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Five States Where Senate Polls May Be Wrong

Bloomberg View Memo Pad Politics

Five States Where Senate Polls May Be Wrong


Oct. 28 (Bloomberg View) — What if the polls are wrong?

Plenty of races are tossups even at this late date, the polls tell us. But it’s possible that idiosyncratic elements in particular contests will make the sophisticated polling averages less reliable than usual, even if overall the opinion surveys turn out to be correct.* And we don’t know the political direction of the effect.

Here are five states most at risk for polling mishaps in their Senate elections, ranked from most to least likely. This doesn’t mean any of them will hold surprises once the votes are counted. It just means that right now there are reasons to look at the polls with some skepticism.

1. Georgia’s race might not end in a runoff. If it does, however, the early polls on the results of a possible runoff should be taken with a grain of salt — see a good rundown on this from Aaron Blake of the Washington Post. Polling works best when it’s about something voters have already decided; many people haven’t made choices about hypothetical elections weeks in the future, and their predictions about what they will decide don’t take into account a political context that hasn’t happened yet. This logic applies to Louisiana as well, but I suspect the Republicans have that one locked up.

2. Alaska is just plain hard to poll, thanks to its unusual political geography and demographics. While Republican challenger Dan Sullivan appears to have a small but solid polling lead, incumbent Democrat Mark Begich had large leads in two different surveys this week — probably outliers, maybe not.

3. Kansas, a very Republican state with a very unpopular Republican governor, features Republican incumbent senator Pat Roberts against an independent. Measurement isn’t the issue; it’s that voter preferences may be less stable than in a normal two-party contest.

4. Colorado has seen some recent polling mishaps, including in the 2010 Senate election when Democrat Michael Bennet pulled off a surprise. Pollsters there have been understating the Democratic share of the vote. That doesn’t necessarily mean we should expect embattled Democratic senator Mark Udall to outperform the polls. They may get it right this time. Or maybe the vote will break in the other direction if pollsters have overcompensated for those errors.

5. South Dakota may see something weird, as I’ve mentioned before. Even though the possible odd movement in that three-candidate race earlier this month has apparently dissipated, I’ll repeat: Multi-candidate races tend to be unstable, so sharp late movement remains possible.

Some of the same ideas apply in governor’s races. Premature runoff polls can be misleading. Multi-candidate or other unusual races are less stable than normal two-party competition. Alaska is hard to poll.

Increased uncertainty is, logically, good news for the candidate behind in the polls. But it also means that those prediction models converging on 52 Republican seats in the Senate could still be a few seats off — in either direction.

*Here I’m looking at individual states; a few weeks ago, I looked at the possibility that the polls in general could be less precise than usual. That’s not good news for either party, since polling errors could be in either direction.

Photo: U.S. Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado stumps before the appearance of First Lady Michelle Obama at a Udall re-election campaign rally in Denver on Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014. Obama visited Denver in hopes of turning a difficult race in Udall’s favor. (Kevin Moloney/MCT)

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  1. Eleanore Whitaker October 29, 2014

    Wake up voters! Some polls are deliberately skewed to make voters believe their votes are for naught. The secret operative behind skewed polls is to scoop up voters who have yet to vote in their state elections.

    Example: The states who have the earliest elections tend to influence voters in states with the latest elections. By the time Kansas, Iowa and Ohio votes are in, voters in other states figure, it’s a lost cause trying to vote out candidates of ill repute. So, they “go with the flow” in a kind of hopelessness and vote with the majority. Only a professional pyschologist can figure out why this mentality exists.

    However, it is a fact that the earliest elections in the states with the most electoral votes do influence latest elections in states with the least electoral votes.

    1. CHABSENTIA October 29, 2014

      Doesn’t need a Professional. They are lazy and use it as an excuse to rationalize no going especially if there is a football game etc. Most of them are clueless anyway and would have to make a decision once they get there and then they don’t have to explain to their friends who they voted for and why since they are clueless

      1. Eleanore Whitaker October 29, 2014

        Sorry, I don’t believe 99% of the US voting bloc are clueless. Not in today’s highly social media world. I think that many Americans adopt the attitude that the earliest voting states make all the decisions on winners of elections and there’s no point in fighting the issue.

