Paul M. Banas on Consumer Insights, Marketing Research, and the Digital Media Landscape
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Category — Surveys

Insights Into A Data Driven Election

With the 2008 Presidential election now almost a week behind us, the media is filled with backwards looking punditry on what lessons this campaign will inform history with.

But of all the unique aspects of this campaign, one thing that stood out was the use of data and how that influenced strategy, especially with the Obama campaign.

His unique electoral strategy of looking outside the typical swing states into areas where Republicans have always been strong (Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia) was driven by statistical analyses that showed how changing demographics in these typically Republican areas provided opportunities for a Democrat willing to take advantage of them.

I tend not to be very politically minded, but one site that fascinated me throughout the election season was Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com blog (538 being the number of electors in the Electoral College).

Throughout the campaign, he aggregated all the available polls and then analyzed them using regression analyses to find out what their outlier tendencies tended to be.

He then weighted the polls and re-simulated the election 10,000 times per update in order to, in his words, “provide a probabilistic assessment of electoral outcomes based on a historical analysis of polling data since 1952″.

And his accuracy throughout the election process was remarkable.  According to this New York Times article entitled “This Math Whiz Called It For Obama Months Ago”, in the primary election versus Hilary Clinton, Silver “projected Senator Obama would win 833 Super Tuesday delegates, which was within about a dozen of the actual vote estimates”.

Additionally, when the returns came in on election night, it was found that “Mr. Silver had predicted the popular vote within one percentage point, predicted 49 of 50 states’ results correctly, and predicted all of the resolved Senate races correctly”.

What will be interesting to see is how this new approach to the analysis of polling data will have an effect on future elections.  What is certain is that the data driven approach to election strategy is probably here to stay.

November 10, 2008   No Comments

A Market Researcher’s Worst Nightmare

Thanks to Olivier de Gaudemar at Insights 2.0 for finding and posting this clip of John Stewart grilling John Zogby over the polling disaster from the New Hampshire primaries a couple of weeks ago.

I think this is probably a market researcher’s version of hell: having John Stewart publicly questioning your data and methodology live on TV in front of millions of viewers.

February 1, 2008   No Comments

Ron Paul and the Validity of Online Polls

Since 2007 is almost over, and I have yet to devote a blog post to any of Technorati’s hot topics, I might as well have a post about Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul and online polling.

This chart from an AOL online straw poll is a window into the problems with online surveys. According to most other nationwide polls, Ron Paul is a distant 6th. In fact his awareness among the broader electorate is fairly minimal.

AOL Straw Poll

However, on the web, he is a powerhouse to be reckoned with, mostly due to his supporters. And while I believe engaged web users may be more likely to aware of Dr. Paul, the numbers still look a little fishy.

Which brings me back to sampling and online surveys in general. While methods like random digit dialing were able to provide telephone polls with method of avoiding selection bias in sample bases in the past, as AOL is finding out the hard way, surveys on the web still need a bit more work.

December 26, 2007   No Comments