Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fox News Shows You How To Cook The Poll Numbers To Make It Look Tighter

We've been poring over polls this week, looking for early voting data, and we've found a bunch.

(For a compilation of more than 50 polls with early voting data, click HERE.)

We found an interesting poll today, from Fox News. You know, the Fair and Balanced people.

Here's what Fox has to say about the poll:

FOX News Poll: Obama's Edge Over McCain Narrows
The race for the White House has tightened significantly -- with Barack Obama now ahead of John McCain by three percentage points -- according to a FOX News poll released Thursday.

But did the race really tighten? It looks that way. On Oct. 20-21, Fox conducted a poll that showed Obama with a big lead, 49%-40%. A week later, they conduct a poll with Obama up only 47%-44%. Wow, that's a big shift in one week.

Was there a big shift, or did Fox just poll a demographically different group of people?

The answer, as you might have suspected, is that Fox found a more favorable group (for it's candidate, John McCain) to poll.

If you look carefully into Fox's numbers, you see this: In the Oct. 21 sample, 43% of the sample said they were Democrats, and 37% said they were Republicans. In the Oct. 28 sample, however, it's 41% Dems and 39% Republicans--a four point swing.

Surely, four percent of the population didn't switch party affiliations in one week! Rather, Fox reached a somewhat different sample of voters.

That four point swing in party affiliation would easily account for a four point swing in the presidential preferences of the sample, since roughly 90% of Dems and Reps said they'd vote for their candidate's party.

Bottom line: no seismic shift in voters in the past week. At most, the Fox poll went from a 9% margin for Obama to a 7% margin for him. Or, if the 10/28 sample is more representative, then it ween from a 6% margin to a 4% margin.

A reputable pollster would've pointed this out. We're not surprised that Fox didn't.


Jed Rothwell said...

You have to wonder why the people at Fox do this. What is the point? What is their goal?

If they are wrong they will look foolish after the election.

If they succeed in convincing people that the election is close, they will only motivate the Obama volunteers to work harder.

I suppose that if they could convince the world that Obama is 4% behind McCain, that might discourage Obama supporters, and suppress turnout. But that would contradict all other polls. No one would believe it. They most they can hope for is to convince some people that the election is close, which, as I said, will only bring out more Obama supporters.

I suppose they are trying to buck up the McCain supporters, and convince them it is worth the effort to go and vote. But Obama supporters are more motivated this election, so that tactic will probably backfire.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

And they say that MSNBC is acting biased by supporting Obama!

Paul in BC, Canada said...

FoxNEWS needs to provide a 'narrative' for the Rovian wonks who will try to steal the election. Fox's story is, "People are starting to worry about who the REAL Barack Obama is - look at our polls." Then, when they try to steal the elections with a combination of voter roll purges, legal challenges, and electronic voting machine shenanigans, they can claim that they have the polls to show that McCain was gaining support and won legitimately.

Here's a legitimate question: What do the people who watch FauxNEWs think about this kind of BS? I would be ashamed to watch that kind of unethical junk, even if I agreed with their politics. I mean, when one of my favorite bloggers or news sources uses questionable data or logic, I try to chastise them about it. Where are the supposed 'fair and balanced' FoxNEWs watchers making an uproar about this kind of mis-use of statistics?