The DFL Morale-Builder, 2010 Edition

With the news that Tom Emmer has pulled to a tiny, inside-the-margin-of-error lead in the latest Rasmussen poll, I’ve joked that it’s about time for a Star/Tribune “Minnesota Poll” showing Mark Dayton leading by an improbably huge margin.

And sure enough, here it is.  It shows Dayton leading Emmer 39-30, with Horner eating up 18 points.

The key, as with all Minnesota Polls, is in the sampling; the methodology seems to be “poll Democrats until we get the result that’ll make Democrats feel better and want to come to the polls”.  And if you look at the “methodology” page (and the Strib has got to be assuming you won’t), it’s right there:

The self-identified party affiliation of the random sample is: 35 percent Democrat, 28 percent Republican and 28 percent independent. The remaining 9 percent said they were members of another party, no party or declined to answer.

So the Strib claims to believe, in this electoral season, that there will be five Democrat voters for every four GOP voters, and (apparently) that independents will break the same way they did two years ago.

The Washington post carried this oddly-constructed PDF showing the Minnesota Poll’s statistical history over the past five decades or so.  For MN Polls conducted since Rob Davies took over the Poll (I’ll add emphasis)…:

  • The final GOP poll number was on average 5.20 percent points under the actual GOP result in the election. -5.20 percentage points is outside the margin of error in the Minnesota Poll.
  • The final DFL poll number was on average 2.06 percent points under the actual DFL result in the election. -2.06 percentage points is inside the margin of error in the Minnesota Poll.
  • Since 1998, the Minnesota Poll has underestimated the GOP result in elections by an average of 7.26 percent but underestimated the DFL result by only .054 percent.

I’ll remind you that if the Minnesota poll were accurate, we’d be referring to Governor Humphrey (the poll showed Skip with a strong lead over Coleman, with Ventura well out of the running), Senator Mondale (who had a five point lead in the MN Poll on the eve of the ’02 election), Governor Moe (to whom the MNPoll gave a slim lead, while significantly overpolling IP candidate Tim Penny in ’02), Governor Hatch (yep, slated to win in ’06)…

…indeed, the only year they’ve been genuinely accurate was ’08.  The year of the great Democrat/DFL blowout.  That’s because, in effect, the Minnesota Poll always predicts DFL blowouts.  They were finally right in ’08.

This poll, like all Minnesota Polls, has only one purpose; to help revive the DFL’s flagging spirits.  Mark Dayton has run a perfunctory, frankly terrible campaign, notable for the nastiness of the “third-party” attack ad campaign largely paid for by Dayton, his ex-wife and family.  His support is slipping in reputable polls.

And that’s why we have the Minnesota Poll.

The serial dishonesty and, let’s be honest, in-the-bag-ness of the Minnesota Poll was the straw the broke the camel’s back when I last unsubscribed to the Strib back in 2004.

If you are a Minnesota conservative who is hoping for a sane governor next year, this is not a reason to jump off the ledge – but it is a reason to remember this is a tough campaign.  Emmer’s doing well, but he still faces a full-court press – the bought-off, in-the-bag media, a ruthless pack of well-heeled institutional hyenas, and the DFL machine.  If you can peel off a few bucks, or spend some time calling or door-knocking, it’s needed.

Bring on the real polling – in November!

UPDATE:  Luke Matthews at True North notes that Princeton Survey Research Associations – which did the polling and analysis – has a “business model” that invites analytical wierdness:

For many clients, PDS provides a cleaned, unweighted dataset. But for the client who does not want to weigh the data themselves, PDS can provide weighting services to take into account known probabilities involving the sampling process or known variations in the non-response among groups.

In other words, these non-response groups [the large percentage of “no-response/different party” respondents – a high nine percent in the MN Poll – Ed] have been manipulated.  By manipulated, I mean, they made it up.  In their vast experience as pollsters, they have discovered that non-response means, this, whatever this may be.  Since they are providers to Pew Research, a group with notoriously liberal findings, we can conclude that non-response to Princeton means they’re probably liberals.

So, to recap.  We have a poll with a huge margin of error for the population size, a presumption of liberal bias when weighing cell phone sampling, a large number of non-independent, non-responsive people, who are presumed liberal by a liberal polling firm who works exclusively with liberal groups.

More as the story warrants.

