Shock Poll: Trump Gains 19 Points with Latino Voters During Border Wall Shutdown


This post is by Caleb Howe from Mediaite


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US President Donald Trump inspects border wall prototypes in San Diego California March 2018 In the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released Thursday, President Donald Trump may have suffered some among Republicans overall, but he saw a huge point gain in a different demographic breakdown, and an unexpected one by conventional wisdom. In early December, the poll had Trump’s approval rating among Latino adults at 31%. The results from the poll released Thursday show the president’s job approval among Latino adults at 50%. That is an astonishing 19 point swing. Prior results had less variance, with Latino approval numbers at 36% in their November 1st findings. It was 27% in the pollster’s mid-October survey. The January poll was conducted during the government shutdown over border wall funding, most notably. So the big swing among Latinos was while Trump and Democrats faced off over funding for the wall. The president did not fare that well among all Americans, or even among Republicans, with a seven point Continue reading "Shock Poll: Trump Gains 19 Points with Latino Voters During Border Wall Shutdown"

Exiting the exit poll: The AP’s new plan for surveying voters after a not-so-hot 2016


This post is by Christine Schmidt from Nieman Lab


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One hundred and seventy-four days remain until the United States’ midterm elections (421 until the next presidential election, but who’s counting) — which means there’s still time to “evolve” how polling is conducted. The 2016 presidential election wasn’t polling’s shining moment, with many post-mortems pointing to opinion polls misleading election forecasters and underestimating now-President Trump’s support. It didn’t help that some polls were tied to news organizations that don’t really have the resources anymore to support this work — at least doing this work well. There’s no perfect poll aside from (maybe) the ballot itself, but the polling system — both conducted by the media and reported on in the media — has faced critics since long before November 8, 2016. These issues contributed to the Associated Press’ and Fox News’ departure from the Election Day polling data shared by the major networks last year. But now the wire Continue reading "Exiting the exit poll: The AP’s new plan for surveying voters after a not-so-hot 2016"

New Poll: Americans Less Likely to Buy Products Endorsed by Trump


This post is by David Bixenspan from Mediaite


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Donald Trump in front of TV camera (Shutterstock) Now that Donald Trump has become President Trump, NBC News has partnered with Simmons Research to try to figure out just what kind of effect Trump’s endorsement would have on a given product. Simmons conducted a survey using the following questions:
  • Would you be more likely to use a product endorsed by President Trump?
  • Would you be less likely to use a product endorsed by President Trump?
  • Would you actively boycott a product endorsed by President Trump?
The results did not reflect well on the president. A full 49% responded in the affirmative to “less likely,” 29% did so for the “boycott” option, and just 18% said “yes” to the “more likely” question. “We know Trump is a very polarizing figure, but these data suggest that the people who don’t like Trump feel much more strongly about it than the people who do like him,” said Steven Millman Continue reading "New Poll: Americans Less Likely to Buy Products Endorsed by Trump"

What The Failure of Election Predictions Could Mean for Media Trust and Data Journalism


This post is by Ozan Kuru from MediaShift


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The election marathon finally ended, but the scandals and disputes we have seen will probably linger for a while in the public consciousness. One specific problem will be the public credibility of data journalism and trust in the media: The pre-election conspiracies regarding the polls could be reinforced with what many considered to be an across-the-board prediction failure. Whereas many polling post-mortems debated the issues that led to this prediction failure, the focus on the implications for public perceptions still deserves attention, especially given the persistence of Donald Trump’s “rigged polls” claim even a month after the election. Moreover, some features of current data journalism in 2016 could contribute to this public cynicism and mistrust of the media. Before the election, we witnessed unprecedented levels of partisan framing over factual evidence on the performance of the candidates. Especially, the claims a rigged election, the misinterpretation of scientific methodological decisions
Photo by Cory M. Grenier on Flickr and reused here with Creative Commons license.
Photo by Dan Howard and used under Creative Commons license
Continue reading "What The Failure of Election Predictions Could Mean for Media Trust and Data Journalism"

Megyn Kelly: Pollsters Could Be ‘Dead Wrong,’ Polls ‘Weren’t Worth The Paper They Were Written On’


This post is by Alex Griswold from Mediaite


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screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-10-22-52-pmFox News host Megyn Kelly gave a harsh assessment of the performance of pre-election polling during the network’s Election Night coverage, saying if early trends held up, it would mean the effective end to the polling industry. Fellow Fox host Tucker Carlson called the extremely close race a rebuke to prognosticators everywhere, who saw the race as a blowout of Donald Trump. “This not what we expected at all,” he said. Kelly agreed. “If these states wind up going Trump, these swing states we’re still waiting on, a significant number of them, you tell me whether the polling industry is effectively done, they are over,” she said. “Because they did not predict that at all!”
“If there’s a Trump victory tonight, the pollsters are dead wrong,” Kelly said. “Their predictions weren’t worth the paper they were printed on.” “We are talking about the Continue reading "Megyn Kelly: Pollsters Could Be ‘Dead Wrong,’ Polls ‘Weren’t Worth The Paper They Were Written On’"

Poll: 69% of Trump Supporters Think That When Clinton Wins, ‘It Will Be Because It Was Rigged’


This post is by J.D. Durkin from Mediaite


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 11.12.57 AMTake a careful note of my headline. I balanced out a few options, namely, using the word “If” in place of “When” so as to read:
Poll: 69% of Trump Supporters Think That If Clinton Wins, ‘It Will Be Because It Was Rigged’
However, it is essentially — in the opinion of this writer — a foregone conclusion that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will win the November general election. Before we continue with the absurd findings of the Public Policy Polling data out today that suggests a staggering 69% of Trump faithful think the election will be “rigged,” let’s quickly establish why I’m so confident Trumpty Dumpty will lose yuge: You don’t vote for the President, Trump fans. Remember your social studies classes? Well, at some point you learned that it is the electoral college that decides who wins the White House, not you and your precious Continue reading "Poll: 69% of Trump Supporters Think That When Clinton Wins, ‘It Will Be Because It Was Rigged’"

