Who’s Ahead?

For a while we heard this election would be a drubbing for the Democrats, with the Republicans taking back the House and possibly the Senate.  The pundits and pols call it a “wave” election.

Then something funny happened.  People began to look at the Angles, O’Donnells, Bucks,  Tancredos, Paladinos, etc. and started thinking “as bad as things are now, will they improve if we elect these nut cases?”  The answer to this question is now starting to be reflected in the polls.

There were three mistakes in predicting a “wave” election.  First was the election of teabagger wingnuts.  Primaries bring out the activists, particularly in off-year elections.  Second was the inability of the media to understand what the margin of error means in polling results.  If there is a seven point difference between candidates and the margin of error is four percent, the polling results indicate a statistical tie, not that one candidate is ahead of the other.  Third is the polling sample population.  The statistics used rely on an independent and identically distributed sample population. Pollsters are prohibited from using auto-dialing for cell phone numbers.  Few younger voters have land lines.  Consequently the sample population of the polls does not match the statistical assumptions (for those interested, see the central limit theorem).

Will the Democrats lose seats?  Sure.  This always happens when either party wins big in the previous election.   But, to paraphrase Mark Twain, the report of their demise is premature.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Who’s Ahead?

  1. dnd

    Bringing forward Bev’s comment from the last thread:

    “If I had a wish granted, it would be that opposing candidates talked about themselves and what they have done or would do to make the country or their state better than their opponent. Instead, we have anti, negative campaigning telling us what’s bad about the other person instead.

    I agree sometimes it’s time to replace a long-standing office holder, but this year we really have some weirdo’s who campaign on how bad their opponent is and not much about themselves – Ben Quayle, Christine O, Sharon A, R. Paul etc.”

    So here ya go Bev, John Hickenlooper in the Colorado governor’s race has a positive ad:

    ps. All of Hick’s ads have been positive, when he was running for mayor of Denver and now governor of Colorado.

  2. TempeBev

    Thx D – good for John Hickenlooper! Wish this would happen more.

  3. I’m not sure looking to see “who’s ahead” is the right way to look at this race. I’ll be more than happy if we Dems hold our own!

  4. dog's eye view

    This is the week to make sure that anyone who would like to vote in November is registered; would imagine registration is closing soon in many states.

    Check in with those college students, young people, and people who have moved or are interested in voting (again or first time).

  5. Hey guys – I haven’t been here in a while – hope all is well.

    Sadly, I think the bad guys are still ahead. Nate Silver, whom I trust quite a lot, is still predicting big losses for dems. “Chrissie Pooh” may have hurt the GOP in Delaware, but now Connecticut and West Virginia are apparently in play.

    I am still holding out hopes on the Senate, but losing the House seems to be a forgone conclusion.

  6. dog's eye view

    Watched the ad.

    Utterly unconvincing.

  7. dog's eye view

    Stuff like O’Donnell and Jim DeMint make me wonder why Nate Silver (538) thinks the sane are not going to turn out in droves.

    Mind you, one cannot count on that and has to get out and knock doors and be visible.

    But it takes a stupid person to sit on their vote, even if frustrated with current politics.

    It can ALWAYS get uglier.

  8. dog’s eye – I worry that the insane outnumber the sane these days……

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