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Yes, I know there is a main story about this, and I started this as a comment to it, but it became too verbose.

There is a story here about bias in Rasmussen polls, yet Rasmussen was found to be the most accurate Presidential Election poll. I would like to explain how it is that both statements are correct. To understand this, we must understand the key difference between an election poll and a non-election poll.

The election polls, polls that predict the election outcome, have a gold standard that they can be measured against. The election itself. A pollster risks losing credibility biasing this poll.

Then there are the polls that have no gold standard to be measured against. THE VAST MAJORITY OF POLLS FALL INTO THIS CATEGORY.

The most notorious is the Presidential Approval poll - there is no nationwide referendum on whether you approve of the president or not. Remember, in the presidential election, the ballot does not say "Do you approve of Barack Obama's performance as President". A vote for him does not necessarily mean approval (you could find him the lesser of two evils), and a vote for someone else does not necessarily mean you don't approve (you might prefer another candidate).

Another example, the generic congressional ballot. We don't vote generic congressional ballots, we vote for specific candidates in specific districts. The TOTAL number of people that vote Democratic or Republican for Congress is irrelevant and rarely reported. It's the number of people that vote Democratic or republican in a DISTRICT. It is entirely possible that more people can vote for one party, yet the other party wins more races. In fact, that's how gerrymandering works.

Another example is issue polls. We don't have nationwide referendums.

You cannot be called for bias in these polls because there is no gold standard to measure against.

Rasmussen's non-election polls are HEAVILY biased. He leverages his record with the election polls that are conducted a few days before the election (that can be measured against a gold standard) to give credibility to his non-election polls whose accuracy cannot be measured.

Originally posted to CSA Sucks on Mon Mar 08, 2010 at 09:53 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Yes...and the self-fulfilling prophecy of (0+ / 0-)

    repeating the same memes 24/7 for months at a time...until they are almost universally accepted as facts, not opinion.

  •  It's even more convoluted than that (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IL JimP

    What Rasmussen is doing is attempting to make his polls into a "surrogate gold standard". So, when you look at his election polls (which have a pretty decent correspondence between his results and the actual outcomes), he can say "My polling methods are accurate and free of bias."

    Then he does a poll involving Obama opinion.  It is much lower than the results of other polls.  He says (implicitely), "Since my election polls are accurate, my non-election polls are as well, so those other polls are wrong."  

    What is left out, and the key to this, is that DIFFERENT METHODS can and are used in each type of poll.  There are methods of writing questions, biasing attitudes through leading and frameing questions, and so forth which can produce highly disparate results.  And since Rasmussen does not publish his questions per se, you can't tell.

    Bill the Butcher was right. I am a nativist, and that is a progressive position.

    by numberzguy on Mon Mar 08, 2010 at 10:01:38 AM PST

    •  His election polls are a sales device (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      IL JimP

      He is using the accuracy of the election poll to sell his services in other polling.  By indicating his accuracy in one area, he can swindle with inaccuracy in another area where (as the author correctly notes) there is no "gold standard"

      Bill the Butcher was right. I am a nativist, and that is a progressive position.

      by numberzguy on Mon Mar 08, 2010 at 10:06:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I forgot one other thing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IL JimP

    Rasmussen uses a different model for "likely voter" than other pollsters, a model which biases republican.  He also uses different ways of breaking independents (I believe) which produce different weightings.  In polling, you take the proportion answering x who are Dems and weight them by the population proportion of Dems, and same for Repubs.  Thus, your estimate of the population proportion is crucial in your outcome.

    Bill the Butcher was right. I am a nativist, and that is a progressive position.

    by numberzguy on Mon Mar 08, 2010 at 10:04:24 AM PST

  •  Rasmussen is the Republican's (0+ / 0-)

    house polling outfit. Their outlier status is well documented.

    I ignore their propaganda. Why bother trying to sort Ras truth from Ras fiction when other organizations have a better overall record?

    "A lie is not the other side of a story; it's just a lie."

    by happy camper on Mon Mar 08, 2010 at 10:44:43 AM PST

  •  Of course, but that's not a secret. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IL JimP

    The thing is not that they're not somehow not publishing their true results (double negatives suck...), but they're framing their polling questions in a way that benefits Republicans.

    For example, 'Do you favor or oppose the creation of  a new public health insurance plan that anyone can purchase.' will yield results absolutely different from 'Would it be a good idea to set up a government health insurance company to compete with private health insurance companies?'.

    There also nothing wrong with it. There's no 'correct' way to ask a question. Democratic pollsters have biases as well, just in a different direction.

    The problem isn't Rasmussen, but the media not taking question wording into account when they're REPORTING on the polls.

    And now for something different-

    Rasmussen ELECTION polls may be biased too:
    http://www.dailykos.com/...
    (disclosure: I worked with David Shor, the author of the diary, on the research leading towards it).

  •  He does it using (0+ / 0-)

    Likely voter samples with a perverse Republican skew. Look at the latest Quinnipiac poll of the Ohio Gubernatorial race - Strickland moves back in front. Yet Rasmussen just released numbers showing Kasich moving ahead by double digits.

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