Meet the Press host Chuck Todd on maintaining the show’s presence in a “24/7 digital journalism” world


This post is by Shan Wang from Nieman Lab


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Chuck Todd doesn’t like buzzwords. In the half hour that we spoke, the Meet the Press host qualified his use of “millennial,” “old/legacy/traditional media,” and “media narrative.” Other common phrases that pepper digital journalism-speak seemed to catch in his throat. There was one term, however, that he used liberally: “platform neutral.” Media organizations frantically chasing a millennial audience, he said, shouldn’t just panic, and should stay platform neutral. Donald Trump, he hypothesized, is a truly platform-neutral candidate, whose media ubiquity has made him more difficult for rivals to combat. Todd, who got his start in political reporting at The Hotline, took over as host of the nearly 70-year-old Sunday morning public affairs show in 2014, replacing David Gregory and inheriting declining ratings. Last September, Todd became the host of a new daily weekday version of Meet the Press — a show the network hoped it would Continue reading "Meet the Press host Chuck Todd on maintaining the show’s presence in a “24/7 digital journalism” world"

Rubio on Polls Showing Him Down in Florida: ‘Those Are Not Accurate Numbers’


This post is by Alex Griswold from Mediaite


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mrRepublican presidential candidate Marco Rubio dismissed concerns about his chances in Florida Wednesday morning, saying on Fox News that polling showing him down by double digits simply wasn’t accurate. Host Martha McCallum pointed out that some polls have Rubio down by as much as 19 points in Florida. “Can you guarantee you will win Florida?” she asked. “What is your path to making up lost territory?”
“I don’t believe it is lost territory,” Rubio responded. “Florida is a unique place to poll for a bunch of different reasons, including a significant number of Republican voters in South Florida who get the majority of their information in Spanish. Cuban-American Republicans are over 10% of the whole electorate.” “Look, Florida, those are not accurate numbers you have seen,” he said. “We have our own numbers, I Continue reading "Rubio on Polls Showing Him Down in Florida: ‘Those Are Not Accurate Numbers’"

Public opinion polls do not always report public opinion


This post is by Herbert J. Gans from Nieman Journalism Lab


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town-hall-meeting-voting-citizen-herbert-gans-cc

Editor’s note: Herbert Gans is a professor emeritus of sociology at Columbia University and the author of, among other works, Deciding What’s News. Read his previous essays for Nieman Lab on journalism and democracy here and here.

Polls have long been newsworthy, but never more so than when their conclusions can be compared to contrary politician behavior, the recent gun control debate being a particularly dramatic example. The pollsters’ finding that 90 percent of their respondents said they favored universal background checks for guns was juxtaposed (except by Fox News) with the Senate’s filibustered rejection of such legislation.

More interesting and important, the news media turned poll respondents’ answers to pollsters’ questions into the expression of public opinion. In effect, the news media, and later many politicians, including President Obama, seemed to imply that the Republicans refused to listen to vox populi. Some may even have been thinking that the polls were sometimes a better instrument of American democracy than its elected officials.

In one respect, the polls are more democratic; they report the opinions of a random sample of the entire population, while elected officials have been chosen by an electorate which at best includes 60 percent of the eligible voters and at worst many fewer. Thus, when 90 percent of poll respondents agree on the answers to polling questions, the polls are sending a message about majoritarian democracy.

In other respects, however, polls are not the best representative of the popular will, for people’s answers to pollster questions are not quite the same as their opinions — or, for that matter, public opinion.

The pollsters typically ask people whether they favor or oppose, agree or disagree, approve or disapprove of an issue, and their wording generally follows the centrist bias of the mainstream news media. They offer respondents only two sides (along with the opportunity to say “don’t know” or “unsure”), thus leaving out alternatives proposed by people with minority political views. Occasionally, one side is presented in stronger or more approving language — but by and large, poll questions maintains the balanced neutrality of the mainstream news media.

The pollsters’ reports and press releases usually begin with the asked question and then present tables with the statistical proportions of poll respondents giving each of the possible answers. However, the news media stories about the polls usually report only the results, and by leaving out the questions and the don’t knows, transform answers into opinions. When these opinions are shared by a majority, the news stories turn poll respondents into the public, thus giving birth to public opinion.

Normally, the news story tells what proportion of that public favors the legislation being questioned or rejected by the Beltway politicians. Indeed, such polls are newsworthy in large part because the reportage is framed as a conflict between majoritarian opinions and politicians’ rejection of the popular will.

To be sure, poll respondents favor what they tell the pollsters they favor. But still, poll answers are not quite the same as their opinions. While their answers may reflect their already determined opinions, they may also express what they feel, or believe they ought to feel, at the moment. Pollsters should therefore distinguish between respondents with previously determined opinion and those with spur-of-the-moment answers to pollster questions.

However, only rarely do pollsters ask whether the respondents have thought about the question before the pollsters called, or whether they will ever do so again. In addition, polls usually do not tell us whether respondents have talked about the issue with family or friends, or whether they have expressed their answer cum opinion in other, more directly political ways.

In fact, respondents incur no responsibilities with their answers, no subsequent obligation to vote or do anything else. Conversely, politicians can lose the next election with a vote that angers their base.

If poll results can be interpreted as opinion, they are pollster-evoked or passive opinions. They are not the active opinions of citizens who feel strongly about, or participate in some way in the debates about forthcoming legislation or a presidential decision.

Elected officials may take passive opinions into account but they pay far more attention to active opinions. Above all, however, politicians listen most closely to the usual suspects with power: influential citizens, Congressional leaders and whips, lobbies, and campaign funders.

Jennifer Steinhauer of The New York Times was right on target when she described the poll results as an expression of “national sentiment,” which she then contrasted with the Senate’s “political dynamic.”

Some corrective fixes

Since polls will continue to be used as indicators of public opinion, the news media should be adding some context to their reporting of the results. From time to time, they should remind the news audience that polls are answers to questions rather than opinions, just as they now remind audiences of the polls’ error margins.

In addition, the pollsters should be urged to pose and report intensity questions, telling the politicians and the public how strongly respondents feel about what they tell pollsters, and whether they have been politically active in behalf of these feelings.

