Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Why Screening for "Likely Voters" in 2020 Polls is Not that Important, and Perhaps Counterproductive

Confronted with national and swing state polls showing President Trump running well behind challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump supporters point to the fact many of the polls are faulty because they are not screening for "likely voters."

Polls that screen for likely voters show Trump doing better, albeit still substantially behind nationally and in most swing states.    So, does the Trump campaign have a point about the need for pollsters to
screen for "likely voters?"  No, not really.

The reason pollsters screen for likely voters is that elections often only feature voting by a small percent of the registered voters.  Turnout in mid-term elections tend to be much substantially less than presidential elections.  Off-year elections have even lower turnout.  Indianapolis has off-year municipal elections that sometimes only result in a 20% turnout of registered voters.

In these lower turnout elections, more than half the battle of the pollster is trying to figure out which voters will show up on election day.  To make that determination, pollsters ask a series of questions including how much thought they've given to the election, whether they plan to vote, did they vote in this election four years ago, do they know where to vote, etc.  They respondent then is rated according to his/her answers and a determination is made as to whether that person is a likely voter.

To say determining "likely voters" in lower turnout elections is a difficult task for pollsters is an understatement.

Presidential elections though are a different matter entirely.  Turnout is typically much higher when presidential candidates are on the ballot.  This is especially true in the era of Trump when both the Republican and Democratic electorates are energized.  Heavy turnout by both parties is almost a certainty come this fall.

In presidential elections, especially those in which heavy turnout is expected, likely voter screens can be counterproductive, resulting in the weeding out scores of voters who will undoubtedly be voting.  In such situations, registered voters is the better metric to use than the hit or miss method of determining a much smaller subset via the "likely voter" screen.

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OOP's short takes:


  • Roy Den Hallender, the men' rights attorney suspected in the shooting federal judge Esther Salinas' son and husband, had penned a memoir "Stupid Frigging Fool" published online in which he discusses at some length his lifelong poor experiences with women, including his mother to whom he dedicated the book with the line "May she burn in Hell."   Hallender had volunteered in the Trump campaign and filed a RICO action against members of the media for reporting unfavorably and dishonestly on candidate Trump.  The case was dismissed. Hallender had a particular gripe against Judge Salinas, who he derided for "being a lazy and incompetent Latina judge appointed by Obama", because she had supposedly delayed ruling on a lawsuit he had filed to have the all-male military draft ruled unconstitutional.  When he was diagnosed with cancer, Hallender turned the litigation over to other counsel, but continued to bear the grudge of what happened in the last case he was to handle as an attorney.  Hallender committed suicide as law enforcement were closing in.  
  • The Covid-19 press conferences are set to resume today, featuring Prresident Trump!   Except nobody from the Covid-19 task force is scheduled to be at the conference.  In fact, Dr. Fauci apparently was not even told they were starting up again.  Trump's approval on his handling of the virus has been plummeting and the renewed press conferences are an attempt to show President Trump aggressively leading the response to the pandemic.  Unfortunately for Trump staffers, they had to agree to let Trump talk about other, non-virus topics during the press conferences.  What could possibly go wrong?  The press conference is scheduled for 5 pm, expect car crash at about 5:05.
  • My Mary Trump book is scheduled to arrive tomorrow.
  • Why are we Republicans defending what's going on in Portland?  Imagine if President Obama had sent unidentified federal law enforcement officials into a city to seize Tea Party protesters and throw them in unmarked vans to be whisked away for questioning.  I'm pretty sure we conservatives would have a problem with that.  What happened to federalism?  This tribal nonsense deserves to die a painful death on November 3rd.

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