Chanting Points Memo: Polls Apart

While Pauline Kael, the doyenne of American film critics, passed away years ago, her syndrome is alive and well here in Minnesota.

Yesterday’s MPR/Humphrey Institute poll, which showed Mark Dayton and Tom Emmer in a dead heat, drew a chorus of “bad methodology!” from the local leftysphere; none of their friends, after all, voted for Emmer!

Jeff Rosenberg at MNPublius says the methodology just can’t be right, because it didn’t poll enough latté-guzzling hipsters:

The poll was based on a “landline, random-digit dial survey.”

Landline? Are you kidding me? I wonder how many younger voters were missed. Not having a landline, I could never have been contacted for this poll.

Perhaps.  The first time I heard this excuse was 2004, when an earlier generation of leftybloggers – Chuck Olson, if memory serves – swore that the polls were undercounting John Kerry supporters because “…I don’t know anyone with a landline, all my friends use cell phones”, too.  I don’t know how much weight to put on this; most people still do have landlines; the younger crowd that may not have ’em is also less likely to vote than the general population.  And MPR says they thought of this: “The survey data has also been weighted to accomodate for factors such as the number of telephone lines, cell phone usage, gender, age, race and ethnicity to approximate the demographic characteristics of the state’s population according to the Census”.  Did MPR and the HHHI do a good job of compensating?  Time will tell.  As an Emmer supporter, I certainly hope so.


Maybe that helps to account for the poll’s likely-voter model:

Republican: 46%

Democrat: 41%

Independent: 13%

You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t buy that. The oversampling of Republicans is yet another reason to suspect that this poll overstates the extent to which the race has actually narrowed.

Only if you have become accustomed to a diet of “Star/Tribune Minnesota Polls”, which tend to poll “registered voters”, who are less likely to vote.

The MPR/HHHI poll is likely voters.  Republicans are energized this year; the Tea Party is turning out conservatives in a way Minnesota and the rest of the nation hasn’t seen since 1994.  I’ve seen not a few Dems complain that the DFL usually tops the GOP in voter ID in Minnesota.  This is a fact – among registered voters and random respondents.  Among likely voters – people who will go to the polls come hell or high water?  That number varies widely.

How widely?  Let’s go back to 2006.  The GOP was reeling and groggy; the DFL was on a roll.  And in October of ’06 the state broke down at 48% DFL, 37% GOP,  13% Independence Ventura Party, and 2% everyone else.

We know how that turned out; Pawlenty held on by the skin of his teeth. The GOP lost all the other Constitutional offices, and lost control of the Senate.  Gil Gutknecht got sent packing; Michele Bachmann won by only 8% against a weak candidate in a solid red district that’ll send her back to DC with a two-digit majority this year.

Now – were there 11% more Democrats than GOPers throughout the entire population of Minnesota?  Of course not.  But among those that were planning on going out to vote, there was a pretty serious DFL majority.

The leftyblogosphere seems to think it’s unthinkable that the tables have turned.

Mr. D covered it as well, on his blog and on the MinnPost:

You can look at this a number of ways. Here are a few things I’d suggest:

  • Dayton and his minions (and I would include Matt Entenza in that collection) have spent millions of dollars demonizing Tom Emmer all summer long, with very little response from the Emmer camp. If the best they are able to do is get a tie, that doesn’t bode well for Dayton.

That’s the part that’s gotta be keeping DFL strategists up all night; after running the most expensive sleaze campaign in Minnesota history, they’re way inside the margin of error.

  • There’s no point in pretending that Emmer’s campaign hasn’t had a few hiccups up to this point. The tip credit flap was an unforced error and he’s been slow to respond to some of the calumnies that have been heaped upon him thus far. While it’s good to see him starting to respond now, his passivity has been puzzling and often maddening. It’s not what we saw in the primary.

I figured that this was about “keeping the powder dry” until the final kick, the last six weeks before the election where the undecideds’ decisions really get made.  I figured Emmer was saving his big plan for cutting spending and re-engineering state government until it’d do him some good; I have solid reason to believe I’m right.

Emmer’s been absolutely scrupulous about running a clean campaign; when Ed and I interviewed him this past Saturday, he insisted he doesnt’ refer to Mark Dayton and the DFL as “the opposition”.  That’s idealism for you.  It’s also swimming against the tide of sleaze that “Alliance for a Better Minnesota” has unleashed.  Will it work?

We’ll see.

