IN-09: New Poll Shows Hill Underwater; SUSA Responds to SSP

Before anything else, the poll.

SurveyUSA for Firedoglake (1/17-19, likely voters):

Baron Hill (D): 41

Mike Sodrel (R): 49

Undecided: 10

(MoE: ±4.1%)

I’m not so sure if FDL made the right choice here. Sodrel is not the only option in the Republican primary — attorney Todd Young has banked quite a bit money for the primary already, and teabaggers’ choice Travis Hankins is also staking out a position as a real wingnut’s wingnut. Sodrel has a lot of name recognition, sure, but you have to wonder if 9th CD Republicans are eyeing their options.

And now, for the other stuff: If you’ve been following SSP this week, you probably saw that we raised some questions about SurveyUSA’s latest round of House race polls that they’ve conducted for Firedoglake. We were particularly concerned with SurveyUSA’s sample composition in its poll of New York’s 1st Congressional District. More to the point, we had problems with a poll that pegged the share of 18-34 year-olds among likely voters at just one percent of the electorate. SUSA founder Jay Leve has responded:

The sample is not “pretty weird.” It is a sample of likely mid-term voters. There is no one “right” way to draw a sample in a congressional district 10 months from a midterm election, but this sample was drawn carefully and defensibly. To be included in the sample (SurveyUSA’s criteria, not the client’s):  the voter had to be registered with the secretary of state; had to have a telephone; had to have voted in 2008 and had to have voted in either [2006 or 2002], and had to confirm that he/she resided in the district being surveyed.  By design, this was not a survey of registered voters (which would have resulted in a younger sample).

Reasonable people can disagree about exactly what percentage of the electorate in 2010 will be age 18 to 34 , and I am not defending any specific turnout target. But most would agree that midterm voters are older.  That’s what these results show.  When SurveyUSA re-weights the respondents in NY-01 to be younger, the survey results do not meaningfully change. This may seem to some counter-intuitive; it is not.

When, for internal analysis, SurveyUSA re-weights the respondents to be younger in AR-02, OH-01, and IN-09, the survey results do not change.

To respond to Leve’s reply, I would first of all, with all due respect, point out that merely saying that a sample is “not pretty weird” does not actually make it so.

It is true that midterm voters are older. National exit polling for the last two presidential elections showed that voters between the ages of 18 and 29 made up 18% of the electorate in 2008 and 17% in 2004, but only made up 12% in 2006. Please note that these numbers are of 18 to 29 year-olds, and not the 18-to-34 bracket that SUSA uses in its demographic breakdowns, so the comparison is numerically kind here.

Next, SUSA attempts to address the concern by “re-weighting” their sample for the NY-01 poll, to bring up the 18-to-34 demographic from 1% to 3% of the electorate. The result actually benefits Republican Randy Altschuler, tightening his race against Democrat Tim Bishop to 47-46 from 47-45 in the original sample. While I question whether or not adjusting the sub-sample from 1% to 3% is a meaningful or satisfactory correction, this raises another issue: Just how exactly do you re-weight from a 1% sample? With such a small pool of sampled 18-to-34 year-old voters, aren’t we dealing with an astronomical margin of error here?

People who read SSP with any degree of regularity know that we like and respect SurveyUSA, and we’re not trying to suggest that anything untoward happened when these polls were drawn up. Leve seems to be confusing “drawing a sample” with “the sample you end up with.” It’s entirely possible to have a sound methodology that, for whatever reason, winds up with a sample that’s not quite right. And that’s all we’re suggesting here. (Though I would also point out that SUSA’s criteria that one has to have voted in 2006 means that there was no one younger than 21 or 22 captured in their polling.)

RaceTracker Wiki: IN-09

107 thoughts on “IN-09: New Poll Shows Hill Underwater; SUSA Responds to SSP”

  1. Wow, let me get this straight: 18-34s were 1% of what, 500 or so surveyed? So he expects to be able to re-weight using a sample size of 5? Five?!?

    And further, the reason that 18-34-year-olds in these samples lean Republican is not because young people have suddenly gone from being massively Democratic to massively Republican–it’s probably for several reasons.

    #1- I desperately hope by “telephone” he means cell phones, too, because most 18-to-34-year-olds I know, including me, have only mobile phones these days and the people who have regular phones lean Republican.

    #2- “had to have voted in 2008 and had to have voted in either [2006 or 2002]” … Yeah, that will basically miss all college students, super-important in Hill’s district and to a lesser extent in the others. It would also miss people who are very mobile, who tend to be well-educated (Democrats).

    #3- Demographically, the percentage of young voters is almost certain to at least meet, if not exceed, the percentage of 2006, if for no other reason than more of the Millennials (who are more numerous than even Baby Boomers) are eligible to vote.

    Simply put, this voter screen screens out young people. And as one of them, I would like to say: Eat a bag of dicks. Or something else appropriately youthful.

  2. I remember the Virginia polls showing McDonnell getting a ridiculous percentage of the black vote, like 15-20%. Regardless, they were still spot-on.

  3. One thing that will always stick out with me when it comes to SUSA is how poorly the polled Obama vs McCain in MN, they were completely off the mark every single time.  Every other pollster had Obama carrying the state by high single digits to low double digits, and Obama ended up winning by 10%.  SUSA, however, had it as a barn burner throughout the entire race and they always showed the 18-34 demographic being much more Republican than they should have.