At the same time, the news media should keep track of other kinds of intensity measures. For about 30 years, the Pew Research Center has been reporting what news stories a national sample says it follows very closely. Some respondents may exaggerate that closeness, but not many stories are followed closely by more than 50 percent of the sample. Over the years, stories that touch people emotionally and personally relevant ones have always scored highest.

In 2012, the Sandy Hook tragedy was followed very closely by 57 percent, and rising gas prices by 52 percent. In late January 2013, the gun control debate reached a high of 42 percent and stood at 37 percent in early April. The debates over the debt limit and immigration were followed very closely by just under 25 percent of the Pew sample, but 63 percent followed the Boston Marathon bombing very closely.

Better ways the news media can put the passivity of poll opinions into context include the following:

  • Report news about active citizen expressions of opinion, at local town halls, organized debates, demonstrations, teach ins, and the like. Gatherings involving predominantly adult and older mainstream Americans are particularly important; and some politically conscientious websites could be counting and reporting the number of such active expressions, large and small, all across the country.
  • Keep track of the number, content, and tone of phone calls, letters, and other communications to elected officials, particularly those directly involved in an issue. Spontaneous communications have priority over organized ones, notably the now ubiquitous petitions requiring only single clicks on a website.

    In fact, the mainstream news media, journalistic websites, and other enterprising fact-finders should regularly be asking elected and appointed officials about communications and visits from citizens on currently debated political and social issues.

  • Plan followup stories after legislation dealing with major problems and issues has been approved or disapproved. Such stories are already being reported, but for the purpose of putting poll results in context, they should emphasize what citizen communications politicians received and try to find out which ones they took into account.

    Regular reporting of such stories would add to public understanding of which kinds of citizen participation and active opinion the politicians consider. That would also help people understand the place of polls in democratic politics, and perhaps lead to debates about whether they can or should play a larger role in politics. Such debates might even stimulate journalistic and other discussions of the pros and cons of majoritarian democracy.

Photo by Mark Sardella used under a Creative Commons license.

Data, uncertainty, and specialization: What journalism can learn from FiveThirtyEight’s election coverage


This post is by Jonathan Stray from Nieman Journalism Lab


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Nate Silver’s FiveThiryEight blog at The New York Times really only does one thing: It makes election predictions. But it does this differently than pretty much everyone else, because it aggregates all available polls using a statistical model calibrated with past election data. He has his critics among the political class, but to my eye, it makes pretty much all other election “horse race” coverage look primitive and uninformed.

FiveThirtyEight has obvious lessons for journalism about data-related topics such as statistics and uncertainty. But I think I also see wider implications for the evolving role of the political journalist. At heart, these changes are about the response of journalism to a world that is increasingly complex and networked.

Data literacy

Silver’s approach has had remarkable success in past elections, correctly predicting the winner in 49 of 50 states in 2008. That doesn’t necessarily mean his model is going to get 2012 right — as Silver will be first to admit — but there is at least one reason to recommend FiveThirtyEight over other sources: It takes the statistics of polling seriously. Polls are subtle creations, careful extrapolations from a small sample to an entire population. Although the basic theory is centuries old, the details are complex and tricky. See, for example, this lengthy analysis of why Gallup polls consistently favor Romney slightly more than other polls.

Silver understands all of this this, and his model accounts for dozens of factors: “house effects” that make particular firms lean in particular ways, the relationships between state and national polls, the effect of economic indicators on election results, post-convention bounces, and lots of other good stuff. Yes, you can talk about all of these factors — but without quantifying them there is no way to know whether the cumulative effect is up or down.

Uncertainty

Recently CNN aired a chart that showed one candidate ahead 49 percent to 47 percent, and the commentators were discussing this lead. But up in the corner in small print, the margin of error of the poll was given as 5.5 percent. In other words, the size of the “lead” was smaller than the expected error in the poll result, meaning that the difference was probably meaningless.

Expected error — quantified uncertainty — is the price you pay for polling a national sample instead of asking every person in the country how they’re going to vote. It means that small variations in poll numbers are mostly meaningless “noise,” because those last 5.5 percent are effectively down to a coin toss. In other words, you’d expect the very next poll to show the lead reversing much of the time. This 2 percent difference with a 5.5 percent margin of error would never pass standard statistical tests such as the t-test — so you couldn’t publish the result in a scientific paper, a medical board wouldn’t authorize a new treatment based on such weak evidence, and you certainly wouldn’t want to place a bet.

So why do journalists spend so much energy talking about a result like this, as if there’s anything at all to learn from such a roll of the dice? One possibility is a widespread misunderstanding of the limitations of statistical methods and how to interpret measures of uncertainty. But I suspect there’s also a deeper cultural force at play here: Journalists are loathe to admit that the answer cannot be known. “Unexpected Reversal in Polls” is a great headline; “Magic Eight Ball says ‘Sorry, Ask Again Later’” is a story no one wants to write — or read. To his great credit, Silver never shies away from saying that we don’t have yet enough information to know something, as when he cautioned that we had to wait a few more days to see if the Denver debate really had any effect.

Aggregation

The big data craze notwithstanding, more data isn’t always better. However, in the limited field of statistical sampling, more samples are better. That’s why averaging polls works; in a sense, it combines all of the individuals asked by different pollsters into one imaginary super-poll with a smaller margin of error. This is the idea behind Real Clear Politics’ simple poll averages and FiveThirtyEight’s more sophisticated weighted averages.

All well and good, but to average polls together you have to be willing to use other peoples’ polling data. This is where traditional journalism falls down. We have the ABC-WaPo poll, the AP-GfK poll, the CNN/ORC poll, and then Gallup, Rasmussen, and all the others. FiveThirtyEight shamelessly draws on all of these and more — while individual news outlets like to pretend that their one poll is definitive. This is a disservice to the user.

This situation is not unlike the battles over aggregation and linking in the news industry more generally. Aggregation disrupts business models and makes a hash of brands — but in the long run none of that matters if it also delivers a superior product for the user.

