SurveyMonkey 2012 Presidential Election Poll: Part 2


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SurveyMonkey 2012 Presidential Election Poll: Part 2

  1. 1. ! ! ! "#$"!%&()*+,)-.!/.0,)1+!%1..!! ! ! "#$%$&!()%(*+,!"#-.-,!/"!012#3+3%345!! ! ! .(61!3%+71)4,!89:! ;$(*(!9&<21$*,!"#-.-,!=1*$3)!012#3+3%34$<2!! ! ! >**(71%%!=?#
  2. 2. 2345/6789:/6! "#$"!%4/2;</9=;>?!/?/@=;89!%8??!Below is our newest wave of data from our presidential election poll. These results will bedisplayed here in two different ways: first, as popular vote percentages and second as ElectoralCollege distributions. SurveyMonkey has surveyed more than a million people from August 17thto October 30th. The results below, however, will be based only on the roughly 500,000 peoplesurveyed from October 3rd through October 30th.Why does our reported data below begin on 10/10 rather than 10/3? Our data begins at 10/10 dueto the fact that we chose to use a seven-day trailing sum. This was done for two main reasons.First, all publicly available polls report data using trailing sums as well. Matching theirmethodology in this way will facilitate comparisons between SurveyMonkey and other pollingfirms. This provides a reality check for how well SurveyMonkey is doing measuring publicopinion. Second, using a trailing sum, rather than a daily measure, provides a statistic that is lessswayed by any single day’s events. Essentially, averaging over a week’s worth of data smoothesout and otherwise jagged curve.It is also important to note that all results that will be reported below exclude weekend data. Thiswas done for two reasons. First, we observed that the graphs of our raw, daily data showedspikes every weekend that were aberrant from the trend line, and from publicly available pollingdata. We speculate that this is due to two main problems. First, our traffic volume is much loweron weekends, with traffic sinking as low as 15% of typical weekday traffic. This lower volumemakes our results more susceptible to outliers. Second, we have found in prior studies of ourSurveyMonkey traffic that the people who take surveys on weekends are often not representativeof the general U.S. population and, consequently, qualitatively different from those who takesurveys on weekdays. $!
  3. 3. !.0,1&-.!01..A!!To ensure that “battleground” (swing) states were being called correctly, we increased traffic forthese states to make sure we sampled enough people to give our analyses sufficient power. Theraw statistics for each state were then weighted in two different ways: • >+1+BC),BD! When people are answering surveys online, as opposed to on the phone— they are “talking” to a computer instead of a real, live person. This matters because research has shown that when speaking with a real, live person, respondents are more concerned about what that person thinks of them. This makes respondents less willing to say “I don’t know,” when asked who they would vote for, because it would suggest that they haven’t thought about the election much. Consequently, RCP’s “don’t know” response percentage was much lower than ours on average (5% versus 8%). Consequently, we used a question that asked what candidate voters were “leaning towards” to add a small subset of otherwise undecided voters.! • 51.-,).),BD! Each day was compared to the previous day to compute a “volatility” index. This weight was applied to the day’s average so that more consistent days were weighted more heavily. This makes our averages less susceptible to random error and “satisficers” (people who don’t take online surveys seriously).! &(E.,( !Although RCP and Nate Silver’s “fivethirtyeight” blog have consistently predicted an Obamavictory in the Electoral College by a fairly wide margin, SurveyMonkey’s numbers show a muchtighter race. As can be seen in the graph below SurveyMonkey results suggest that if the electionhad been held anytime between 10/10 to 10/18, Mitt Romney would have won. Beginning on10/18, however, all the way through yesterday, Barack Obama has regained the edge in theElectoral College. As of yesterday, the scoreboard reads: Obama, 273; Romney, 265.The above graph was created through a forced choice for each state between the candidates.When toss up states are separated out from the others, this provides a glimpse into whySurveyMonkey’s numbers show a tighter race. RCP uses a 5% margin of error to determine if astate is a clear win for either candidate. SurveyMonkey, on the other hand, uses a slimmer 3%margin of error. Overall the graphs below show that SurveyMonkey has roughly half the numberof toss up states that RCP does, with 50% of these going to Obama and 50% to Romney. Thismakes sense given that SurveyMonkey’s margin of error is roughly half of RCP.! "!
  4. 4. !!G1GE.-&!H1,!Although the Electoral College decides the election, the popular vote is also of interest. We tookthe raw statistics for the national popular vote and then weighted them in three different ways: • 51.-,).),BD! ! (same as described above)! • >+1+BC),BD! ! (same as described above)! • %&1G1&,)1+-.),BD! The Electoral College analysis is at the state level, but this analysis is at the national level. Consequently, because we had oversampled some states, and (due to low traffic) under-sampled others, the representation of each state’s voters in our sample was not representative of the broader population of American voters. That means, for example, the percentage of voters from Ohio was inflated, because we directed more respondents to our survey there—and percentage of voters from North Dakota was lower, as we directed less traffic there. Thus, publicly available statistics were used to adjust the weights of the state popular vote totals so that they accurately reflected the proportions of U.S. voter turnout in 2008.! &(E.,( !Despite the fact that SurveyMonkey’s electoral college shows a thinner margin of victory forObama than RCP polls do, the SurveyMonkey popular vote total shows a greater margin ofObama supporters than RCP polls have. Thus, while RCP polls indicate that Romney is ahead inthe popular vote, SurveyMonkey data indicates that Obama is actually in the lead. F!
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