McCain Takes Lead After Convention Bounce

John McCain is now leading or tied with Barack Obama in every national survey conducted after the Republican Convention:

Let’s presume that the 10 point lead in Gallup is a wild outlier unless and until we see anything like that result in other polls.

One presumes this bounce is primarily a reaction to the choice of Sarah Palin as the VP choice and her speech to the convention Wednesday.   McCain’s performance was fine but it’s hard to imagine that it was responsible for a sizable movement.

The head-to-heads are interesting but the Electoral College maps are more useful.  The usual suspects have yet to update theirs.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, US Politics, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. sam says:

    I’ve seen a number of Obama folks maintain that polls as presently administered are inaccurate because cell-phone-only users are not contacted (and many young people do not have land lines).

    This reflects a problem that polling organizations have:

    Dialing – The federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) bans all unsolicited calls to a cell phone using “automated dialing devices.” Most pollsters use computerized systems to dial the numbers and administer the questionnaires. The obvious solution — having interviewers hand dial each number — slows down the process and increases cost (it also effectively precludes doing cell phone surveys using an automated, interviewer-free, IVR methodology). [Source]

    I gather from the article, that it’s unclear what effect, if any, lack of cell-phone-only polling has on the political polls. The pollster.com article I cite above ends with:

    So what is the bottom line? Surveys via cell phone are feasible, but much more expensive than landline surveys and with some methodological kinks (like weighting) yet to be worked out. Supplemental cell-phone interviewing is going to be important for the multi-million-dollar government surveys that track health and health related behavior (including some measures that currently show statistically significant bias when the cell-phone only population is missed). However, it is not yet clear that very expensive supplemental RDD cell-phone samples will make a noticeable improvement in routine political studies over the next year or two (see Part I). The cost alone puts this approach out of reach for most media and internal campaign surveys.

    So what do we do about the cell-phone only problem? Those of us who obsessing over political polls need to keep a close eye on the special cell phone surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center and, perhaps, by others pollsters. These will provide invaluable clues as to whether the cell-phone-only problem is creating any sort of consistent errors in political surveys.

    The date of the article is July 13, 2007, and I haven’t found anything more current on the question. Does anyone know of any current research?

  2. sam says:

    Ah, nebbermine. Here’s some current (current as of July 2008) Pew Research findings (as far as their polls go):

    Cell Phones and the 2008 Vote: An Update

    I’m still not sure, after reading the Pew article, if there’s a substantial effect or not. It says:

    Cell Phones and Voter Preferences

    In the current poll, cell-only respondents are significantly more likely than either the landline respondents or the cell-mostly respondents to support Barack Obama and Democratic candidates for Congress this fall.

    Yet as Pew has found in the past, when data from landline and cell phone samples are combined and weighted to match the U.S. population on key demographic measures, the results are similar to those from the landline survey alone.

    [However as regards young folks]

    The more serious challenge to survey research posed by cell phones is the declining absolute numbers of certain types of respondents, most notably the young. In recent Pew Research Center surveys, only about 10% of respondents in landline samples are under age 30, which is roughly half of what it should be according to the U.S. Census. Young voters reached on landlines share many of the characteristics of the cell-only group, especially in terms of political views. That is why statistical weighting of the landline samples helps to correct for the absence of the cell-only. But the shortfall of young respondents in absolute numbers means that pollsters are limited in their ability to analyze differences within this age group.

    As they say, read the whole thing.

  3. Jeffrey W. Baker says:

    I’ve always wondered if that effect is substantial or not. You’d think that, if it was a major effect, we would have seen its impact in 2004 when cell phone penetration and land line abandonment was well underway. Personally, I’ve never been contacted by a pollster, which seems to defy the odds given how long I’ve been a registered voter and how frequently the polls are taken.

    Another question with these polls is how they weight the RV and LV populations. In some states voter registration is radically increasing for this election. If the pollsters don’t track it, their weights can come out wrong.

  4. Michael says:

    Another question with these polls is how they weight the RV and LV populations. In some states voter registration is radically increasing for this election. If the pollsters don’t track it, their weights can come out wrong.

    I agree, I think this year the likely voter screen may actually make the polls less accurate if they’re relying on past voting behavior, given how many first-time voters we had during the primaries.

    Does anybody know if any of these polls took into consideration a combination of not voting in the general 2 and 4 years ago, but having voted in this year’s primary? And do they classify those people as likely voters or not?