Specialization

It’s not just statistics. To report well on complicated things, you need specialized knowledge. As Megan Garber put it so well, “While it may still be true that a good magazine — just as a good newspaper — is a nation talking to itself, the standards for that conversation have risen considerably since people have been able to talk to each other on their own.” The traditional generalist education of the journalist is ill suited to meaty topics such as law, science, finance, technology, and medicine. It’s no longer enough to be able to write a good article; on the web, the best is just a click away, and the best on these sorts of subjects is probably being written by someone with the sort of deep knowledge that comes from specialized training.

Silver is a statistician who got into journalism when he began publishing the results of his (initially sabermetric) models; the reverse, a journalist who becomes a statistician when they start modeling polling data, seems like a much longer road.

Journalism today has an obvious shortage of talent in many specialized fields. I’d like the financial press to be asking serious questions about, say, the systemic risks of high-frequency trading — but instead we get barely factual daily market reports that, like most poll coverage, struggle to say something in the face of uncertainty. But then again, most finance reporters have training in neither quantitative finance nor computer science, which makes them probably unqualified for this topic. I suspect that we will see many more specialists brought into journalism to address this sort of problem.

The role of the political journalist

For the last several decades, both in the United States and internationally, “horse race” or “political strategy” coverage of politics has been something like 60 percent or 70 percent of all political journalism. Certainly, it’s important to keep track of who might win an election — but 60 or 70 percent? There are several different arguments that this is way too much.

First, it’s very insider-y, focusing on how the political game is played rather than what sort of information might help voters choose between candidates. Jay Rosen has called this the cult of the savvy. As one friend put it to me: “I wish the news would stop talking about who won the debate and start asking questions about what they said.”

Second, this quantity of horse race coverage is massively wasteful. Given the tall problems of uncertainty and attributing causation, can you really produce all that many words about the daily state of the race? Can you really say anything different than the thousands of other stories on the topic? (Literally thousands — check Google News.) So why not cover something else instead? I find it noteworthy that it was not journalists who crunched the numbers behind Romney’s centerpiece tax plan. That task, really nothing more than a long night with a spreadsheet, fell to think tanks.

Third and finally, FiveThirtyEight has set a new standard for horse race coverage. We should rejoice that this is a higher standard than we had before, and hopefully represents a narrowing of the data gap between politicians and journalists. It’s also a complicated and presumably expensive process. Because there are many assumptions and judgement calls that go into such a complex statistical model, we really do need more than one. (And indeed, there are other models of this type.) But we don’t need one from every newsroom — and anyway, you need to hire a statistician to produce a statistical model. The politics desk of the future might look a lot different than it does today.

Photo of Nate Silver by J.D. Lasica used under a Creative Commons license.

How Helpful Is All This Election Data?


This post is by MediaShift from MediaShift


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As the 2012 presidential campaigns intensify in the days leading up to the election, pollsters and pundits will be making frenzied attempts to grapple with the flood of information readily available on the Internet. What's unclear is how effectively we're using -- and whether we're being used by -- that information.  

Polling

Let's start with the polls. With eight entities conducting national tracking polls, a bevy of media and interest groups conducting state polls, and websites that aggregate and average poll results, we have public opinion data aplenty. But how much do these polls reflect public opinion and how much do they influence it? Are they a measure of -- or a contributor to -- a campaign's momentum? In truth, they're both.

camera election smaller.jpg

Canadian political scientist Mark Pickup has argued that voters often take cues about candidates based on media reports of polls. This "bandwagon effect," by which voters begin to align themselves with the candidate who's perceived as more popular in the polls, has been documented by NYU professors Vicki Morwitz and Carol Pluzinski. In their study of the 1992 presidential election, Morwitz and Pluzinski demonstrated that political polls change not just voters' expectations of who will win the election but, in some cases, their preference for a certain candidate.

The real test in determining whether we use public opinion polls or the polls use us is to answer the perennial question, "who benefits?" There's no question that campaigns use polls as an informative tool to help them calibrate and recalibrate their strategies, and that mainstream media organizations use polls as a leader board for maintaining the high drama of their horse race coverage. But the jury is still out on whether they're useful to the everyday voter, who's got limited time and information, and is more interested in sorting out her or his preference than knowing and analyzing the entire country's preferences.

Fundraising data: Does it matter?

There's also more publicly available fundraising information than ever. We have data on who has donated to which campaigns (employees of Microsoft, Google, the University of California and Harvard University are giving to President Barack Obama while folks over at Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley are among Mitt Romney's top backers).

contributions.jpg

Data from Open Secrets

And new data shows how people are making donations -- according to a Pew study released last week, Republican donors are more likely to make donations by mail and in-person, while Democrats are more likely to contribute online or via email (and are nearly three times as likely as Republicans to donate via text message).  

Sure, there are interesting inferences to be made with information like this. It reinforces the narrative that Democratic donors are more tech-savvy and many Republican donors hail from the finance world. But fundraising data and trends are also being used to identify and target prospective donors in new and aggressive ways. And opponents to certain candidates can easily assemble, from FEC data posted online, a roster of that candidate's donors and even conduct online opposition research on those donors.

Using search to cater messages

Every time you type a political query into a search engine, you may be retrieving information, but you're also contributing bits of information to a large pool of online data that's being exploited by campaigns, journalists and academics. According to data from Brand Yourself, the SEO company, nearly a third of adults who have queried a person's name online, have looked up the name of a candidate for office. More than half of those people have found information that influenced them to vote for a candidate, and more than half have found negative information that led them to vote against that candidate. So, yes, the Internet is indeed a useful, new reference with information that can help voters decide.

But just the fact that search trends like these are available allows campaigns to adjust their strategies and tailor their messages. When, for example, political scientists are showing that people are querying words like "vote" on Google less frequently than they did four years ago, pundits begin to predict lower turnout and campaigns will ramp up their "get out the vote" operations.  

