Sunday, September 18, 2016

It's deja vu all over again

You ever wonder how polls can shift so dramatically despite being told that most persons have made up their minds this election?   It all depends on who you poll and for what purpose.

Last month, Hillary appeared to have an insurmountable 12-point lead in a Reuters Poll, but early this month that lead had completely disappeared and CNN had Trump up by 2 points.  Reuters still has Hillary up by 3.  Meanwhile, CNN's Poll of Polls has Clinton bouncing back to take a 2-point lead.

Chuck Todd exposed the CNN/ORC Poll that had that amazing 14-point turnaround.  Turns out the poll had taken the sampling disproportionately favoring "likely voters" with no college education.  CNN did it again by basing an Ohio poll on a sampling that heavily favored voters over 50.  It's not so much that Clinton is slipping in the polls as it is CNN manufacturing polls to make the race look closer than it actually is.  I suppose if they kept showing Hillary 4,6 or even 10 points ahead, viewers would lose interest.  Now, viewers think the election is a toss up.

Of course, one could argue that polls showing Hillary so far ahead in August were skewed toward her favored demographics, and that these recent polls represent a "correction."  The widely respected 538 doesn't see it that way.  They currently have Hillary with a 62% probability of winning the election based on their study of the state polls.  That's a pretty big margin to overcome, which helps explain why 538 gets very little mention in the mainstream press.

Television news relies heavily on viewer ratings for advertisement, and it is in the news media's interest to make this race look close right up to the end.  The national polls don't really mean much, so CNN has opted for making battleground states look closer than they really are, in particular Ohio, which has determined every contemporary Republican President.   This element of suspense is great for ratings.  People become transfixed on the latest polls and news pundits discuss these polls ad nauseam.

Trump has milked the polls throughout his campaign, using them to boast of his legitimacy when he is ahead, and telling his devoted following how biased these polls are when he is behind.  He has even gone so far to claim that if he loses traditionally Democratic Pennsylvania that is proof the election is rigged.  This is a state that hasn't voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988.  Hillary currently leads the Keystone State by an aggregate 6 per cent.  CNN doesn't even bother polling it, considering it safely in Hillary's column.

But Trump's braggadocia is one thing, CNN fudging polls to make this election look like a toss up is another.  We went through this last time around as well, with CNN showing a very close race all the way up to election day, only for viewers to be stunned by Obama's  relatively large margin of victory.  Many conservative pundits thought Romney had Ohio in the bag, only for Obama to win the state by 3 per cent.  Was Ohio rigged?  Karl Rove sure thought so.

Yet, Nate Silver said the writing was on the wall long before election day.  Even as national polls tightened up with many showing Romney ahead by a narrow margin thanks to a last minute surge, Nate discounted these polls saying Obama would win easily.  Nate has built an algorithm that takes a wide range of factors into consideration, not just the latest bump a candidate gets in one or another poll.  As a result, he has become kind of a wet blanket as far as the television news media is concerned.

CNN prefers instead to conduct its own questionable polls and entertain others that feed its "close race" narrative, so that it can continue to play off the anxiety Trump generates in the name of television ratings.  I suppose it is understandable, and in its own odd way maintains interest in the election process so we don't lull ourselves into thinking Hillary will win in November and don't bother to vote.  Trump still has an outside chance if voter turnout is low, as it is usually well-heeled voters who stay home if they don't feel there is anything really at stake.

Trump has referred to himself as Mr. Brexit, hoping that we will see a similar revolt of the underclass on November 8 in the United States.  Trumpkin Kellyanne Conway refers to it as the "undercover voter," kind of like Reagan's "silent majority."  The big difference is that Reagan's supporters weren't very silent and he ended up beating Carter by a huge margin as predicted.  Ronnie won all but a handful of states thanks to a miserable economy and hostage crisis that had dragged the incumbent president down.  Trump has no such external crises in his favor, although he is trying to make the most of this recent bombing in New York, kind of like Romney's defiant stand shortly after the Benghazi attack in September, 2012.

Unfortunately for Donald, all that seems to be waiting for him in November is a court date.

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