Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bull$#!t

That really is the only word to describe the Baltimore Sun poll released today that claims Martin O'Malley has a 14-point lead over Governor Ehrlich. This is possibly the only poll that actually could make the much-discredited Washington Post poll seem like good data, and re-solidifies that Sun's reputation as a mouthpiece for Martin O'Malley and the Maryland Democratic Party.

One of the biggest problems with the poll is the source of the polling data. The Sun poll was conducted by Annapolis pollster OpinonWorks. That's bad enough considering that firm principal Steven Raabe is a long-timer liberal operative and a former Field Director for the MSTA, who has endorsed O'Malley. What's worse than that is the relationship that OpinionWorks has with Center Maryland, the "down the middle" organization that consistently discredited due to the sheer and simple fact that the organization was founded by former members of the O'Malley Administration. So the Sun, a theoretically "non-biased" news organization is using a partisan pollster to provide ostensibly objective polling data for its newspapers. Bad form.

Beyond that though, of course, is the fact that the Sun did not release the raw data from the poll. Here is what the story has to say about the poll's methodology:

The Baltimore Sun telephone survey of 798 likely voters was conducted Oct. 15-20. The Sun's pollster, OpinionWorks of Annapolis, used a Maryland Board of Elections database to identify registered voters with a history of voting in gubernatorial elections or who had registered to vote since the last election, and obtained survey results from those who ranked themselves seven or higher on 1 to 10 scale of their likelihood to vote. The Sun's sample was designed to approximate the racial, gender, geographic, partisan and age breakdown of the state's voting population as a whole, based on turnout patterns averaged over the last four Maryland general elections. Results were weighted to reflect a higher-than-average Republican turnout this year, and slightly lower African American participation than in recent elections.
That of course leaves a lot to be desired information wise and leaves us with one major question: what were the demographics of the poll? Anybody can say that the poll was designed to "approximate" the breakdown of the population, but were they? We don't know. The story says that turnout patterns were "averaged over the last four Maryland general elections." Well, which general elections? The last four in total (2002, 2004, 2006, 2008) or the last four statewide off-year elections? (1994, 1998, 2002, 2006)? And yes, there is a major difference between the turnout patters in the two races considering that turnout is always higher in Presidential years than non-Presidential years. And what defines a "higher-than-average Republican turnout this year?" What were the determining factors in determining that "estimated" higher Republican turnout, and did the pollster take into account the lower Democratic and higher Republican primary turnouts last month?

To be blunt, there is nothing contained in this poll that provides it one iota of credibility, especially when compared to the more recent Rasmussen and Gonzales polls. This poll is utter bull$#!t and since this election is going to be unlike any election that we have ever seen I wouldn't trust any polling model that you see or hear about from here until Election Day.

2 comments:

Soccer Dad said...

Here's another reason to be skeptical about the poll. Note the percentages who think that the state has gotten worse over the course of O'Malley's tenure vs. those who think that the state got worse over the course of Ehrlich's tenure. Apparently Maryland voters prize higher taxes and incompetence. (I still don't think that Ehrlich will win, there's been no indication that his polls are moving at all. However if he finishes within 7% or so of O'Malley we need to make things uncomfortable for the Sun and Post for distorting the race with bogus polls.)

Frank Hecker said...

I just posted my own estimates on 2010 turnout (or, to be more precise, estimates of the relative percentages of the 2010 electorate that will come from the two major parties and independents). The bottom line is that my estimates are pretty consistent with the Gonzales estimates.

Does that mean I think the election will be close? That's a whole 'nother question, and one which I don't feel qualified to offer an opinion on.

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