An article in this Sunday's New York Times brought to light the extent to which this datamining and microtargeting is occurring. The article reports that the Obama and Romney campaigns are deploying increasingly sophisticated tracking tactics, with BarackObama.com hosting 76 different tracking programs and MittRomney.com hosting 40 of them. Both of these figures are up about 50 percent from the number of tracking programs found on these two sites in May. The Times got its data from Evidon, a "company that helps businesses and consumers monitor and control third-party tracking software" (in other words, a company that tracks the trackers). While consumer advocates worry that data on millions of Americans' political beliefs could fall into the wrong hands, both campaigns have made assurances that their vendors -- companies with names like "AdRoll" and "ValueClick" -- will protect the privacy of their web visitors.

What's wrong with information?

There's nothing wrong with this two-way use of information, per se, and as an academic, I've been able to troll social media sites like Facebook and Twitter for huge data sets that help me understand public sentiment and political opinion. But it's important to know this is happening. The examples I used (for opinion polling, fundraising data and web-tracking activity) are just the tip of the information iceberg.  

I attended an event last week where Stanford political scientist Shanto Iyengar discussed the campaigns' use of web analytics to anticipate individuals' partisan affiliation by their web-surfing behavior. He didn't take a position on whether this was necessarily good or bad, but he concluded by saying, "One can imagine an Orwellian world where a politician knows everything he needs to know about his audience and therefore can just tailor his positions and his message to get the votes needed to win." The cynic might suggest that this is already how many of our professional politicians operate. If so, the tricks of that trade are getting trickier.

Mark Hannah is the political correspondent for MediaShift. As a Ph.D. fellow at USC's Annenberg School for Communication, Mark investigates the impact of emerging media on political knowledge and opinion. Mark began his career in politics and was a staffer on the Kerry-Edwards presidential campaign. He has more recently done part-time work for the Obama-Biden campaign, the Presidential Inaugural Committee and the White House. Between political campaigns, Mark worked in PR, conducting sensitive public affairs campaigns for well-known multinational corporations, major industry organizations and influential non-profits. He serves on the board of directors of the National Association for Media Literacy Education, the advisory board of #Waywire (Newark Mayor Cory Booker's social media startup), and was a research fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. He previously studied political communication at UPenn (BA) and Columbia University (MS). His personal website is www.mark-hannah.com, and he can be reached at markphannah[at]gmail.com. Follow Mark on Twitter: @ProfessorHannah

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How Helpful Is All This Election Data?


This post is by MediaShift from MediaShift


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




As the 2012 presidential campaigns intensify in the days leading up to the election, pollsters and pundits will be making frenzied attempts to grapple with the flood of information readily available on the Internet. What's unclear is how effectively we're using -- and whether we're being used by -- that information.  

Polling

Let's start with the polls. With eight entities conducting national tracking polls, a bevy of media and interest groups conducting state polls, and websites that aggregate and average poll results, we have public opinion data aplenty. But how much do these polls reflect public opinion and how much do they influence it? Are they a measure of -- or a contributor to -- a campaign's momentum? In truth, they're both.

camera election smaller.jpg

Canadian political scientist Mark Pickup has argued that voters often take cues about candidates based on media reports of polls. This "bandwagon effect," by which voters begin to align themselves with the candidate who's perceived as more popular in the polls, has been documented by NYU professors Vicki Morwitz and Carol Pluzinski. In their study of the 1992 presidential election, Morwitz and Pluzinski demonstrated that political polls change not just voters' expectations of who will win the election but, in some cases, their preference for a certain candidate.

The real test in determining whether we use public opinion polls or the polls use us is to answer the perennial question, "who benefits?" There's no question that campaigns use polls as an informative tool to help them calibrate and recalibrate their strategies, and that mainstream media organizations use polls as a leader board for maintaining the high drama of their horse race coverage. But the jury is still out on whether they're useful to the everyday voter, who's got limited time and information, and is more interested in sorting out her or his preference than knowing and analyzing the entire country's preferences.

Fundraising data: Does it matter?

There's also more publicly available fundraising information than ever. We have data on who has donated to which campaigns (employees of Microsoft, Google, the University of California and Harvard University are giving to President Barack Obama while folks over at Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley are among Mitt Romney's top backers).

contributions.jpg

Data from Open Secrets

And new data shows how people are making donations -- according to a Pew study released last week, Republican donors are more likely to make donations by mail and in-person, while Democrats are more likely to contribute online or via email (and are nearly three times as likely as Republicans to donate via text message).  

Sure, there are interesting inferences to be made with information like this. It reinforces the narrative that Democratic donors are more tech-savvy and many Republican donors hail from the finance world. But fundraising data and trends are also being used to identify and target prospective donors in new and aggressive ways. And opponents to certain candidates can easily assemble, from FEC data posted online, a roster of that candidate's donors and even conduct online opposition research on those donors.

Using search to cater messages

Every time you type a political query into a search engine, you may be retrieving information, but you're also contributing bits of information to a large pool of online data that's being exploited by campaigns, journalists and academics. According to data from Brand Yourself, the SEO company, nearly a third of adults who have queried a person's name online, have looked up the name of a candidate for office. More than half of those people have found information that influenced them to vote for a candidate, and more than half have found negative information that led them to vote against that candidate. So, yes, the Internet is indeed a useful, new reference with information that can help voters decide.

But just the fact that search trends like these are available allows campaigns to adjust their strategies and tailor their messages. When, for example, political scientists are showing that people are querying words like "vote" on Google less frequently than they did four years ago, pundits begin to predict lower turnout and campaigns will ramp up their "get out the vote" operations.  

An article in this Sunday's New York Times brought to light the extent to which this datamining and microtargeting is occurring. The article reports that the Obama and Romney campaigns are deploying increasingly sophisticated tracking tactics, with BarackObama.com hosting 76 different tracking programs and MittRomney.com hosting 40 of them. Both of these figures are up about 50 percent from the number of tracking programs found on these two sites in May. The Times got its data from Evidon, a "company that helps businesses and consumers monitor and control third-party tracking software" (in other words, a company that tracks the trackers). While consumer advocates worry that data on millions of Americans' political beliefs could fall into the wrong hands, both campaigns have made assurances that their vendors -- companies with names like "AdRoll" and "ValueClick" -- will protect the privacy of their web visitors.

