Looking at the Presidential race yesterday, it looked like President Obama might be in trouble in the Sunshine State. According to the poll, Obama was losing to Mitt Romney by seven points, 47-40. Unless Obama was caught on television killing puppies, nothing really explained this shift.
Today, a NBC/Marist poll was released showing Obama with a lead over Romney, even with Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio as his running mate. While a majority of people still think the country was headed in the wrong direction, Obama had a better approval rating than disapproval rating.
What is even more interesting is the US Senate race. Quinnipiac said that Connie Mack IV was leading Bill Nelson by one point. In almost every poll conducted for this race, Nelson has or nearly has a double-digit lead. The only other poll that has given Mack the edge is the highly Republican-leaning Rasmussen polls. Just this break alone show there is a fundamental flaw in the Quinnipiac poll.
While I was under the instruction of Dan Jones at the University of Utah, he stressed one quote throughout all of his classes…”those that live by the polls, die by the poll.” That quote fits perfectly here. Another point that he stressed was that not every poll is good. There will be bad samples. While I think that bad samples shouldn’t be released, they are anyway. This Quinnipiac poll, in comparison to other polls taken of both the Presidential and US Senate races in Florida, is a bad sample. It happens.
So what makes this one a bad sample compared to the rest? Well, the sample margins are all wrong. First, and the most eye-catching error is that north Florida and the Panhandle was sampled just as much as southeast Florida. 336 of those polled were from north Florida and the Panhandle while 339 were from southeast Florida. And no matter how you look at it, that is a big discrepancy compared to the reflection of the electorate.
But even in this case, the north and Panhandle weren’t oversampled. In fact, south Florida was undersampled. So where is the big gap? It seems to be in along the I-4 Corridor. In the Tampa area, the Quinnipiac poll showed 21% of those interviewed came from that region. In the Marist poll, only 16% came from Tampa; a gap of 5%.
If we continue to Orlando and the Space coast, we even get a bigger gap. In the Quinnipiac poll, 29% of those interviewed were from this region. In the Marist poll, only 21% came from this region. Therefore, most of Central Florida, from one coast to the other, was given a 13% bump in the Quinnipiac poll, which took away from southeast Florida. And no matter how “purple” the I-4 Corridor is, taking away the southeast Florida votes will always, 100% of the time, lower the Democratic numbers in a statewide race. No question about it!
In addition, 50% of all votes cast in Florida do not come from this region. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t.
So it doesn’t matter what the Quinnipiac poll says, it is wrong. We can basically take the entire poll and trash it. Does that mean Quinnipiac is a bad polling organization? Maybe. They haven’t been the most trusted polling organization. On top of that, they usually favor Republicans over Democrats, giving a .5% bump to Republicans in most polls compared to .03% for Democrats in comparison to what the actual election results reflect in the end. True, it isn’t a Rasmussen-type of margin (giving Republicans 1.4% advantage in their polls compared to .3% for Democrats), but they do have a tendency to oversample Republicans.
So, while most people in the Democratic Party might be panicking about this latest poll….just relax. It isn’t as bad as one thinks. Once the average of the polls start falling into place, this bad Quinnipiac sample will just be a forgotten footnote. This doesn’t mean that Democrats need to take Florida lightly. It is still a toss up state. But don’t worry, Romney isn’t going to destroy Obama by seven points in Florida.
That leads me to my final point. Dan Jones also said that a poll is just a snapshot of what the electorate is thinking at a certain moment in time. Remember Dukakis’ 20-point lead in 1988? Remember Bill Clinton being 3rd place until the Democratic Convention in 1992? Just wait until Obama debates Romney…the numbers will change.