        Kansas, Iowa and Ohio are prime states for this particular syndrome. We’ve all been polled to such extremes that it’s no longer possible to discern fact from political hype.

        There isn’t a single media titan today who wouldn’t be the first to put a few million into polls to skew poll results.

        1. plc97477 October 29, 2014

          I wouldn’t say 99% are clueless but one of the news stations did a poll and found that a portion of the polled didn’t even know there was an election this year. I wonder how much cutting education dollars has contributed to this problem.

          1. Eleanore Whitaker October 29, 2014

            I’d be careful of news stations today. Back in the 80s, I had occasion to avail my company of the services of Eagleton Institute here in NJ. It is one of the most unbiased in the country and yet few know its name.

            When I listen to NJ radio station 101.5, I hear bias to the GOP as thick as a winter blanket. Now, even NPR recently under the control of a media titan has begun to tilt to bias.

            In effect, media today is singularly the most mind bending effort to mind control there can be. What is broadcast is biased, using the most subtle mind controlling techniques like CIA and the Chinese brainwashing programmers would envy.

            Cutting edge education dollars have little to do with the deliberate 24/7 staccato bias in polls, media or news. It has to do with control freaks who believe they have a omnipotent power to control the rest of us…no matter to what low levels they must stoop to accomplish that.

          2. plc97477 October 29, 2014

            I think I heard about it on the Bill Maher show. I don’t know if he was just trying to be funny but I think it is at least close to the truth.

        2. highpckts October 29, 2014

          Really? Well I know quit a few young people that probably won’t vote because they are just too busy! I bring up topics they should be concerned about and they look at you like you are weird or something. They only vote if there is a local issue that will effect their taxes or if it’s Presidential! They are not concerned with abortion (they have kids), jobs,(they all have good jobs), immigration, global warming, SS, Medicare, etc.! They are just too busy!!

          1. Eleanore Whitaker October 30, 2014

            I was a member of the League of Women Voters a few decades ago. One of my duties was to teach young voters the importance of voting from their local level to the highest levels of importance. As such, I was exposed to the basic reasons young people don’t vote: disconnection.

            In the election of 2004, nearly 20,000 college age voters’ votes went unaccounted for at several major US colleges. In my state, Rutgers was one of those with a high number of complaints of votes not counted.

            We are all busy. We are not all distracted. Young people fall in line with peer pressure and trends. In my experience, young people can be very interested in all social issues and most are if you check the goings on at local colleges. You can’t find a single utility pole on a college campus that isn’t rounding up students for one social issue or another. This is the legacy left to them by the college age protestors of the 60s. Apathy is not as apparent in the young voter as might be imagined.

  2. Dominick Vila October 29, 2014

    Looks like The National Memo posted the same article twice.

  3. ram1020 October 29, 2014

    If 2012 is any indication, the Democrats may not be in trouble at all. The polls in 2012 made us believe the race was going to be close, and it really wasn’t. Look for Iowa, Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Kansas and Colorado, for whatever reason, to be less Republican than the polls indicate. Same goes for the governors races in Florida, Wisconsin, and Colorado.

  4. FT66 October 29, 2014

    I have been shaking my head since September when the fivethirtyeight started polling the pollsters. Am afraid to say this time Nate Silver will be skewed as well. He won’t be taken as he did in 2012. It is not his fault I have to admit, as he relies on polls he gets which are quite wrong. When some of the pollsters copy exactly the same polls others did before; when you witness in Red States (which means republicans per se) the Dem Candidate (those new and not incumbent) are performing few points ahead of a republican candidate while the President polls very low there, (we also take our own internal polls which are not included in Nate Silvers), how can anyone using common sense tell us republicans have momentum or have locked it up? As I mentioned earlier this week, this mid-term results of this year have to go into History Books. Tuesday night can’t come fast enough.

