Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Don't Believe the Polls, Here's Why

Traveling recently through North Virginia, it was clear that the area is no where near as pro-Obama as the media would have you believe. It reminded me of the CNN reporter in North Carolina who just days before had said on air that while the polls gave Obama an edge in that state, John McCain seemed to have a clear advantage on the ground.

Then there was early voting in Florida. I stood in line for over an hour in left wing Broward County, in what is a very diverse part of it. Broward Republicans only try to carry a third of the vote in the county. If they meet that mark, they know the rest of the state will go well. As such, Republicans and Democrats for McCain here tend to stand quietly when at the polls. This was especially true on that day, as Democratic campaigners for local races worked the polls, being allowed to mingle with voters more than 100 feet from the actual polling station.

During the wait, someone with a certain temporary and minor physical disability pulled up in a car with a McCain bumper sticker. She saw the line and thought of coming back the next day. Several people who had been waiting for over an hour made way for her. No one objected. After she had been escorted into the polling station, a number of them quietly mentioned how they only let her in because of the McCain sticker. Included in these silent McCain enthusiasts were some in very Democratic leaning groups, and I don’t mean Jewish or Catholic.

Our volunteers in Florida are greater in number than the GOP had in 2004. The enthusiasm is there. It may be subtle, but it is widespread. In all, things look good for John McCain.

So what’s happening? Why are the polls wrong?


Now most people who are asked to respond to a poll refuse. But that number has traditionally been about 66%. Most of those are Republican and the increase in that number can be attributed almost exclusively to McCain supporters. When the media portrays a candidate as being hip and labels all kinds of accusations against all who refuse to support him, those who aren’t supportive will be incensed and will rally to vote against him, but they will keep it to themselves.

Many who are phoned also wonder whether the dialer is really a polling firm. They are apprehensive, especially given the heavy handed tactics employed by the Obama campaign and by its supporters (see below).


There’s another reason why people are hesitant to answer polls. Obama’s supporters seem especially crazed this year. They are made up of more loud and threatening college activists, wannabe hippees and the like than in any year since ’72. Even during the primaries, there were reports of physical fights between Obama supporters and those who supported Clinton. Add to that the heavy handed tactics that Obama himself has used against opponents (canceling ads on TV stations that pressed Biden, removing reporters for certain news outlets from his campaign jet, his goon squad of prosecutors and sheriffs in Missouri who threatened to go after people or groups who aired ads that they deemed “untrue,” his threat of litigation against TV stations in Pennsylvania for airing negative ads while his campaign busily airs blatantly false ones at the same time, and so on).

This has nothing to do with race. Many of my Black friends, most of whom vote Democrat, have crossed over and an actively supporting McCain. They simply do not believe the hype about Obama, and are offended by it.

America is not racist. If Democrats had nominated Harold Ford, Jr., or anyone else who eschewed the overbearing tactics of the Obama campaign, polling discrepancies would have been no different than in any other election. The rabid support of some Obama supporters, the frenzied pushing past security guards and out of place hero worship is what scares people. This has nothing at all to do with race and to say it does is a tremendous disservice to everyone.

The refusal of McCain supporters to respond to exit polls will have everything to do with the heavy handed tactics of Obama supporters, including the incessant demeanor many of them portray when canvassing neighborhoods and asking people to put up yard signs.

Generally speaking, don’t expect mild people to be tremendously vocal. But do expect them to turn out the vote.


In 2004, pretty close to the end, Zogby predicted 311 electoral votes for Kerry. He does not predict anything greater this year for Obama. Exit polls in 2004 were taken in urban areas and were 60% female (there is a gender gap, which should be a factor in honest polling). It was surprising that the real returns differed by only 5.5%. Expect it to be larger this year because of all of the tactics listed above.

The large and unusual amount of McCain supporters I was privileged to witness at early voting were almost all quiet or hushed in their support. Most would probably be apprehensive about announcing their selection in public, which is exactly what you do when responding to an exit poll. Many of these polls are conducted within earshot of voter lines and people worry about a few of the frenzied Obama supporters, like the ones we see shoving past security guards on televised rallies. Many were canvassed by pretty insistent Obama workers and some would just rather avoid any possibility of an argument. For these reasons, exit polls will be meaningless.

As the night goes on, it will be clear that the real votes do not match the polls. John McCain will win. This has nothing to do with race. If one campaign has student activists/other activist types and puts them at the forefront, the public silence, but private opposition, are commonplace. What materializes is not to that campaign’s liking.

We will pray and do everything we can to ensure that the better candidate prevails. And on the ground, the situation is the exact opposite of how the media’s portraying it. John McCain is winning.

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