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Pollsters’ Smackdown

Nov
15
2003

Polls, schmols.
The Chron did a pretty good imitation of the LATimes Saturday, releasing a poll that well, probably isn’t going to stand up come Election Day. You remember how the LAT told us that Arnold wasn’t gonna win. And that the recall might be close.
The local rag says Green Party candidate Matt Gonzalez leads Gavin Newsom in the race for mayor by two percent. That sounds like a lot when you consider that, Gonzalez only got 20 percent of the vote in the general election. But it’s not until you get well down in the story before that The Chron’s results were more of a survey, not an actual look at how people might vote. This is the sort of stuff that has professional pollsters heating up email boxes of people who type for a living (see David Latterman’s smart comments below for more on this).
Today, Saturday, some Newsom supporters have brand new numbers that paint a different picture than the paper’s The Democrat’s lead is growing. Newsom is ahead of Gonzalez by 15 points, getting 50 percent of those polled to Gonzalez’ 36 percent. And with Independent voters — that’s the second largest block in the city since Total Recall — he’s got a healthy 10 percent margin over Gonzalez. As expected, Gonzalez’ is attracting about half of former candidate and city Treasurer Susan Leal’s supporters and almost all of those who voted for Supervisor Tom Ammiano in his bid for mayor.
Kamala Harris, candidate for District Attorney is doing just as well, leading incumbent Terrence Hallinan by a healthy 8 percentage points.
These number put the race to get former candidate’s even more important – that’s the horse race angle the press will keep following. Democrat Leal’s already thrown here weight behind Newsom. Ammiano’s probably going to stay silent (you can’t really blame him, can you?) But former candidate Angela Alioto, also a Democrat, is said to be close to an announcement — and she’ll keep it in the family.
UPDATE WORTH READING: David Latterman, who’s got a “roll your own” poll-making election prediction up at The Usual Suspects, had some smart things to say about The Chron poll and the way all the questioning works. In short, says Latterman, people don’t always do what they say they’ll do.


“The problem with polling is that it measures stated preferences instead of revealed preferences. That’s a fancy way of saying people ‘lie,’ “ Latterman says. Of course, he’s being a touch dramatic. “Many of today’s SF independents were once good old college radicals. They may not admit to themselves or the pollsters that they’ve changed, but they have. So, they tell the pollster Gonzalez to honor their past but deep down know they care about their mortgages now or their kids’ schooling. Hence, they vote Newsom and don’t tell anyone.”
In term of actual numbers, Latterman says The Chron poll, done with CBS has one other problem: “The CBS poll oversold turnout,” meaning that it relied on a large number of voters showing up at the polls, effectively leveling the field between Gonzalez and Newsom. “Although the feeling of the electorate may have been accurate in that the preferences of the candidates were 50-50, there is no way that turnout (certain and probable voters) will be over 90%,” says Latterman.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 5:34 PM | Permalink

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