    1. Dominick Vila October 29, 2014

      I hope you are right.

      1. FT66 October 29, 2014

        You seem to doubt me whether I am right! All these will be proved out on Tuesday night.

        1. Dominick Vila October 29, 2014

          I have been a Democrat my entire life, and will remain a Democrat regardless of what happens in November. The reason I am so pessimistic is due to the fact that I live in a bright red district, and that half of my relatives are Republicans and already voted accordingly. Conversely, two of my Democratic relatives have not voted. One of them, if he even decides to vote, will vote for an Independent running for Governor. In part because he doesn’t like Charlie Crist, and can’t stand Rick Scott, and in part because he believes that even if Crist wins he will not be able to accomplish anything since the Florida legislature is 2/3 Republican. The other one, one of my grandsons, is so disillusioned that he could care less who wins or loses.

          1. FT66 October 29, 2014

            I get your point Dominick. You are living in Florida. Oh! Florida my favourate place to live in. What we are talking is about the entire nation. We tried to dig out the polls and seem are not right. We might be wrong . BUT final polls and reality comes on Tuesday night. We are all anxious to see whether the polls were right or were skewed up. Tuesday night will show us who was right and who was wrong.

    2. elw October 29, 2014

      I agree, the polls have been very wrong for quite a long time. I follow them because it is interesting to watch, but ever since they started averaging them I take what they say with a grain of salt. I think we will see far less change than they are predicting – certainly not enough to make a great deal of difference in what goes on in Congress. The next two years will have a Congress that get little done regardless who is control.

  5. kenndeb October 29, 2014

    IF you are tired of this “transparent” administration, all the power grabs by a corrupt government, and the loss of rights and freedoms, VOTE FOR THE REPUBLICANS. The republicans are near as corrupt as the democrats, but we have to STOP the liberal policies and agenda that is killing our country. We have to start by getting EVERY democrat OUT OF OFFICE. TAKE BACK OUR COUNTRY.

    1. FT66 October 29, 2014

      Oh! dear Kenny, You mean you don’t have your country? You need to have it back! May I know what country have you been living in Kenny? If you will continue using such a language, am afraid to inform you the country you always claiming is yours, will be gone forever and never come back to you.

    2. blueindy1 October 29, 2014

      Yeah boy, that’s the ticket. Put in all the corrupt Republicans so their “Trickledown” economics can pee all over us. Yeah, that’s it.

    3. highpckts October 29, 2014

      Oh that’s too funny!!

    4. elw October 29, 2014

      You would think that someone who thinks their party is corrupt would hardly encourage others to vote for them. If anyone is interested in what happen to a State that is managed by all Republicans, take a look at Kansas. Not a pretty picture when a State gets its credit down graded twice in a few months. If you think that good vote Republican, if you want to avoid that vote Democratic.

      1. kenndeb October 29, 2014

        Both parties are corrupt, as is our entire government. Unfortunately, the democrats have evolved under liberal rule into something much worse. If we have any chance of regaining control of our country, we need to get rid of all democrats and liberals, with their policies and agenda. I would also like to see ALL career politicians removed. The republicans are our best hope of stopping the decline of our country. Once we stop the liberal assault on our country, we can start removing those republicans that are also traitors . We have to start somewhere.

        1. elw October 29, 2014

          So basically you believe in genocide for everyone who does not agree with you. Your view of this Country is pathetic and paranoid. Fortunately, you will never get your wish and it will be up to the voters to decide who goes and who doesn’t – most of whom are Democrats. You are in the minority, get use to it or immigrate.

          1. towler October 31, 2014

            Who said anything about genocide? Get hold of yourself and your convoluted imagination. Your emotions are clouding your thinking. Poor Libby. You’re in for a big surprise come the midterms. Big surprise.

          2. elw October 31, 2014

            Is your comment suppose to scare me?

