Summing up the Polling Debate
Dean Chambers of UnSkewed fame, puts the polling debate into sharp perspective.
Dean Chambers, the fellow behind the whole UnSkewedPolls bit, has a column at the Washington Examiner that well sums up the true nature of the ongoing debate over polls. Chambers starts with the following:
While many conservatives look to former Clinton political consultant Dick Morris to understand the polls and political surveys on the elections, or even a site like UnSkewedPolls.com, those on the left look to New York Times blogger Nate Silver.
First, I think that is noteworthy that the entire conversation is cast in terms not of right/wrong, accurate/inaccurate, etc., but it rather a contest of left and right.
Second, consider what he is saying: his claim is that “right” looks to a fellow (Morris) whose most famous manifestation of predictive skills can be found in his 2006 book entitled Condi vs. Hillary: The Next Great Presidential Race. Beyond that, he gets paid to boost the GOP on Fox News and his columns are mostly (if not exclusively) published in clearly partisan outlets. Indeed, the notion that in 2012 the best identifier for Morris is as a “former Clinton political consultant” is amusing. While it is true, it also ignores Morris’ career trajectory since those days. The other place that Chambers says that those on the right go is his website, which blatantly recalculates poll results to make them more palatable to Republicans.
This is to be compared to Silver, who uses complex and meticulous statistical models to analyze reams and reams of polling data. And yes, I know that many think that Silver works for a left-wing propaganda machine, but the fact that one cannot see that NYT is not the leftward equivalent of Fox News is part of the problem. And yes, I am sure that Silver will vote for Obama. The problem is, the numbers are the numbers and the methodologies are the methodologies.
The bottom line here is that Chambers is claiming that the “right” like to get their numbers and analysis from a blatant partisan commentator and/or from a source that re-calculates the polling results while the “left” likes to go to a fellow who analyzes copious amounts of data via sophisticated modeling. This strikes me as damning the “right” quite frankly. It certainly puts Chambers’ POV into perspective (not that this is a surprise).
The quality of Chambers’ analysis get worse, as it only takes a handful of paragraphs to get very personal:
Nate Silver is a man of very small stature, a thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice that sounds almost exactly like the “Mr. New Castrati” voice used by Rush Limbaugh on his program. In fact, Silver could easily be the poster child for the New Castrati in both image and sound. Nate Silver, like most liberal and leftist celebrities and favorites, might be of average intelligence but is surely not the genius he’s made out to be.
First: what is the point of this? Is Silver not manly enough to do statistical analysis? Huh?
Second: the Limbaugh reference is telling because Chambers is using Limbaughesque techniques here: ridicule as “analysis.”
Third: the issue should be the number and the methodology and nothing more.
This column is an excellent microcosm of the current debate about polling from the fellow at the epicenter of the conversation. It demonstrates the dominance of poor reasoning, personal attacks, and partisanship over, well, the numbers.