How Not to Predict Election Results

Fact: The final Reuters/Zogby poll in California, published the day before the Super Tuesday primary in that state, had Mitt Romney up by seven points on the Republican side, and Barack Obama ahead by 13 points in the Democratic primary. In fact John McCain won by eight points, and Hillary Clinton by 10 points.  According to an attempted explanation by John Zogby, “Some of you may have noticed our pre-election polling differed from the actual results.” 

Analysis: From my old political-involvement days, I have lots of friends who have been working on various presidential campaigns this year; several are still active – some on McCain’s staff, and one is with Hillary Clinton (having led her to an upset victory in California, and now her honcho in Texas).  Bipartisanship in practice!  But I can’t trust what they tell me, and each side tells me a lot about what’s purportedly “going to happen.”

Thus I’m following the back-and-forth closely. One way to do that is to try and cut through the fuzziness of the polls as they’re reported. Two excellent sites for doing this are SurveyUSA and RealClearPolitics.  The latter is my preferred source, because they do a lot of charting and numbers-analysis which saves the hurried reader time.

One of my favorite blogs, the Wall Street Journal’s “The Numbers Guy,” wrote recently about several inadequacies of polls and the shortcomings of poll-averaging and other techniques, and it’s worth a read if you have a skeptical approach to the numbers bandied about in the media.

If you’re really short on time, or just curious: you can just click this link and find out the 2008 results ahead of time, courtesy of the fine folks at The Onion.

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3 Responses

  1. Hilarious video!

  2. Predict election results via bread machine?

  3. Predict election results via magic bread machine??

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