    5. BillP October 29, 2014

      It’s all of our country, Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, Conservatives and whatever else exists. I served in the military for this (my) country. I have worked and paid taxes in this (my) country and I will vote Democratic this election and the next and the next. The Republicans offer no solutions only lets repeal everything and give tax breaks to the wealthy.
      Blueindy your “trickle down” was great and sadly the truth.

      1. kenndeb October 30, 2014

        We are not so different. I served during Nam. I’ve worked since I was 12 to earn the money I wanted. I’ve paid taxes, served on juries, and have ALWAYS voted Democrat. Unfortunately, things changed once the Emperor started his second term. His lies and deceit were no longer cloaked. He blatantly defied our laws and constitution. At every turn, there was yet another scandal. And with every scandal there were more distractions away from the scandal, until the public forgot, or something bigger came to light. We have the most corrupt, dishonest administration in history. When the democratic party started to promote communist/socialist agendas, they lost my support. I will not vote for another dem until they rid the party of the radical liberals. Not a single American should support the liberal agenda of destroying our country. I will vote for republicans and conservatives until we can undo the damage done by this regime.

        1. BillP October 31, 2014

          No we are very different. You have expressed your hate and distain for President Obama. You resort to a juvenile trait of calling him the Emperor. Your claims of defying this country’s laws and Constitution are baseless. Calling this the most corrupt administration in US history so you lack of knowledge about US history, check out the Nixon administration, W’s wasn’t the cleanest either. I could go back to other prior administrations – Hoover, Harding, Grant, etc. for examples of corruption in the US government. You can vote for anyone that you choose to, that is your right just like I can vote for anyone I choose to. Telling me not to vote for a Democrat/Liberal is trying to stifle the guaranteed right to vote for whomever. You are a delusional, angry old man and it shows in your comments.

          1. kenndeb October 31, 2014

            I should have realized that you were beyond reasonable hope. I’m not the delusional one, nor am I an angry person. I suspect you have been brainwashed to the point of not recognizing reality. You might want to seek help for your mental affliction called liberalism, but I don’t think it can be cured. I am afraid for all of you that are so far gone once you are forced back into the shadows after November 4th. I know your messiah will not be helping you. So sad.

          2. BillP November 3, 2014

            Listen you make irrational and unfounded claims that the president is an Emperor or a Socialist or not American. You claim that the country has become a 3rd world country, that the dollar is tanking (contrary to the fact that the dollar has been increasing in value this year) and other ridiculous claims. You can’t stand the fact that the president isn’t a pure white man. You make statements that all Liberals are liars, a extremely dumb statement considering there are millions of Liberals in “our” country.
            You trolls like to talk about Liberals/Democrats being brainwashed but all I read on this site from you trolls sounds like the same brain-dead statements that aren’t backed up by provable facts but are spread throughout the ring wing bubble world. You trolls don’t want to have a dialogue, you just want to write ludicrous statements and pretend they are factual.

          3. kenndeb November 3, 2014

            Troll? Lies? I see you like to embrace the liberal way of resorting to name calling when you can’t come up with anything more that regime sponsored lies and propaganda. Instead, why don’t you try reading some more factual based sources other than those the regime approves of you reading? It may open your eyes to more than you want.

          4. BillP November 4, 2014

            And you tolls resort to claims of Liberals blindly following the president’s agenda while all I hear from you is right wing rants. Well when it comes to facts you once claimed that all the mass shooters were registered Democrats. This claim was shown to be totally unfounded. Two shooters were registered in Virginia where no party affiliation is needed to register, Va. has open primaries. Another was a registered alien so couldn’t register to vote in this country. One claim was that a shooter had voted for President Obama, how this was known was never explained especially since this country has a secret ballot. Your intelligent response was that you believe what you wrote even when your facts were proven to be inaccurate. You should follow your own advice and read from sources other than WND, Breitbart and other right wing sites.

          5. kenndeb November 5, 2014

            Funny how the MAJORITY voted to make Congress RED. Now we have a chance of saving our country from the failed and dangerous liberal policies and agenda.