What's wrong with information?

There's nothing wrong with this two-way use of information, per se, and as an academic, I've been able to troll social media sites like Facebook and Twitter for huge data sets that help me understand public sentiment and political opinion. But it's important to know this is happening. The examples I used (for opinion polling, fundraising data and web-tracking activity) are just the tip of the information iceberg.  

I attended an event last week where Stanford political scientist Shanto Iyengar discussed the campaigns' use of web analytics to anticipate individuals' partisan affiliation by their web-surfing behavior. He didn't take a position on whether this was necessarily good or bad, but he concluded by saying, "One can imagine an Orwellian world where a politician knows everything he needs to know about his audience and therefore can just tailor his positions and his message to get the votes needed to win." The cynic might suggest that this is already how many of our professional politicians operate. If so, the tricks of that trade are getting trickier.

Mark Hannah is the political correspondent for MediaShift. As a Ph.D. fellow at USC's Annenberg School for Communication, Mark investigates the impact of emerging media on political knowledge and opinion. Mark began his career in politics and was a staffer on the Kerry-Edwards presidential campaign. He has more recently done part-time work for the Obama-Biden campaign, the Presidential Inaugural Committee and the White House. Between political campaigns, Mark worked in PR, conducting sensitive public affairs campaigns for well-known multinational corporations, major industry organizations and influential non-profits. He serves on the board of directors of the National Association for Media Literacy Education, the advisory board of #Waywire (Newark Mayor Cory Booker's social media startup), and was a research fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. He previously studied political communication at UPenn (BA) and Columbia University (MS). His personal website is www.mark-hannah.com, and he can be reached at markphannah[at]gmail.com. Follow Mark on Twitter: @ProfessorHannah

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Ann Coulter Deems Polls ‘A Crock’: Media Want Obama Win, Enjoy Calling Opponents ‘Racist’


This post is by Meenal Vamburkar from Mediaite


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Ann Coulter and David Limbaugh joined Sean Hannity in discussing polling and debates on Monday night. All three agreed that Mitt Romney needs to hit back hard in the first presidential debate, with Coulter especially lamenting that Romney is just too nice.

“They know the polls are a crock,” Coulter said, agreeing with Hannity that the media is trying to deflate enthusiasm. The media want Obama to win because he’s the most left-wing president, and because they like calling Obama’s opponents racist, she said.

About the pre-debate downplaying, Limbaugh noted that Obama has never underestimated himself. This is Romney’s chance, Hannity added, arguing that if Romney takes the right punches, it’ll provoke Obama’s arrogance. And it’ll have to be Romney, Coulter said, because the moderators won’t be doing it.

Looking then at Romney, all three agreed that he’s certainly a good debater, with Hannity adding that he’ll be angry if Romney doesn’t hit Obama as hard as he did Newt Gingrich (during the primaries).

No one has asked Obama the basic, simple, critical questions, Hannity said. “I’ve never met a president that panders,” he said. “That speech that he gave at the United Nations, he was pandering. Who was that speech directed at? Not Muslims. Radical Islamists.”

Back to the debate, Hannity said Romney has to “thread a needle” — be assertive and passionate, but not so aggressive that he’d come off mean.

Asked for final advice, Coulter said Romney has a tendency “to be too gracious, too much of a gentleman.” She added: “I think Romney is genuinely too nice a person.

The segment below, via Fox News:

Bernie Goldberg Questions Polls On O’Reilly’s Show, Says Investigation May Be Needed


This post is by Meenal Vamburkar from Mediaite


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Polls “don’t mean very much” right now, Bill O’Reilly said on his show Monday. But after the first presidential election, they’ll take on a new importance. To discuss current polls and their contradictions, O’Reilly spoke to Bernie Goldberg.

Goldberg noted that the polling situation is baffling, that he has “no idea” whether they are reflecting the reality of the race. Agreeing, O’Reilly also noted that he doesn’t think the polls are “crazy wrong,” but that they probably favor the president by one or two points.

Pointing to Dick Morris‘ poll that puts Mitt Romney ahead by seven or eight points, Goldberg said if Morris is right, Romney wins big and the final polls don’t reflect that, “there’s gonna need to be some kind of investigation.” That said, he added that he doesn’t believe the polls are “rigged.”

O’Reilly argued that more than polls being “rigged,” the issue is that organizations are using the same model they used in 2008 even though turnout won’t be the same this time around.

If they know their model is flawed but just don’t care, the situation slides from bad science “to something more sinister,” Goldberg remarked. The media should investigate the polls later, he added — but he’s not holding his breath, given that that’s the same media doing some of the polling.

The pair agreed that after the election, all the polling should be revisited, including conservative ones.

The segment below, via Fox News:

Rachel Maddow Mocks Mitt Romney Campaign’s Denial About Polls


This post is by Tommy Christopher from Mediaite


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Mitt Romney‘s attack on the very fabric of public opinion polling yesterday was, apparently, not just a way to contemptuously dismiss a voter with whom he disagreed, but part of the launch of a new strategy. On Tuesday night’s The Rachel Maddow Show, host Rachel Maddow detailed an emerging trend of Romney supporters and staffers trying to buck up their own spirits by simply reworking the rules of public opinion polling to make it so their guy comes out ahead. Romney adviser Ed Gillespie continued the rollout on Fox and Friends this morning, and managed only to get resident Mediaite conservative Noah Rothman to agree with Rachel Maddow.

At an Education Nation forum on Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney responded to a New York City school board member and parent who cited a public opinion poll by telling the man “I don’t believe it for a second. I know something about polls, and I know you can ask questions to get any answer you want.”

It was a ridiculous assertion, calling into question not just the validity of that specific poll, but the very legitimacy of public opinion polling, in general. Now, polls aren’t perfect, and their value is often misunderstood, but there are established scientific methods to public opinion polling, ones which can be applied consistently. If you don’t like how they turn out, though, apparently you can just “unskew” them.

