Not Over By A Long Shot

One of the commenters at StolenThunder was a troll playing his wicked-witch routine. You know, “surrender now the polls all say its over give up give up boooooooo …”. All he needed were the flying monkeys.

Well, I beg to differ. Loudly. As usual. So, while it amounts to repeating myself, here are the reasons why this election remains very much undecided, with a great deal left to be hammered down:

First, in a nutshell. a mathematical certainty of any event involving human behavior cannot possibly exist prior to that event.

Next is the idea that opinion polls are predictive. By definition, they are not, in the same way that charting a stock’s past performance and present price is in no way predictive of its future value;

Next, it needs saying again the the history of polls shows instability and unreliability. The elections of 1936, 1948, 1968, 1976, 1988, and 2000 in particular were very different from what the polls predicted just a couple weeks before the election, sometimes even closer than that;

Also, a lot of media is pointing to sites which post aggregates for projections. The problem there is that this causes collinearity, which invalidates the conclusions. It’s a common error but a significant one;

Further, it has to be noted that neither Obama nor McCain’s campaigns are behaving in a manner consistent with the published conditions, particularly with regard to Pennsylvania;

Next, it needs saying that the political affiliation weights being used in major polls in no way match the historical participation at either the national or state levels. Those polls which take reponse levels without weighting to demographic norms create a circular logic which is inconsistent with NCPP guidelines and documented election results;

And finally, conditions this year are so unstable that Gallup, who has longer experience than anyone in opinion polling, has tacitly admitted it has no idea where the race stands, as it has developed no less than three weight models to try to capture a sense of what’s going on. However, the fact that each is at variance with the other two to a degree byond their stated margin of error, demonstrates error beyond the boundaries established for the published level of significance (5%), which is to say, the math fails a 2-tailed validity test, and ergo all results are invalid by definition.

Turnout – if one party clearly does a better job getting its base to vote, that party will clearly win. More than ever, your vote matters.

Independents – Right now, the Independent vote is essentially tied, with about 28% of Independents still undecided. Whoever wins the most of that vote will win the election.

Undecideds – Overall, 12.01% of voters are still undecided. It’s slowly resolving itself, but there will still be a large pool of voters waiting to be convinced just before election day. Finishing strong could make all the difference.

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