Home > Election 2012, Political Game-Playing > We Were Panicking?

We Were Panicking?

September 27th, 2012

I don’t think so, but Jamelle Bouie and Bob Moser seem to think that in 2004, we liberals were doing the same thing about polls that conservatives are now:

Around this time in 2004, liberals were panicking. The Democratic nominee for president, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, was lagging behind George W. Bush, who appeared to be on his way to a second term. This was baffling, and not in a Pauline Kael kind of way. It wasn’t so much that liberals couldn’t imagine the person who would vote Bush—at the time, it wasn’t hard to find a Bush voter—but that conditions were terrible, and it was a stretch to believe that America would re-elect a president who brought the country into two messy wars and the most sluggish economy since WWII.

Obviously, these liberals decided, the problem was the polls. A cottage industry of liberal bloggers and pundits arose to explain how “biased” sampling had skewed the polls. If you weighted Republicans and Democrats correctly, they argued, then John Kerry would be ahead. But that was missing the point. Pollsters don’t weight the partisanship of the electorate in one way or another. They simply survey a large, randomly selected group of people, and report their party identification. If there are more Republicans than Democrats in a collection of samples, it’s because there are more Republicans than Democrats.

Bush won, as you might recall. One lesson that emerged: The party that complains about the polls is one that’s about to have an unhappy election night.

Bouie and Moser, conspicuously, don’t offer any evidence to support their point, nor do they go much into the details. I wondered at the idea that possibly, I could have been guilty of dissing the polls just like conservatives are now. Fortunately, it turns out that I have a blog and can go back and check this stuff out.

So, what was the “liberal cottage industry” in poll-bashing? Were we all panicking because the polls were not favoring us?

Turns out, no. We were suspicious of the polls because the polls showed impossibly varying results:

One really has to wonder if the polls mean anything this year. Ever since the Republican convention, they’ve been going nuts. Just a few days ago Harris had Kerry out in front by one point. But now Gallup comes up and says that Bush leads by fourteen points. No way both are true, or even close to agreeing upon anything. Other polls show similar discrepancies. Kerry is at 41% or at 48%, Bush at 46% or 54%.

This was around the same time that the “cottage industry” supposedly erupted. Ironically, this “liberal” conspiracy theory was suggested by Rasmussen itself!

Concern has been growing over the quick-and-dirty post-convention polls from TIME and Newsweek which show Bush enjoyed a double-digit bounce. Not so fast, though; Rasmussen polls, tracking the numbers day by day, see only a 4 to 5 point lead over Kerry, which is backed up by reports of internal poll numbers from both campaigns. Rasmussen attributes the discrepancy between TIME & Newsweek and the new numbers to the news magazines’ giving more weight to Republicans’ responses in the polling data; the L.A. Times, apparently, made the same mistake by counting too many Democrats when the paper reported a huge Kerry lead earlier in the year.

Rasmussen’s article is behind a paywall, but there’s a reprint of it here.

So, were liberals acting the same as conservatives today? Hell, no. Back in 2004, we saw polls varying wildly, and a professional polling firm, the one conservatives today love best, pointing to inaccurate sampling. We also noted polls leaning too far toward a Democratic bias as well.

Now, in 2012, there is no professional pollster making any such claim, and the polls do not vary nearly as much; conservatives are simply unhappy with the numbers, and are making up complete BS about how it’s all part of a liberal conspiracy, despite the numbers being more or less backed up by similar polls from Fox News and Rasmussen.

In short, Bouie and Moser didn’t look closely enough and got the facts wrong. I suspect that they simply wrote their article based on vague rememberings or secondhand reporting instead of actually checking out the exact genesis of the “panicking.”

Interestingly, they claim that the accuracy of the polls liberals complained about was confirmed by the fact that Bush won. However, the polls liberals complained about had Bush ahead by double digits, and the ones we believed in more had Bush ahead by 4 or 5 points—and Bush wound up winning the popular vote by 2.4%. In other words, the final results were leaning even more toward Kerry than our “conspiracy theories” suggested!

What we seem to have here is yet another case of false equivalency. Liberal questioning of the polls was based upon professional analysis and included balanced views later confirmed by election results. Conservative questioning of the polls is based on nothing but desperation on top of the usual layer of self-serving whacko drivel.

Categories: Election 2012, Political Game-Playing Tags: by
  1. Troy
    September 27th, 2012 at 10:18 | #1

    Kerry finished one state away — 150,000 votes in OH — from winning, too.

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