That’s right, as Maddow reports, there’s a website that takes recent polling data and “unskews” it by applying methodology that isn’t consistent with scientific polling practices. In much the same way, you can “unskew” carbon monoxide, and turn it into oxygen that won’t kill you, you just throw some new science at it, take out that anti-breathing bias. As Maddow explains, the creator of the site thinks that pollsters are oversampling Democrats.

“Sampling more Democrats than Republicans,” Rachel says. “Hmmm, that sounds like a reasonable argument. Everybody might have reason to be suspicious of the polls showing President Obama leading if, in fact, pollsters are systemically oversampling Democrats when doing their polling. That’s not what pollsters are doing. They are not going out and looking for too many Democrats for their polls in order to fill some quota to get the liberal result they want. Pollsters polling the swing states are finding more people calling themselves Democrats in those swing states because there are more people calling themselves Democrats in the swing states. It’s not a biassed look at the states. It’s a look at the states that show the states have a Democratic bias.”

I’ve got to give a big, sincere tip of the hat to my colleague, Noah Rothman, who not only patiently explained the same thing on our website this morning, but even compared Romney’s poll-deniers with the residents of Hitler’s bunker. When you’ve got Noah Rothman channeling Rachel Maddow and Dick Harpootlian, you’ve done messed something up pretty bad.

To continue the up-is-down theme on this issue, however, I am going to come to the mild defense of the Romney campaign’s political director, Rich Beeson. Beeson told reporters, yesterday, that the campaign is relying on more encouraging internal poll numbers, but declined to share those internals. Several commentators have pointed to Beeson’s refusal to share those internals as evidence that he’s full of crap.

Here’s the thing about internal polls: all campaigns use them (the Obama campaign is frighteningly adept at this), but they only ever bring them up when their guy is in trouble. In that way, Beeson probably is somewhat full of it. No campaign staffer ever says “I know my guy’s ahead in the Gallup daily, but our internals are for shit!”

However, there’s probably at least a grain of truth to it. Maybe the internals have a wider margin of error, or maybe they show Romney down, but making inroads with a key demographic (namely, all of them except white males). In any case, it’s not really fair to infer anything from the fact that Beeson’s not releasing the internal polls. Even if they’re better than the recent swing-state numbers, they still show Romney losing (Beeson says they’re “by any stretch inside the margin of error in Ohio”), so there’s very little political upside in releasing them. Even if the internals had Romney winning, releasing them would smack of desperation, like showing your friends the perfumed letter your girlfriend in Canada sent you.

There’s also the distinct possibility that releasing the internals might show that the Romney campaign using a polling firm in the Cayman Islands.

Here’s the clip, from The Rachel Maddow Show:


Follow Tommy Christopher (@TommyXtopher) on Twitter.

‘Twindex’: Twitter Launches Political Index To Track Voter Moods In Real Time


This post is by Josh Feldman from Mediaite


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Earlier today Twitter launched its joint venture with the social analysis tracker Topsy and two political polling groups: Twindex. The new service, from the Government & Politics team at Twitter, is tracking voter moods about President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney in real time on the social network to compete with traditional polling outfits. Four years ago, election night brought Twitter record-breaking traffic, and in this election the social network wants to play a larger role in highlighting voters’ reactions to the campaign.

RELATED: Washington State Is Going To Allow Voter Registration On Facebook

Twitter and Topsy have joined forces with pollsters The Mellman Group and North Star Opinion Research for the project. Wired breaks down exactly how the service tracks political tweets and what the rankings next to Obama and Romney’s names mean.

Topsy uses Twitter’s high-volume fire hose of data to look at every tweet in the world, and establish a neutral baseline. Separately, it looks at all the tweets about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, runs a sentiment analysis on them, and compares this analysis to the baseline. It looks at three days’ worth of tweets each day, weighting the newer ones higher than then older ones. It then returns a numerical score for each candidate based on how tweets about the individual compare to all tweets as a whole. A completely neutral score would be 50. Anything above that is a net positive, while lower is a net negative.

So, for example, if Obama has a score of 38, that would mean that tweets about him are more positive than 38 percent of all other messages on Twitter.

Over the past few years, as Twitter worked on Twindex and tried to get it working properly, they eventually noticed that their results were beginning to line up more with Gallup poll numbers. Twitter’s Adam Sharp said the program is “providing a real service to journalists,” because if the Twindex numbers are not matching the numbers traditional pollsters are getting, “we are saying we don’t have a complete picture, and need to be asking better questions.”

Today President Obama’s ranking stands at 34, while Mitt Romney’s is at 25. A political map of the social web released last month showed that politically speaking, Twitter’s users tend to be close to the center, but lean Republican.

—–

Follow Josh Feldman on Twitter: @feldmaniac

‘Twindex’: Twitter Launches Political Index To Track Voter Moods In Real Time


This post is by Josh Feldman from Mediaite


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Earlier today Twitter launched its joint venture with the social analysis tracker Topsy and two political polling groups: Twindex. The new service, from the Government & Politics team at Twitter, is tracking voter moods about President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney in real time on the social network to compete with traditional polling outfits. Four years ago, election night brought Twitter record-breaking traffic, and in this election the social network wants to play a larger role in highlighting voters’ reactions to the campaign.

RELATED: Washington State Is Going To Allow Voter Registration On Facebook

Twitter and Topsy have joined forces with pollsters The Mellman Group and North Star Opinion Research for the project. Wired breaks down exactly how the service tracks political tweets and what the rankings next to Obama and Romney’s names mean.

Topsy uses Twitter’s high-volume fire hose of data to look at every tweet in the world, and establish a neutral baseline. Separately, it looks at all the tweets about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, runs a sentiment analysis on them, and compares this analysis to the baseline. It looks at three days’ worth of tweets each day, weighting the newer ones higher than then older ones. It then returns a numerical score for each candidate based on how tweets about the individual compare to all tweets as a whole. A completely neutral score would be 50. Anything above that is a net positive, while lower is a net negative.

So, for example, if Obama has a score of 38, that would mean that tweets about him are more positive than 38 percent of all other messages on Twitter.

