Good News or Grasping At Straws?

Gallup’s latest might feature both.

Gallup’s latest.  We report, you decide:

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

13 thoughts on “Good News or Grasping At Straws?”

  1. Grasping at straws. Not that anything means much just now, check again at the end of the month. We are just past Labor Day, for godsake. Look for 'likely voter' polls.

  2. When they do tracking poll plots like they they should really make the thickness of the bars equal to the MOE so you can tell when a difference is p<0.05. Otherwise you might as well disconnect the cable from your TV and pretend you can make out an I Love Lucy rerun in the static.

  3. Has Gallup started adjusting for likely voters yet? I don't believe so. Remember, according to their own website, those numbers aren't worth squat until they do. And Rasmussen, which IS so adjusting, puts the numbers at 48% to 36% in favor of the Republicans.

    Further, Gallup themselves in this poll say that levels of Republican enthusiasm are at historic highs, (While Democrats are going into the election bummed out.) which suggests that turnout might be even more tilted Republican than usual.

    I suppose it's a straw, so you CAN grasp at it if you like. But I wouldn't bet any real money based on this.

  4. Nate Silver, the star augur for reading poll entrails, pointed out http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/… at the time that the earlier Gallup poll was an outlier – relative to a bad baseline for the Democrats.

    The straw to grasp at is perhaps that the fluctuations suggest a genuine volatility or confusion in voters' minds. They trust Republicans even less than Democrats, but seem prepared to vote them back in anyway. Weird. "Throw the rascals out" irrationally trumps "better the devil you know".

    On the face of it, I think you are in for a very bad two years of Tea Party screeching. At any rate having to use the veto every week may cure Obama of his bipartisan dreams, and force him to bend his considerable talents to the political destruction, not taming, of his irreconcilable enemies.

  5. Both. It's good news insofar as it makes the noisiness of the poll obvious, and gives us an idea of the error bars. Is there a sudden trend? ha.

  6. Gallup says they surveyed 1650 voters. So MOE is about 2.5%. These numbers are very volatile, it seems. Six or seven weeks ago it was D-49 R-41. Before that it was running even.

    I'm not sure how to interpret fact that these results are, in each case, an aggregate of a week's worth of daily polling. It would be interesting to see the moving average of seven daily results.

  7. "Gallup says they surveyed 1650 voters. So MOE is about 2.5%."

    That's a lower bound on the error bar, assuming that they didn't have to do any renorming at all, assuming their response rate was 100%, and so on, and so forth. The likelihood of which I'd put somewhere between little and none.

    Realistically, the error bar on a poll like this is probably more like 5-6%.

  8. @Wimberley says: "They trust Republicans even less than Democrats, but seem prepared to vote them back in anyway."

    Or, more likely, many of them when there's a Democratic president, prefer a Republican Congress to keep him in check.

  9. "Or, more likely, many of them when there’s a Democratic president, prefer a Republican Congress to keep him in check."

    That seems utterly redundant, as Democrats do a very good job of keeping themselves in check. Majorities in both houses and still can't get much done.

  10. A prediction: the Dems are going to sweep, because the country is going to wake up in early November and see the Republicans for just what they are. You heard it here first.

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