(In the meantime, he’s got us bloggers and talk show people for the rough stuff…)

  • The current economic conditions in Minnesota aren’t as dire as they are in, say, Nevada, which has allowed Dayton to run the sort of campaign that would have been laughed off elsewhere. That could change, though. One thing worth remembering is that many voters will start seeing the first fruits of Obamacare in October, when they get the bad news about their insurance premiums going up. That won’t help the standard-bearer of the party that is responsible for these increases.

And that – the emerging reality of the Demcrats’ tax debacle, and the true price tag of Dayton’s insane plan – along with Emmer’s actual plan, when it impacts (and we are in the home stretch), is going to be a huge game-changer.  Properly presented to Minnesota, it should leave Dayton stumbling around like a cow that’s been stunned.

Finally, Joe Bodell from Minnesota “Progressive” Project:

If it takes an 8-point oversample in Tom Emmer’s favor to get him up to a tie, I feel pretty great about Mark Dayton’s chances in a real electorate in which younger, cell-phone-only voters show up.

Except Bodell is comparing apples (likely voters) with axles (out-of-date registered voter ID numbers).  Does the poll oversample GOP voters?  Perhaps, but Bodell wouldn’t be able to quantify it with the numbers he’s using.

But aside from the weird methodology, check out the published crosstabs:

1. Independent voters:

Undecided: 38%

Horner: 26%

Dayton: 23%

Emmer: 13%

There’s a lot of room for movement there, but there is virtually no way Emmer picks up significant enough ground among independent voters to make a dent in the overall results. Keep in mind that this is a mid-term election, and the non-partisan vote is generally going to be a lot lower than it is in presidential years, so given a normal partisan breakdown…

That’s all textbook conventional wisdom.  But many, many independents that stayed home in 2002 or 2006 are looking at their tax bills and health insurance today, and making plans for November 2.  Which group of ’em is more likely to show up?

2. The gender gap: MPR’s writeup indicates that there’s no significant gender gap — that women are currently favoring Mark Dayton by a similar margin to men favoring Tom Emmer. However, what they fail to mention directly is that the sample includes 52% women (about normal for Minnesota) which is yet another built-in advantage for Dayton. Again, given a more reasonable partisan sample, this will go straight through to the final results of this election.

Let me shorten that: “Given that MPR took a legitimate sampling of women, and a sampling error I can’t really quantify, I’m crossing my fingers”.

3. Age gap? MPR doesn’t appear to have published the support breakdowns by age, only the sample sizes — which look weird in and of themselves, since it’s a decent bet the senior vote will be bigger than this poll indicates.

I’m lost; did MPR not publish the breakdowns, or did they just publish senior numbers?

Look – this is going to be a tough race for Emmer.  There’s never been any doubt about it.  He’s fighting a 3:1 financial disadvantage, and a big, powerful political machine with 100% name recognition in a blue state.  He’s fighting against the most scabrous, truth-free smear campaign in Minnesota political history.  He’s the underdog.

All he’s got is a tailwind of revulsion with Obama, a very weak (and possibly potemkin) opponent, a soon-t0-come plan, and his own skills as a campaigner.

Even seems fair, so far.

MPR Poll: My Take

It’s just an MPR poll.

But we’re just about two months from the election – so we’re getting to the point that a well-done poll is getting to be worth something.

The poll – which focuses on likely voters, whom conventional wisdom says tend to break for the GOP – shows that the money Dayton’s spent on his soft-money smear campaign so far is just keeping things close in a year that’s going to be terrible for Dems, even in Minnesota.

It also shows that Emmer is losing some of the “base”.  Part of that is that the “base” is so ill-defined; I’m not sure how MPR identified “Republicans”; there’s a big difference between someone whose total identification is having voted for McCain in 2008 versus someone who went to the precinct caucuses.  The former is much more likely to defect, I’m going to guess.  More to the point, a fair chunk of respondents showed some degree of “Pawlenty fatigue” – while they may have voted Republican, these are not the kind of voters who are motivated by principles and policy specifics; they vote on the sort of surface-y things that the “Alliance for a Better Minnesota” campaign has focused on.

And yet for all of Dayton’s family’s millions in the race, it’s deadlocked, in a poll that has trended slightly Dayton so far.