Over the past few years, as Twitter worked on Twindex and tried to get it working properly, they eventually noticed that their results were beginning to line up more with Gallup poll numbers. Twitter’s Adam Sharp said the program is “providing a real service to journalists,” because if the Twindex numbers are not matching the numbers traditional pollsters are getting, “we are saying we don’t have a complete picture, and need to be asking better questions.”

Today President Obama’s ranking stands at 34, while Mitt Romney’s is at 25. A political map of the social web released last month showed that politically speaking, Twitter’s users tend to be close to the center, but lean Republican.

—–

Follow Josh Feldman on Twitter: @feldmaniac

Finally, a Talking Points Memo mobile app — but it might not be what you’re expecting


This post is by Adrienne LaFrance from Nieman Journalism Lab


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Talking Points Memo launched a new version of its Polltracker vertical this morning. It’s accessible from its own domain, Polltracker.com, which is the first step toward giving it its own identity, separate from the TPM mothership.

The timing seems appropriate, given the political season, and it’s a step forward in TPM’s larger mission, which aims to diversify content across platforms and create more new, distinct brands under the TPM umbrella.

But perhaps most interesting is that, later this month, TPM will launch a Polltracker iPhone native app. There’s no general TPM app — their first foray into appdom is in a niche.

“My basic sense is that a lot of news apps only do things that you can do with a web optimized site,” TPM Editor and Publisher Josh Marshall told me. “Because of that, that’s made us sort of app-averse for lack of a better word — sort of app-skeptics, not that we’re against it.”

Yesterday, we wrote about ReadWriteWeb’s decommissioning of its native iPhone app in favor of a responsive-design-driven solution. “We have a simple rule: if we can do it in a browser, we use a browser,” SAY Media’s Alex Schleifer said, arguing that native apps should be reserved for things that require native apps’ capabilities.

The Polltracker app falls into that category: It’ll send configurable push notifications for the polls that users are interested in. A new poll in the Nevada Senate race? If you want it, Polltracker will buzz your phone to let you know the minute it’s up. For a certain class of political junkie, that’s catnip — and it’s something straight HTML can’t (yet) do.

“If you’re really hardcore into politics, and you finding out the next morning that a big poll came out in the presidential race in Ohio is not soon enough, you need to know now,” Marshall said. “You need to know five minutes after it’s released.”

Marshall says he expects a basic TPM mobile app will “eventually” come along; nothing is in production as of now, he says. TPM has seen a rapid shift to mobile in its audience. Getting Polltracker off the desktop and into user’s pockets has long been the goal. ProPublica’s Al Shaw, who built Polltracker when he was a developer at TPM, said as much in a tweet on Tuesday.

Marshall couldn’t give an exact date for the Polltracker app’s debut but you can sign up here to be notified when the app’s available for download. In the meantime, he’s trying to push awareness of Polltracker generally.

“Basically we’ve done a new iteration of Polltracker each cycle going back to 2006,” he said. “We have completely rebuilt from scratch the whole application for the 2012 cycle, and a lot of that we’ve rolled out incrementally…All the pieces are finally in place.”

But Polltracker will change again soon. For now, its still housed on the TPM site, and branded with the company’s maroon and white logo. “We are building it out into its own separate subsidiary,” Marshall said. “It’s going to have its own domain, its own logo, its own branding. Everything about it, it’s a distinct operation. We think it really is a great accompaniment for anybody who is watching this eleciton unfold, regardless of their political viewpoint. Everybody’s got an opinion, and in the editors’ blog I have lots of opinions, but this is a service where we’re putting forward the facts that opinions can be built around.”

Huffington Post puts polling power in the hands of developers with new API


This post is by Justin Ellis from Nieman Journalism Lab


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Developers and election watchers take note: The Huffington Post just released a polling data API. The Huffpost Pollster API will allow anyone to dig into more than 13,000 opinion polls on the presidential election as well as U.S. House and Senate races.

The data will allow journalists, developers, and researchers the ability to fetch data from the surveys for their own apps or data-crunching purposes. And the API includes not just results but the full questions and responses, allowing users to dig deep into polling methodology. Andrei Scheinkman, interactive news editor for The Huffington Post, told me the API includes more than 200,000 responses. Instead of just getting raw numbers for X would vote for Mitt Romney and Y would vote for Barack Obama, the API includes responses to questions like, “In general, how satisfied are you with the way things are going in the nation today?”

Here are some of the nerdy basics:

We’re publishing the data as an HTTP-based application programming interface, or API, with JSON and XML responses. For researchers, journalists or anyone who might have trouble using an API, we will soon make the data available through Atom feeds and Excel-ready CSVs.

This is the Huffington Post’s first public API. The data comes from poll aggregator Pollster, which HuffPost acquired in 2010 and has since used to power its political reporting and interactive features. For app creators, the good news is it’s completely open — no strings attached to the data and no penalties for heavy users. The API will be updated as new polls come in during the campaign season. It’s easy to see how the API could lead to dozens of new poll trackers and visualizations that can parse things like geography, party affiliation, and specific campaign issues.

Scheinkman compares the Pollster API to the New York Times congressional API or USA Today’s Census API. All three offer up raw numbers for people to play with, not a database of stories, headlines, or any refined content. “The publishing of the API is an act of journalism,” he told me. “It adds some accessibility and transparency about the world.”

The pollster API could prove to be valuable by sharing the basic horse-race numbers we expect to see in elections, but also providing a deeper understanding of how polls are conducted. If you’re a news organization, that means you get to double down on story possibilities. Scheinkman said the API was designed in part to help demystify the polling process. “I think our main motivation was up till now polling data, while publicly available, was not that accessible,” Scheinkman said.

These are busy times for Arianna Huffington’s media company. There was the Pulitzer win, the debut of the magazine, and, later this summer, a new streaming video network. The API is yet another move to bring the company in line with big names like The New York Times, USA Today, NPR, and the Guardian, all of whom provide an API for software makers. “Letting people use the Huffington Post as a platform to build on is something we’re interested in and excited about,” he said.

Correction: This story originally stated NPR’s API was only available to member stations. The full API is available to public.