November 11, 2006

Weekend Question 2: How did the Columbus Dispatch Polls Fare Against Actual Results?

ANSWER: For the third time in a row, very poorly.

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Three times in a row — as was the case last in November 2005 and May 2006, the Dispatch’s vaunted mail-in poll differed from actual results by double digits in almost all cases, and all errors were in the conservative/GOP direction:

Governor –
Predicted Strickland Margin: 36
Actual: 23.5
Error: 12.5 points
Direction: Conservative

US Senate –
Predicted Brown Margin: 24
Actual: 12
Error: 12 points
Direction: Conservative

Attorney General –
Predicted Dann Margin: 24
Actual: 5
Error: 19 points
Direction: Conservative

Secretary of State –
Predicted Brunner Margin: 21
Actual: 14
Error: 7 points
Direction: Conservative

Auditor –
Predicted Sykes Margin: 10
Actual Taylor Victory Margin: 2
Error: 12 points
Direction: Conservative

Treasurer –
Predicted Cordray Margin: 28
Actual: 15
Error: 13 points
Direction: Conservative

If the Dispatch can’t do any better than this, it should either ditch the mail-in poll, or do a top-to-bottom redesign. If it continues to do its polling as usual, reasonable people will have to conclude that they’re doing it to influence election results, and not to honestly attempt to portray reality.

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Selected Previous Posts:
- Nov. 5 — Dispatch Polls Are STILL Within Their Track Record Margin of Error
- Oct. 17 — Why “The Polls” Consistently Get It Wrong
- Sept. 29 — The Polls Done by That Columbus Newspaper Need to Be Dispatched to the Trash
- Nov. 9, 2005 — Worse Than Worthless — Ohio’s Polls

Weekend Question 1: Will ‘Christmas’ Be a Four-Letter Word This Year?

Filed under: Business Moves,TWUQs — Tom @ 10:01 am

ANSWER: Maybe not.

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From USA Today, it would appear that Wal-Mart and Macy’s are throwing holiday caution, and political correctness, to the wind:

Wal-Mart wishes you a Merry Christmas
Posted 11/8/2006 11:03 PM ET

Wal-Mart will put “Christmas” back into the holidays this year, the retailer plans to announce Thursday.

A year after religious and other groups boycotted retailers, including Wal-Mart (WMT), for downplaying Christmas, the world’s largest retail chain will have an in-your-face Christmas theme this year.

“We, quite frankly, have learned a lesson from last year,” says Wal-Mart spokeswoman Linda Blakley. “We’re not afraid to use the term ‘Merry Christmas.’ We’ll use it early, and we’ll use it often.”

Wal-Mart told about 7,000 associates of the plans at a conference last month and “was met with rapturous applause. … We know many of our customers will feel the same,” says John Fleming, Wal-Mart’s executive vice president of marketing.

Fleming says the retailer, which recently lowered prices on toys and electronics, will be pitching Christmas almost as much as “value” to holiday shoppers.

New this year:

• A TV ad trumpeting Christmas will air for the first time next week. Wal-Mart also will air TV ads along with the Salvation Army mentioning Christmas.

The name of the department with Christmas decorating needs will change from The Holiday Shop, which it was for the past several years, to The Christmas Shop.

• Store signs will count down the days until Christmas, and Christmas carols will be piped throughout the season.

• About 60% more merchandise will be labeled “Christmas” rather than “holiday” this year over last.

The Christmas spirit is spreading. Macy’s, the largest U.S. department store chain, plans to have “Merry Christmas” signs in all departments. All of Macy’s window displays will have Christmas themes. At New York’s Herald Square, the theme will be “Oh, Christmas Tree.”

Wal-Mart has some other issues that it may be attempting to offset. Its October sales were flat, while almost everyone else’s were strong. This could indicate that consumers are moving upscale, as often happens in the more mature stages of good economic times. Or, more ominously, it could mean that the protests of Don Wildmon’s American Family Association against the company’s active embrace of the pro-gay marriage movement may be having an impact (latest update here; petition here; I am NOT advocating a position on what Wlldmon is doing, but only relaying info to inform my readers of what is going on). Perhaps indications that Wildmon’s actions are working have helped Wal-Mart “get religion,” so to speak, on using “Christmas.”

An interesting question is how Target will react. Debbie Schlussel reminds us that the retailer is more than merely jumpy about the naming of the holiday. Two years ago, it banned the Salvation Army and its kettles from store premises.

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UPDATE: Best Buy, on the other hand, is mandating “Happy Holidays.” Don Wildmon’s American Family Association is not pleased (HT Connect the Dots).

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Last Year’s Related Posts:
Dec. 22, 2005 — When You Can Say What at This Time of Year (UPDATE 2)
Dec. 7, 2005 — When You Can Say What at This Time of Year (UPDATE)
Nov. 29, 2005 — What Time of Year Is It?
Nov. 23, 2005 — When You Can Say What at This Time of Year

Positivity: A Great Suggestion from the Veterans’ Administration for Veterans Day

Filed under: Positivity,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 6:58 am

This would be a great annual tradition to begin on Veterans Day, starting right now:

11.09.06, 6:44 PM ET
VA Asks Vets to Display Medals, Ribbons

Military veterans display their medals and service ribbons all day once a year in Australia. It’s a tradition that Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson would like to import to the U.S.

Nicholson is asking America’s veterans to wear their medals and service ribbons on their civilian clothes all day on Veterans Day this Saturday, not just when they appear in uniform or participate in Veterans Day events.

While in Sydney last April, Nicholson participated in Australia and New Zealand’s largest secular celebration, ANZAC Day, a commemoration of those allied nations’ role in a key World War I battle.

“My wife and I went into a cafe and the guy who took our order had his ribbons on, and the guy who made our cappuccino had his ribbons on,” Nicholson said in an interview Thursday. “It made me think, it’s the kind of thing we should develop as a tradition in our country.”

The secretary said he wants to give veterans license to express more pride in their military service, and not to feel it’s bragging to show their medals and ribbons. It also may foster more open conversations with families and friends about military service, he said.

As a Vietnam veteran who once avoided calling attention to his service, Nicholson said he wants to make sure today’s veterans can keep enjoying high levels of popular support. In recent weeks he has been asking veterans groups to encourage the show of pride and service.