Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Kane defeated: Fraud at polls

Well, there you have it. Just don't believe 'em, and you can say The Fox Nation told you so. And if you don't trust Fox itself, just ask Karl Rove. Or Dick Morris. Or Rush Limbaugh!

On the always-at-war-with-Eastasia front, at least, that was the party line as of late September* -- peak storm surge of one of several flavors of viral cluelessness that afflicted the electorate over the summer and into the fall. You had to wonder, at that point, where all the love had gone for the polls: particularly, the poll-map-flag logo that paired so well with the picture of Sad Panda Obama for Fox Nation on, say,** Dec. 10; Feb. 15 and 23; March 9 and 19; May 23; June 4,  13 and 25; July 2, 9, 16 and 26; Aug. 6; and Sept. 8 and 19.

To sum things up, when the numbers started to turn unpleasant (as public opinion has a way of doing), the Fox crowd simply lit on a new tactic: complaining that the polls were rigged by librul methodologists to vex the councils of the wise and generally depress turnout among the righteous. As the numbers turned more favorable in early October, the complaints retreated. But the issue never went away, and for some reason -- injured pride, I suppose -- it resurfaced Sunday at the National Review, under the hed "Don't Laugh at the Unskewers":

Talking Points Memo had a piece last night, noting that NBC (the mainstream media!) has included an “unskewed” analysis of their Ohio poll:

(The outrage point appeared to be this quote from TPM: "Criticizing pollsters for allegedly oversampling Democrats has become a cottage industry on the right. Over at National Review Online, Josh Jordan on Saturday referred to Marist’s polling as an “in-kind contribution to Obama.”)

... But TPM’s piece is just the latest example of those on the center and on the left laughing at those on the right “unskewing” the polls or questioning the partisan breakdown in the polling sample.

So here’s my take: I don’t know what the partisan breakdown is going to be election night, including in Ohio. (If it is plus 9 Democrat, kudos to Marist for excellent polling.) But it’s unfair to conservatives to simply mock them for questioning the partisan breakdown of polls. There’s nothing dumb, unscientific, or risible about questioning polls’ partisan samples.
Oh, where to start?

1) No, laughing at bogus methodological witch-hunts is not a partisan matter. It's not something "those on (?) the center and on the left" indulge in at the expense of the right. It's open to everybody. All you need is -- a moron making bogus claims about other people's methodology!
2) "Unfair to conservatives"? Oh, please. If somebody wanted to be unfair to you guys, he or she might start by picking on, um, the vice presidential candidate who thinks the scary Kenyan dude is poised to compromise "those Judeo-Christian, western civilization values that made us such a great and exceptional nation in the first place." Or the sort of preachers whose boss sends hurricanes around to remind people not to be gay. Or the folks who are so baffled and scared by the idea of "science" that they campaign to have it declared a form of religion. Which gets us to ...

3) "There’s nothing dumb, unscientific, or risible about questioning polls’ partisan samples." OK, got me there. It makes perfect sense to believe that the result of a sample can bias the sampling procedure itself, as long as you believe in time travel. Time travel is a great way to get out of trouble faster than you got into it, but as a research method, no. It's dumb, unscientific and risible. To the extent it's politically one-sided, it's cause to make fun of the side that employs it.

Understand, offenses against survey data are thick on the ground at this time of year. People throughout the political spectrum draw deep meanings from the "Real Clear Politics average," even though it's more or less the equivalent of taking the average of "about five" and "about seven" out to one decimal point. But that sort of mystic faith is normally distributed; it happens in the grownup press and the Murdoch press alike. Calling trickery on a poll because you don't like its results -- why, that'd be like proclaiming that the unemployment numbers are cooked because you don't like those results. In other words, dumb, unscientific and risible.

Don't let it influence your voting behavior or anything, but does it seem a little strange that the Party of Risible is the one that gets so upset when those behaviors are pointed out?

* Sorry, wanted to post this at the time, but it fell onto the to-do pile and never got up.
** Top to bottom, left to right

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Anonymous Andy Bechtel said...

The chatter on talk radio is similar here in NC. The polls must be rigged!

Yet, no one seems to have the same concern about polls showing Pat McCrory, the GOP candidate for governor, in a comfortable lead over his Democratic rival.

10:12 AM, November 06, 2012  

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