Expect a Star Tribune/Minnesota poll shortly that shows an implausibly-large Dayton lead from a poll that oversamples DFLers by five percent.  The Minnesota Poll largely serves as a morale-building tool for the DFL; they may need one after this MPR poll.

Attention, Christians: Strib Is Loading Lions Into Chute

There’s going to be a new “Minnesota” Poll tomorrow in the Strib.

Here are my fearless predictions; I predict a couple of things:

  1. Despite the fact that actual, reputable polls show Tom Emmer inside the margin of error  (despite having been outspent by a 16:1 margin so far in this campaign), the “Minnesota” Poll will show Emmer down, probably by two digits.
  2. The local media and DFL-leaning “alternative” media will take this as a huge boost for the DFL…
  3. …notwithstanding the fact that the poll will drastically oversample Democrat-leaning voters.
  4. But you’ll only learn that on conservative blogs and talk radio.

This pattern is iron-clad and absolute; the Minnesota Poll is a useless appendage that serves only as a morale-builder for the DFL; the only exception has been in 2008, when the GOP did so badly that the DFL didn’t need the help.

This year?  Facing a solid GOP candidate with three nonentities and facing an “Independence Party” candidate that will take three DFL votes for every two Republicans, in a year when anti-tax-and-spend fever is sweeping every part of this nation outside the Beltway and Kenwood?

The morale-builder is needed.

My favorite bit of Minnesota Poll history; immediately before the 2002 gubernatorial election, the Minnesota Poll showed Roger Moe with a slim but significant lead, while Tim Pawlenty and IndyParty candidate Tim Penny duked it out for second in a near-statistical tie.  You may recall that Pawlenty won pretty handily, while Penny got about half the share the MNPoll predicted.

Luke Hellier at MDE has more:

Let’s use the 2006 Governor’s Race as an example.
On November 6 the poll showed the following:
Tim Pawlenty 39%
Mike Hatch 42%
Peter Hutchinson 7%
Just a day later, Minnesotans went to the poll an reelected Tim Pawlenty to a second term. The actual results were:
Tim Pawlenty 46%
Mike Hatch 45%
Peter Hutchinson 6%
In the US Senate Race, the poll showed Mark Kennedy only receiving 33%. On election day he received 38%
Going back 2 years earlier, the poll had President George Bush only with 42% of the support in Minnesota. On election day the President received the support of 48% of Minnesotans.
Needless to say, the Minnesota Poll vastly under estimates the support of Republicans while inflating that of Democrats.

Powerline was also shredding the Minnesota Poll long before most people had heard of either the poll or the blog.

The whole intent is to try to demoralize the undecided but GOP-leaning voter – the ones that are going to decide this election.

Faint Praise

Normally, this might be considered good news:

Minnesotans are feeling slightly better about the economy and their finances. But many are still feeling the effects of the recession in their day-to-day lives, according to a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll.

But of course, this is the Strib’s Minnesota Poll.

So there really are only two questions:

  1. How wrong is it?
  2. How is that wrong-ness intended to benefit the DFL?

Minnesota Poll: Most want Coleman to call it quits

If you ignored the first two words of the following headline…

Minnesota Poll: Most want Coleman to call it quits

…then it’d seem almost as damning as  the story’s lede

Nearly two-thirds of Minnesotans surveyed think Norm Coleman should concede the U.S. Senate race to Al Franken, but just as many believe the voting system that gave the state its longest running election contest needs improvement.

But those first two words – Minnesota Poll – are in fact dispositive.  These polls exist solely to provide aid and comfort to DFLers.  Their fifteen year history is one of ludicrous overrepresentation of DFLers – usually right when some discouragement of the opposition is needed.


Election night results for MN Senate race-

Independent Dean Barkley 15.15%
Republican Norm Coleman 42.98%
Democrat Al Franken 42.99%

Party preference results from new StarTribune poll-
Republicans 20%
Democrat 36%
Independent 37%

Every time I start to think that maybe big media’s argument against shutting down – “we need to keep government honest” – might just make some sense, we get to situations like this, where it’s impossible to think the Strib’s mission is anything but electing Democrats.

Reasons To Pick Coleman By Four

#1:  Because the Minnesota Poll says Franken’s up by four.

A new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll shows DFLer Al Franken clinging to a slim lead over Republican Sen. Norm Coleman among likely voters, 42 percent to 38 percent. That’s within the poll’s 4.1 percentage point margin of sampling error.

