Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Last Call For That Poll-Asked Look

If there's been one truly laughable poll this year as far as presidential prognostication goes, it has been the LA Times daily tracking poll, which seems to be favoring Donald Trump compared to everyone else.  And I'm not talking about by a point or two, I'm talking about five or six points in Trump's favor, a poll so awful that as Nate Cohn points out, it only serves the purpose of showing how awful polls can be.

There is a 19-year-old black man in Illinois who has no idea of the role he is playing in this election. 
He is sure he is going to vote for Donald J. Trump. 
And he has been held up as proof by conservatives — including outlets like Breitbart News and The New York Post — that Mr. Trump is excelling among black voters. He has even played a modest role in shifting entire polling aggregates, like the Real Clear Politics average, toward Mr. Trump. 
How? He’s a panelist on the U.S.C. Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Daybreak poll, which has emerged as the biggest polling outlier of the presidential campaign. Despite falling behind by double digits in some national surveys, Mr. Trump has generally led in the U.S.C./LAT poll. He held the lead for a full month until Wednesday, when Mrs. Clinton took a nominal lead. 
Our Trump-supporting friend in Illinois is a surprisingly big part of the reason. In some polls, he’s weighted as much as 30 times more than the average respondent, and as much as 300 times more than the least-weighted respondent. 
Alone, he has been enough to put Mr. Trump in double digits of support among black voters. He can improve Mr. Trump’s margin by 1 point in the survey, even though he is one of around 3,000 panelists. 
He is also the reason Mrs. Clinton took the lead in the U.S.C./LAT poll for the first time in a month on Wednesday. The poll includes only the last seven days of respondents, and he hasn’t taken the poll since Oct. 4. Mrs. Clinton surged once he was out of the sample for the first time in several weeks. 
How has he made such a difference? And why has the poll been such an outlier? It’s because the U.S.C./LAT poll made a number of unusual decisions in designing and weighting its survey. 
It’s worth noting that this analysis is possible only because the poll is extremely and admirably transparent: It has published a data set and the documentation necessary to replicate the survey. 
Not all of the poll’s choices were bound to help Mr. Trump. But some were, and it all combined with some very bad luck to produce one of the most persistent outliers in recent elections.

And taking a look at the poll it's laughably bad how the data is interpreted by the people running it. The poll is literally designed to favor Trump from the beginning, by bad use of statistical math, and even worse use of common sense.

Still, if Clinton is now ahead in a poll that regularly favors Trump, it means Trump is in serious trouble as of last Friday's events, and I'm betting things will only get worse for him.

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