this year, having them down by around 15 points on the generic ballot, which could translate into a loss of 70 to 80 House seats, or maybe even more. The Gallup poll and the Gallup poll alone is probably responsible for much of the sense of impending doom that Democrats feel and the (premature for at least 24 more hours) sense of triumphalism that Republicans are experiencing.

Reason #4 – Dems Superior GOTV Operation:

This is always what a party says when it’s about to lose an election: our amazing turnout operation will save us! Still, Democrats probably do have an edge in this department with the voter lists and infrastructure they built up during Barack Obama’s campaign, and which have been perpetuated to some extent by Organizing For America. John McCain, by contrast, eschewed his ground game, devoting almost all of his money to advertising.

Reason #5 – Polls May Be Flawed:

It seems like the evidence that Republicans will win the House is very rich, redundant and robust. Look at this generic ballot poll! Look at this other generic ballot poll! Look at how badly Democrats are doing among whites. Look at how they’re doing among independents! But all of these indicators are, in fact, highly correlated with one another. They’re all rooted in the polling, and they’re all dependent on the polling basically being accurate. There’s not much diversity at all: it’s just different manifestations of the same thing.

By the way, I don’t think this is going to happen. Nor is this some wet dream of mine. But I think the cell phone argument is more compelling this time around.

Your thoughts?


This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010 and is filed under Democrats, Elections, Polls, Republicans. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Responses to “Is It A Sure Thing Republicans Take The House?”

  1. Tweets that mention Donklephant » Blog Archive » Is It A Sure Thing Republicans Take The House? -- Topsy.com Says:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by CaliforniaVoter, Ellen. Ellen said: Is It A Sure Thing Republicans Take The House?: Well, of course the answer is no and Nate Silver offers f… http://bit.ly/aTtBXF [...]

  2. Simon Says:

    This is a good example of the economic concept of rational ignorance. It would be irrational for me to invest the necessary time to Silver’s (presumably excellent) analysis when the return on investment is so low: we will know the answer in four hours, so the value of speculating on the result is next to nothing. The die is cast. Have patience.

  3. tully Says:

    my thoughts? de nile is not just a river in egypt

  4. mw Says:

    @Simon
    That was a wise non-use of time. This post is already obsolete. Both MSNBC and FOX have made the call that the Republicans have won the house. MSNBC says 237 – 198 GOP. This is kind of interesting, since here in California, the polls are still open. I’m surprised they made the call so early. One of the worries of the Dems on the left coast, is that early indicators of a wave would depress the voting in Ca. Hope for Carly???

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