Polls, lies, damned lies and statisticsSubmitted by emalvini on Thu, 07/12/2012 - 00:10
Polls, lies, damned lies and statistics
Published: 11:19 PM 07/11/2012
By Lanny Davis
Former Special Counsel to President Clinton
Throughout the world of political reporters and pundits, the blogosphere and social media — left, right and center — the conventional wisdom was impressive: Obama’s negative ads on Bain Capital and outsourcing were working in the 12 battleground states where they were exclusively running.
First, two weeks ago, came the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, which triggered an avalanche of reporting reinforcing the themes that the Obama negative ads were hurting Romney and helping Obama big time. The national results were a statistical dead heat (47 percent Obama, 44 percent Romney). But in the 12 battlegrounds — Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin — where Obama has spent tens of millions on negative ads since April, Obama was ahead 50 percent to 42.
The Journal/NBC poll also showed that in the battleground states, Romney suffered a net increase of 11 percent in negative attitudes toward his business experience — from late May (36 percent favorable to 36 percent unfavorable) to late June (30 percent favorable, minus 6 percent, to 41 percent unfavorable, plus 5 percent). The cause reported by the Journal and NBC: the Obama negative ads.
But not so fast.
Voters were asked in the national survey whether they would feel more or less positive toward a businessman who managed a company that specialized in restructuring and selling companies. To anyone watching Obama’s TV ads — which were seen by most of the country on either TV or the Internet — those words could only describe Bain Capital. The answer between January 2012, before the negative ads ran, and June, after they ran, was no change at all (from minus 6 percent in January to minus 5 percent in June).
In addition, I could find no disclosure in the reporting of the Journal/NBC poll of the subsample total number of voters surveyed in the 12 battleground states. The total surveyed nationally was just 819 registered voters — with a fairly large plus-minus margin of error of 3.4 percent. It is therefore possible that the number of voters surveyed in the subsample among 12 battlegrounds was a fraction of 819 — meaning a considerably higher margin of error, which could make the 50-42 percent “lead” for Obama in the battlegrounds statistically meaningless.