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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

10/17/2004

denBeste looks at the polls

It is great to have Steve den Beste posting even once in a while. He has an engineer's analysis of the American Presidential opinion polls up and, while he sees a general trend in Bush's direction, believes,
In my opinion, the polls were being deliberately gimmicked, in hopes of helping Kerry. In early August it looks as if there was an attempt to engineer a "post-convention bounce", but it failed and was abandoned after about two weeks. But I'm not absolutely certain about that.

The data for September, however, is clearly an anomaly. The data is much too consistent. Compare the amount of jitter present before September to the data during that month. There's no period before that of comparable length where the data was so stable.

The September data is also drastically outside of previous trends, with distinct stairsteps both at the beginning and at the end. And the data before the anomaly and after it for both Kerry and Bush matches the long term trendlines.

If I saw something like that in scientific or engineering data, I'd be asking a lot of very tough questions. My first suspicion would be that the test equipment was broken, but in the case of opinion polls there is no such thing. My second suspicion would be fraud.

In September, I think there was a deliberate attempt to depress Kerry's numbers, so as to set up an "October comeback". Of course, the goal was to engineer a bandwagon.
uss clueless
I am rather sceptical of the claim of deliberateness. The anomaly is certainly there and most people who watch polls saw the September numbers as outliers; however, it is unlikely to have been caused by any attempt to rig the results.

An explaination which fits the data as well is that up until the summer Kerry was an entirely unknown quantity to the vast majority of Americans. Over the summer, particularily as a result of the goofy Kerry reporting for duty routine and the chaos which engulfed the Dems' campaign, Americans simply could not believe that any party could have been this dumb. The September numbers, while no doubt manipulated to some degree by both sides, reflects the stunned amazement of Americans as they began to realize who Kerry was.

Since the beginning of September, the Dems have been backing and filling. Kerry has made an effort to come up with a position on Iraq and stick to it. He has managed to look reasonably credible, if not very exciting, in the debates. He has, generally, avoided visual gaffes even though his policy positions, particularily on the "nuisance" of terrorism, seem to have been crafted by people more interested in the Hillary 2008 race than putting Kerry in the White House.

The initial shock of Kerry's ineptness has worn off and the opinion polls reflect this.

Meanwhile, and more to the point, Bush is simply plowing ahead. This is, I think, the classic fox and hedgehog race. The fox capers about knowing a great many, very nuanced, things - the hedgehog plods forward, knowing only the one vitally important, thing.

Kerry needs to keep his anti-war, Moore/Dean democratic base happy, he feels he has to attack the Republican stand on gay marriage through the vice President's daughter, defend his military record, critize a war he voted for and against, conjure up alliances which will never happen, appeal to "security moms" with police procedure, propose energy policy, decry the deficit....

Bush simply wants to defend America.

The essential difference between the two is that virtually every American voter agrees with Bush's single idea, whereas it would be almost impossible to find a single American voter who agreed with all of Kerry's.

Which explains the polls.