At least two polls on the Reform Ohio Now (RON) initiatives in the closing weeks of the race were so far off, it’s a wonder anyone involved with them would want to be seen in public.
The Ray C. Bliss Akron Institute Survey (from Swing State Project post; Bliss Institute press release is here) really needs to go into hiding for a while. Here is what their Oct. 26 survey of 1,076 Ohio residents (not registered voters, not likely voters) said:
Issue 2 (Absentee Balloting)–Favor: 63.8%, Oppose: 36.2%
Issue 3 (Campaign Contribs.)–Favor: 61.2%, Oppose: 38.8%
Issue 4 (Redistricting)–Favor: 43.5%; Oppose: 56.5%
Issue 5 (Remove Secy. of State from Election Responsibility)–Favor: 42.5%, Oppose: 57.5%
As Chris Berman of ESPN might say: “That’s why they have the election”:
- Issue 2 failed 36-64. The poll vs. actual difference was -28. (!)
- Issue 3 failed 33-67. The poll vs. actual difference was -28. (!)
- Issue 4 failed 30-70. The poll vs. actual difference was -13.
- Issue 5 failed 30-70. The poll vs. actual difference was -12.
Even given the sampling problem, and even given a likely tilt towards Democrats in the sample (which I can’t prove, but has been a nasty habit in a lot of recent polls), what besides incompetence, or a fervent desire to tell someone what they want to hear, regardless of the truth, can explain 28-point differences?
OK, maybe the Blissful Bunch is a bunch of partisan hacks comfortably secure in a university setting. But what explains The Columbus Dispatch’s poll of Oct. 24 through Nov. 3? It seems in reasonable order: 1,872 registered voters (note: NOT likely voters) and a 2.5% margin of error (again from Swing State; percentages sometimes don’t add up to 100% because of rounding):
Issue 2–Yes: 59%; No: 33%; Undecided: 9%
Issue 3–Yes: 61%; No: 25%; Undecided: 14%
Issue 4–Yes: 31%; No: 45%; Undecided: 25%
Issue 5–Yes: 41%; No: 43%; Undecided: 16%
The self-named “Central Ohio’s Premier Information Source” is eating crow by the kilo today. Even if you treat all Undecideds as “Nos,” the final “Yes” tallies were lower than the poll’s results wrong by 23, 28, 1 and 11 points, respectively.
How can this happen? There is one clue at the Dispatch’s poll link: It was a mail poll. The activist, pro-RON types may have been more likely to respond than typical voters. Even considering that factor, though, two of the four differences are still ridiculously large, and the third isn’t exactly tiny.
In 30 years of following election results, I don’t think I have ever seen poll vs. actual differences like this. I’m not even sure I’ve ever seen differences of more than 10 points, let alone 28. They’re supposed to be getting better at this, not going into the toilet. I could have thrown darts and come closer than Bliss and the Dispatch did.
So it’s safe to say that until we see proof otherwise, polls taken in Ohio are worse than worthless, and in fact can be assumed to be at least 10 points off, if not more, in a Democrat and/or liberal direction.
Of course, you never want to get overconfident, but given the laughable poll vs. actual results of the RON initiatives, exactly why should Ohio Republicans be losing sleep over the supposed leads Paul Hackett (7th paragraph) and Sherrod Brown have over Mike DeWine in the the 2006 Senate race polls?