          6. BillP November 6, 2014

            We will see what McConnell and Boehner do for the next 2 years. As for failed policies the ACA has been good in its 1st year, unemployment has moved down to 5.9%, there has been positive job #’s since 10/2010 while 4.4 million jobs were lost in W’s last year. The job lost continued till the end of 2009 then the #’s fluctuated till President Obama’s “failed” policies kicked in and the #’s have been positive since then. The US dollar has risen in value, I know you claim it’s tanking but on 1/1/2014 it took $1.41 to equal a Euro and as of 10/31 it took $1.25. Seems like a tank job.

          7. kenndeb November 6, 2014

            I guess you live in a place that still has rainbows and unicorns too. The unemployment rate is at least double what you say it is. The jobs rate is also skewed. More people are out of work than ever before, and those part time jobs really don’t count. Many industries and businesses have cut back on hours so they can stay under the minimum obamacare requirements. The dollar is tanking, along with the stock market. Both are artificially inflated to make things look good to the stupid peons that support the Emperor.
            As far as all liberals being liars, I’m sure hat is not true. There are always anomalies in any thing. It is, however, a proven fact that the Emperor IS a pathological liar, and a fraud. You are just too blind or stupid to be able to see.

          8. BillP November 7, 2014

            The reported unemployment rate is the U3 rate, has always been the reported rate. In 1/2009 the U3 rate was 7.8%, as of the end of 10/2014 it is 5.8%. The U6 rate in 1/2009 was 14.2% and it is now 11.5%. So by either measure President Obama is doing better than his predecessor but you don’t like to believe real facts. As for the # of jobs created, in W last year 4.4 million jobs were lost, another 4 million were lost through 10/2010, the majority lost in the 1st 6 months of Obama’s administration, now you can blame these losses on him but he was still dealing with W’s economic policies ( 2 wars + huge tax cuts). Since 10/2010 there are been positive monthly jobs numbers, totaling 9.99 million jobs. Again I know you will not believe these #’s, they must be lies. From the Bureau of Labor statistics “Both theunemployment rate (5.8 percent) and the number of unemployed persons (9.0 million) edged down in October. Since the beginning of the year, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons have declined by 0.8 percentage point and 1.2 million, respectively. additionally in October, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed at 2.9 million. These individuals accounted for 32.0 percent of the unemployed. Over the past 12 months, the number of long-term unemployed has declined by 1.1 million. (See table A-12.)

            As far as living in a world of rainbows and unicorns. your claim of the dollar tanking defies what the conservative Wall Street Journal is publishing along with any paper that publishes financial numbers. On 1/1/2014 it took 1.3743 USD to buy 1 Euro, as of 11/7 it takes only 1.2433, for the Pound it took 1.6512 USD to buy 1 Pound now it takes only 1.5847, for the Yen the #’s are .009498 but now only.008721. That would be viewed as increasing in value not “tanking” like you state. As for the stock market the Dow is 5.9% for the year, 113% since 1/2009, S&P 500 up 9.89% & 142% & the Nasdaq up 11% & 208%.

            You keep claiming these markets are “artificially inflated” though can you explain how this is done. None of the individual stock markets are Gov’t owned and neither is the Forex exchange. Again you can make any claim you want but the numbers are real and people are showing great returns on their investments in the stock market for their 401K’s SEP’s IRA’s and Roth IRA’s. You keep buying your smokes and beer. You are the one living in a dream world.
            Well you have call all Liberals liars on a number of occasions, are you retracting those statements? Keep believing whatever you want to about the president, it’s a “FREE” country.

          9. kenndeb November 7, 2014

            Yeah, yeah. The right are always wrong. Everything is Bush’s fault, and the Emperor can do NO wrong. Consider you are getting all your data from the regime. Consider that the formula to calculate this regime sponsored data has been changed to make things look good to the mindless peons like yourself. Nah, you are too blind and stupid to even consider anything opposed to what you are told to believe.