    What I always hypothesized was that they were screwing up the 18-29  or 18-34 year old vote (whichever) because of cell phones.  Minneapolis/St Paul is a very highly educated and high tech oriented metropolis and people my age simply do not have land lines and I hope never will, they are a dying technology that we dont need anymore.  And we have many many many colleges and universities, Minneapolis has a big ten school and St Paul has one of the highest concentrations of post-secondary schools compared to population in the country.  I think we were just simply missed because we dont have landlines.

    Really interestingly, I even got polled once (it made my life) and they asked if I would vote for Rep. McCollum or her competitor, McCollum being my representative at college in St Paul.  Except, they called what would technically be my landline number, which is 45 minutes away, at my permanent address, at my parents home, in Bachmann’s district!  And I was luckily home that weekend.  Not sure if it was SUSA or anything but its a good anecdotal story nonetheless.

    SUSA is still one of the polling firms I trust most and Im glad SSP got a response from them as now I see why they dont, in my opinion, properly account for the youth vote; they have a very tight voter turn-out and polling model they follow.  Which, whatever, they get good results for the most part so Im fine with it.

  4. All of these polls have been going after Dems from tough districts who have voted with the party on most issues, including HCR and cap and trade. Hill was the only Blue Dog of the four, and his voting record is among the better of the Blue Dogs. These polls are just encouraging Republicans to work harder in these districts, and discouraging the congressmen to vote with their party on more issues.

    There are people I really hope they don’t poll for those reasons. A few examples: Zack Space, Tom Perriello, Marion Berry, Chris Carney, Mike Arcuri, and Chet Edwards (even though he voted against HCR and C&T, he’s a pretty good Democrat most of the time).

  5. and I usually stand up for SUSA. The right answer is to seek out more young people and then weight to the percentage expected to show up (even as self-reported).  

  6. Any internals are overwhelmed by the reality we’re in deep shit, and no poll that shows a Democrat losing in a purple or red district can be honestly disregarded.

    I agree with the sentiment that FireDogLake is only hurting its, and our, own side with all these polls.  DailyKos has a different mission in its polling than FDL and I don’t have a problem with DailyKos polls, but given that FDL is trying to spin health care more favorably to its liberal purity test, they are really doing a big disservice to everyone.

  7. with a load of bullshit.


    A poll that produces 1% of the electorate as under 35 is a dud poll.  Sorry.  They happen to even the best pollsters.  Statistically, they have to.

    That doesn’t necessarily mean the topline is incorrect, although it would necessarily be more correct if the underlying demographics were more reasonable.  And on its own, it certainly doesn’t mean that SUSA is a bad pollster.

    The defense of this poll from SUSA’s founder, on the other hand, is much more disconcerting.

    I hate to step this far out on a subject that I’m really not an expert in, but I am an expert in reading, and that middle paragraph is, in the classic sense of the word, bullshit.  

    Reasonable people can disagree about exactly what percentage of the electorate in 2010 will be age 18 to 34 , and I am not defending any specific turnout target. But most would agree that midterm voters are older.  That’s what these results show.  When SurveyUSA re-weights the respondents in NY-01 to be younger, the survey results do not meaningfully change. This may seem to some counter-intuitive; it is not.

    Those first three sentences are professional-politician-grade evasion and misdirection.  The question at hand is whether reasonable people can agree that having 1% of the electorate as under 35 is a reasonable forecast.  They can’t, because it’s not.

    If they admit that it’s a dud poll though they presumably owe their clients a rerun, and evidently they thought the cost of a rerun would be greater than the hit their credibility would take in the course of defending this poll.

  8. I’m assuming pollsters have to call actual phone numbers. While there have been attempts, cell numbers (AFAIK) aren’t listed.

    So for that substantial portion of younger voters who are cell only, how does a pollster find them?

    In addition, what’s the effect of the “Do Not Call” lists? is there a political lean of those who are on that list?

    The logical response is “online,” but that leads to the Zogby problem.

  9. What good does this do for them? I mean they are trying to prove something like we need more liberal Hcr of something like that correct? Well Hill has been plenty liberal and all this does is make him go to the right or even retire. STUPID!!!!! I do not want Sodrel as my rep again!!!

  10. I was surprised that their model shows 26% Republican, 40% Democrat, and 31% Independent (I guess 3% other…sounds kind of high).  Is that pretty accurate for this district?  Also, Independents are going heavily towards Sodrel, so I’m guessing a lot of these Indies are really teabaggers.

    I’m not going to dismiss this poll in its entirety, but I have issues with other parts of the internals.  Extrapolating it even further, 5% (18-34 year olds) of a 600 person sample is 30.  That means roughly 16 of these voters are voting for Sodrel, 10 are voting for Hill.  That really doesn’t show us much at all about this age group and therefore could change dramatically.

    On other issues, I’m surprised that Hill did the best with the 50-64 year olds in this sample.  I actually believe this split (47-45 Sodrel) is somewhat accurate, and probably the same could be said for the 65+ sample (49-43 to Sodrel).  I have a hard time believing that the 35-49 year voters are breaking 51-35 for Sodrel.

    This poll shouldn’t be looked at as a fair representation of IN-9 voters.  I’m under no illusion that Hill doesn’t have a fight on his hands, but I don’t believe it’s as dire as this poll would indicate.  I just hope I’m not wrong.

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