  5. Bithead says:

    I’ve seen a number of Obama folks maintain that polls as presently administered are inaccurate because cell-phone-only users are not contacted (and many young people do not have land lines).

    Pew aside, I have but two words: Number portability. How would they know what kind of phone they’re calling?

  6. Billy says:

    Bithead, to answer your point about number portability, cell phones are generally unlisted numbers. Unless you’re dialing randomly, you know exactly what kind of number you’re calling and to whom you expect to speak. Additionally, “young people” who don’t have land lines would not have ported their numbers from a land line because they never had one; their parents did.

    I’m not all that young myself, but haven’t had a land line in years. I do not receive telemarketing calls of any kind except for robo-calls, and even they are exceedingly rare. The last time I was called or polled in an election, I had a land line.

  7. Jeffrey W. Baker says:

    There’s a nation-wide database which notes which numbers are mobile and which aren’t. It is tied into the number portability database in realtime. Telemarketers and others are required to use that database to avoid calling a number which pays a toll to receive a call.

  8. sam says:

    Here’s what the pollster.com article says, Bit:

    Sampling — The process of drawing of random sample of cell phone numbers is relatively easy and essentially the same as the “random digit dial” (RDD) technique for sampling landline telephone numbers. Here’s the oversimplified version of how it works: Companies like Survey Sampling and Marketing Systems Group obtain listings of the special telephone exchanges (the first three digits of a seven digit telephone number) assigned for cell phone usage and draw a sample from all possible numbers that could occur within those exchanges. They randomly generate numbers from the pool of all possible numbers in those exchanges.

  9. Michael says:

    I have a VoIP line, I wonder if that would prevent polls from contacting me. Anybody know?

  10. Billy says:

    I have a VoIP line, I wonder if that would prevent polls from contacting me. Anybody know?

    Not in and of itself; you could have ported a land line number to the VoIP line, and in any case a random dialer could hit your number if it is connected to the general exchange (i.e., if it’s not, say, a free Skype account). I’m not sure if there’s a listing in the database mentioned above for VoIP like there is for cell/land lines, but since there’s presumably no additional charge for a VoIP line to receive a call my guess would be that it’s closer to a landline than to a cell.

  11. Michael says:

    Not in and of itself; you could have ported a land line number to the VoIP line, and in any case a random dialer could hit your number if it is connected to the general exchange (i.e., if it’s not, say, a free Skype account).

    In my specific case, it was originally a Vonage number that was ported to my cable operator.

    I’m not sure if there’s a listing in the database mentioned above for VoIP like there is for cell/land lines, but since there’s presumably no additional charge for a VoIP line to receive a call my guess would be that it’s closer to a landline than to a cell.

    I wasn’t so much thinking about that, but rather the fact that my VoIP line isn’t connected to any geographic region except in regards to E911 routing. Especially with Vonage (not so much with cable), you could plug your VoIP modem into any internet connection anywhere in the world, and your calls would be routed to you. I could have signed up for the number in Maine, but be living permanently in California, so it becomes problematic for geography sensitive polls.

  12. Fence says:

    I assume that the main problem is that it is younger people who tend to have stopped using landlines. If the poll weights for age shouldn’t it largely address it? Or is there some suggestion that even among young people, cell-phone only would vote differently from young landline users?

    Seems like Caller ID would have similar impact, with wider demographic. If I see a number I don’t know, I let voice mail get it.

  13. Michael says:

    If the poll weights for age shouldn’t it largely address it? Or is there some suggestion that even among young people, cell-phone only would vote differently from young landline users?

    The problem is that the weighting would be inaccurate for that age group, which is an age group that tends to favor Obama.

  14. Fence says:

    The problem is that the weighting would be inaccurate

    Why?

  15. Michael says:

    Why?

    Hmmm, upon further reflection, you’re right, weighting should be determined by census data, not sample size, so age weighting is out.

    My second guess, then, is that there is an assumption that those without land-lines, technology early-adopters, are not being proportionately heard from.

  16. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    I guess when Obama was leading in the polls we concentrated on how the polls were taken, who responded and by what device. Facts are facts. McCain leads Obama outside the margine of error. He does now and he will in the only poll that counts. The one on November 4.

  17. just me says:

    I think the real story of the polls is that the race is really too close to pick a favorite at this point.

    I am not convinced thousands and thousands of brand new voters added to the roles are going to show up to vote in communities across the nation.

    I am willing to bet turn outs in most places will be good and that the national popular vote will be very close-hard to say with the electoral vote.

    Either way I still think Obama has the advantage, but it isn’t in the bag.