          10. BillP November 7, 2014

            You have to be the most ignorant and uniformed troll on this website. All you can do is claim “the formula to calculate this regime sponsored data has been changed to make things look good to the mindless peons like yourself.” You “NEVER” offer any data or proof to back up your idiotic claims. You lack the knowledge or understanding as to where this data is accumulated and how it can be manipulated is so ridiculous by any rational means. Then again you are not rational but just another pathetic angry old white man.

      2. towler October 31, 2014

        A United States Service Member who votes Democrat. Not too many of you. But you already know that, don’t you?

        1. BillP October 31, 2014

          You are so right on that. Most of the people I grew up with and who served in the military vote the Conservative line. They even chose W over Kerry, someone who served 2 tours in Vietnam.

  6. elw October 29, 2014

    I stopped letting the polls play with my emotions long ago. They are wrong too many times to let them be anything more than they are a picture of one moment in time for a few people. Elections are turned on a dime, events, silly actions or words and money to reach the people all play their roll in what happens. However, the bottom line is the voter – make them mad and the candidate pays, stand for the wrong thing and the candidate pays and the most important thing that counts is how many voters go to the polls and which Party those voters vote for. So hold strong and vote for what you believe in, if we all do our job we will win.

  7. Ancelmo Pederasty October 29, 2014

    There is another reason why the polls may be wrong…and, perhaps, the MOST IMPORTANT reason: the unprecedented organized Democrat election fraud.

    On election night 2012, all the polls showed Romney winning. Even 0bama’s own poll showed the same thing. That’s the reason for 0bama’s “hang dog” expession on election night…he expected to lose.

    But he “won.” How could that have happened??

    It’s been estimated that over a million fraudulent Democrat votes were cast in 2012, many of them in the imortant swing states. From the Democrats’ customary “voting the graveyards”, to voting under numerous assumed names, to groups like ACORN, Mi Familia Vota, the SEIU, etc. registering hundreds of thousands of illegal alien to vote, the sleazy “win-at-any-cost” Democrats pulled out all the stops.

    Why do you think the Democrats fight too…th-and-nail against voter ID laws??

    The Democrats have a long, sordid history of election fraud.

    It’s well known that LBJ “won” elections in Texas through vote fraud. 0bama won election to the Senate by the Chicago Democrat “machine” eliminating his opponent. There’s evidence that current Reps. Raul Grijalva and Luis Gutierrez only won by illegal aliens voting. Historians even believe that JFK only won in 1960 through Democrat vote fraud.

    The way it works in Arizona, for example, is:

    1. Organizations like Citizens for A Better Arizona, Promise Arizona, Mi Familia Vota, etc. get canvassers made voter registrars (a simple process).

    2. They then canvass areas known to have a high concentration of illegal aliens.

    3. They convince the illegals to register as Democrats.

    4. They send in requests for absentee ballots for the illegals.

    5. When the absentee ballots have been mailed out, they again visit the illegal aliens and “help” them fill out the ballots.

    6. They collect the ballots and hand-deliver them to the state elections department.

    In this way, the illegal aliens, many of whom do not speak English, do not have personally go to the polls, and they don’t have to worry about photo ID laws.

    Anyone who actually believes that the Democrats oppose laws designed to thwart election fraud because they’re afraid that a handful of voters might be “disenfranchised”, I’d like to talk to you about a great deal I have for you on some prime beachfront property in Arizona.

    1. Allan Richardson October 29, 2014

      “It’s been estimated” by whom? By right wingnut propagandists, that’s by whom. If there were any credible evidence of this activity, it would have been prosecuted vigorously by red state governors and secretaries of state, who would LOVE to find evidence if there were any.

      A few hundred thousand legitimate voters being disenfranchised because, despite having voted for many years (possibly even being personal friends or acquaintances of their local precinct poll workers), they do not have the means, or the time, to get the NEW kind of ID card that their state NOW requires, is not a “handful.” You want to go back to the days of literacy tests and poll taxes so the “darkies” can’t spoil your “demoKKKracy,” right? Some of the right wingers even want proof of property ownership to vote; careful, your bank manager could shut off your vote by foreclosing on your home!

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