The Minnesota Poll seems to spot DFLers four to eight points, over the last several elections (with 2006 being a partial exception).

I think Coleman’s going to win this by 3-4 points.  The MNPoll is evidence of this.

Oh, yeah – further proof of the triviality of the MNPoll:

Independence Party candidate Barkley, who held steady at 18 percent in the two previous Minnesota Polls, slipped three points to 15 percent.

The Minnesota Poll always seems to put Ventura “Independence” Party candidates about double where they end up. 

Fearless prediction:  the Ventura “Independence” Party’s days as a “Major Party” in Minnesota will end after the 2010 election. 

Like The Minnesota Poll, Only Nationwide

The AP calls the race even:

The poll, which found Obama at 44 percent and McCain at 43 percent, supports what some Republicans and Democrats privately have said in recent days: that the race narrowed after the third debate as GOP-leaning voters drifted home to their party and McCain’s “Joe the plumber” analogy struck a chord.

Three weeks ago, an AP-GfK survey found that Obama had surged to a seven-point lead over McCain, lifted by voters who thought the Democrat was better suited to lead the nation through its sudden economic crisis.

IBD/TIPP? Ditto:

McCain has picked up 3 points in the West and with independents, married women and those with some college. He’s also gaining momentum in the suburbs, where he’s gone from dead even a week ago to a 20-point lead. Obama padded gains in urban areas and with lower-class households, but he slipped 4 points with parents.

And the Zogmeister?

These numbers, if they hold, are blowout numbers. They fit the 1980 model with Reagan’s victory over Carter — but they are happening 12 days before Reagan blasted ahead. If Obama wins like this we can be talking not only victory but realignment:

Wow.  Sounds serious.

Seriously hosed. 

The only reason for polls like this (and the Minnesota Poll) is to try to depress GOP turnout.

Yes, I am declaring a conspiracy. 

Good News For Mac

The Minnesota Poll shows The Obamessiah ahead by double digits.

The poll, conducted Thursday and Friday, found that Obama is supported by 52 percent of likely voters, while 41 percent are backing McCain. The results show that while McCain has cut into Obama’s 18-point lead from two weeks ago, it’s not enough to move Minnesota back into the toss-up column, as it was immediately after the Republican National Convention was held in St. Paul in early September.

Experience says when the Minnesota Poll shows a huge DFL lead alone among polls, it most likely means it’s pretty close to the margin of error, DFLers are scared, and the MNPoll is doing it’s best to coax Republicans into staying home. 

Sort of like they’re doing nationwide.

Don’t believe the hype, Republicans.  It’s gonna be a tough election – but the media and Democrats (pardon the redundancy) want you to believe it’s hopeless.


2006 was a bit of a holiday from the upper midwest center-right blogosphere’s traditional shredding and hooting at the “Minnesota Poll”, the Star-Tribune’s biennial exercise in DFL promotion.  Things generally went to far to the DFL’s favor (we only salvaged the Governor and Lieutenant Governor’s offices in the worst anti-GOP bloodbath since Watergate) that the Strib didn’t need to try to spin, cook and mangle reality in the DFL’s favor.

This year, of course, things are different.  In what should be a slam dunk year for Democrats in Minnesota, which is traditionally as solid-Democrat as a state can get without massive head injuries, Mac is holding steady and competitive in most polls.  And Al Franken has been trailing incumbent Norm Coleman by high single to low double digits.

The Minnesota Poll, of course, induces its own alternate reality, putting Franken up by a blowout-territory 13 points – almost exactly the opposite of a contemporaneous SurveyUSA/KSTP poll. 

Like all Minnesota Polls, it’s done to generate glowing, feel-good headlines for Democrats, and assumes nobody will read the fine print.  The Minnesota Poll showed a 13 point lead for Franken because they sampled so many more Democrats than Republicans.

Details, details? 

Perhaps – except that this poll is used as a rote talking point by every media figure from Nick Coleman through George Stephanopoulos, who tossed it at Tim Pawlenty on Sunday morning (causing Pawlenty to all-but-chuckle at the reference on the air).

The  Minnesota Poll has been shredded, over and over again.  Rumors of its demise in the Strib’s budget cuts would seem to be exaggerated, although not so much as rumors that the poll would have to clean up its act if it expected to help rather than hurt the Strib in these polarized times, when merely acting liberal on demand isn’t enough to guarantee acceptance anymore.