I clicked on this story at Daily Kos to have a laugh about how unskewing isn’t just for conservatives any more and am very alarmed to find myself almost partly convinced. I confess that I have fallen into at least the near occasion of unskewing.
Can We Really Trust YouGov?
by Tyler Yeargain
If you have been following the midterm elections closely, you will know that YouGov has, three times now, dumped a bunch of surveys on every single Senate and gubernatorial election taking place this year. These surveys paint a mostly rosy picture for Republicans, and display some numbers that have not been picked up by other, more reputable pollsters. As someone who has taken all three of their midterm elections surveys, I feel as though I am in a good position to evaluate what exactly they are doing, and how effective it is.
Here’s how their latest survey (their third) began:
As you may have read, a group of Islamic militants referred to as ISIS, has taken control of parts of Iraq and Syria. Do you favor or oppose U.S. airstrikes against ISIS?
From what you’ve seen or heard, which political party comes closest to your view of what should be done about ISIS?
How important will the situation with ISIS and the Middle East be for your vote in the November midterm elections?
What ?!? YouGov asks issue questions before they ask horse race questions ? I thought that was an absolute no no.
In particular, it is very likely that thinking about ISIS causes some people to decide to vote for Republicans. First the shift towards more support for Republicans followed the ISIS on camera beheadings of James James Foley and Steven Sotloff. Second, reproducible psychological experiments show that people’s political views become more conservative when they are frightened.
update: I think that the fear-> conservative hypothesis is quite a big thing in the Psych literature. After a bit of googling I found this link to an abstract
It would be very important if a large number of polls prompted respondents to think of ISIS before declaring voting intentions.
I am going to redo some Huffington Post Pollster moving averages with and without yougov
Basically there isn’t a huge average difference (My sloppy unscientific estimate is a YouGov house effect +0.68% Republican.
However the impression of the probability of a Republican takeover is totally different. Without YouGov Alaska, Arkansas, and Louisiana move from at least lean Republican to toss up. Kansas isn’t close without YouGov, so it looks like a very likely Republican to independent shift.
Now to encourage you to waste a little of your time with my calculations, I note that I suspect a (Post beheading)(YouGov) effect. I am assuming that they are asking people outside of Florida about ISIS before asking about voting and that the distortion is due to a combination of the news and putting news before the horserace question. This means that a YouGov distortion might not appear as a YouGov house effect, since even if they were leading respondents before, they weren’t leading them to think of ISIS.
OK numbers after the jump
Alaska +2.8% Republican with YouGov +0.5% R without YouGov diff if drop +2.3% Dem
Arkansas +4.0% Republican with YouGov +1.2% R without YouGov diff if drop +2.8% Dem
Colorado +0.3% Republican with YouGov +0.9% R without YouGov diff if drop -0.6% Dem
Georgia +3.9% Republican with YouGov +2.5% R without YouGov diff if drop +1.4% Dem
Illinois -13.8% Republican with YouGov -11% R without YouGov diff id drop -2.8 Dem
Iowa +1.2% Republican with YouGov +1.7% R without YouGov diff if drop -0.5% Dem
Kansas -3.7% Republican with YouGov -7.4% R without YouGov diff if drop +3.7% Indep
Kentucky +5.2% Republican with YouGov +5.8% R without YouGov diff if drop -0.6% Dem
Louisiana +4.9% Republican with YouGov 1.9% R without YouGov diff if drop +3.0% Dem
Michigan -9.6% Republican with YouGov -8.2% R without YouGov diff if drop -1.4% Dem
N Carolina -3.6% Republica with YouGov -4.1% R without YouGov diff if drop +0.5% Dem
Hampshire -3.8% Republican with YouGov -4.2% R without YouGov diff if drop +0.4% Dem
Average effect of dropping hurts Republicans 8.2/12 = 0.68%
That’s not huge but I’m pretty sure it is enough to reject the null that the effect is just sampling error. Of course I have been wasting my time and yours. Someone serious has estimated the YouGov house effect. I got bored (or came to my senses) and stopped diddling with Huffpost Pollster.
Could it not be said that starting another war in the middle east serves neither party, as neither party wants a vote before the election. Maybe the public mostly believes that ISIS is zero threat to our homeland.
I will attempt to expand upon your comment and consider the following longer argument
Most US adults agree with Obama’s approach to ISIS — most support bombing and oppose boots on the ground. So the logical reaction to thinking about ISIS is
“I agree with what Obama is doing, Obama is a Democrat, I’m not sure I would agree with what a Republican would be doing (if McCain likely sending in the troops). On this issue I agree with basically all elected Democrats (and most elected Republicans) and disagree with a few crazy Republican war mongers. I guess I should vote for a Democrat”
This is very logical. It involves looking at problems, thinking about the best approach then finding the candidate who proposes an approach close to that one.
I am quite sure that this is not the way to understand how quite a few people vote. Unfortunately those people are the ones who are still making up their minds (often about whether to vote).
The argument that fear makes people conservative has nothing to do with logic. As I understand it, the fear can be totally unrelated to public policy or even reality (a scary sci fi horror movie say). The claim by psychologists is that fear causes people to support conservative positions even if there is no connection between the policy question and the fear. The key point is that the psychologists claim they are describing the results of authentic experiments.
Here is a link to an abstract after a bit of googling
Have you read Sam Wang’s stat. analysis on the senate? http://election.princeton.edu/
By the way, Michigan will go Dem (Peters) in the Senate. Terri Land is afraid to talk to the public and typically sends an associate out to talk to reporters and people. The state would be whole lot different if the districts were not packed.
Robert, thanks for expansion and URl.
From: The Rising Tide: Will All Boats Be Lifted?, August 01, 2014, by Richard Reeves
… The crucial factor, Podhorzer found, is Democrats’ vote share among voters making less than $50,000: … whether Democrats win these voters by a 10-point or a 20-point margin tells you who won every national election for the last decade. … To reach these voters, Podhorzer believes, candidates need to focus on the economic issues of the working class. “Economic populism decides who wins elections in America,” he said.
From: Bill Clinton is Still the Most Influential Politician in the Country by Daniel Politi
“Former president Bill Clinton’s seal of approval would make 38 percent of people look more favorably on a candidate, versus 24 percent who would take a less favorable view, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Annenberg poll.”
Dear Denis Drew
I too believe that the key to Democratic victory is economic populism. I note that both Clinton and Obama originally ran on the proposal to raise taxes on the rich and cut taxes on everyone else (also Obama delivered).
I can’t think of a case in which a Democrat ran on that platform and lost and I can think of many in which a Democrat didn’t run on that platform and lost. Kerry, Gore, and Dukakis didn’t campaign on higher taxes on the rich IIRC, while Kerry, Dukakis and Mondale didn’t propose lower taxes on the middle class.
It is a fact that no Democrat has won a presidential election unless
a) he campaigned on tax the rich more and the non rich less
b) he was the incumbent president.
c) the top marginal income tax rate was at least 69%
d) the income tax was not yet constitutional.