I hate polls. I hated paying for them as a consultant, hated having to pay attention to them for candidates, hated the sight of them, the thought of them. I hate talking about them. Hate writing about them. Hate reading about them. Hate listening to people talk about them. Hate cross tabs, trendlines, all of it. Which is why all this talk of somehow measuring a voter’s relative “enthusiasm” for voting, and conjuring some alchemy to get from that to an election prediction, is really starting to get to me.
I mean, really. A vote is a vote.
Count it as many times and with as much enthusiasm as you like, it’s still one.
It doesn’t matter how fabulously excited that voter is when they cast it. It’s the same vote. It can be festooned with balloons and crepe paper that reads I’M THE MOST ENTHUSED VOTER EVER BITCHES, it’s still one. You can prance into the polling place to the strains of Liza Minelli singing “Evita”, it doesn’t matter. Still one vote.
But Tim! You say.
It measures turnout!
No it does not. Just look at this idiotic question from the Dispatch poll, which Modern has noted.
“Compared to previous elections, are you more enthusiastic than usual about voting in the 2010 general election, less enthusiastic, or about the same?”
That’s like asking, compared to previous elections, how many times did you get laid this year? More than last time? You must be VERY EXCITED ABOUT THAT! Guess what. Your vote still counts as one.
There is only one screen that measures turnout, and that is your likely voter screen. How sure are you that you will vote? Not how VERY EXCITED you are about voting, although that may help decide whether or not you do vote. You can be SUPER AWESOMELY EXCITED about voting this year, and somehow, forget. Happens all the time.
That’s why likely voter screens tend to, you know, work. If a voter answers the likely voter screen that they are “certain” to vote, that voter, that moment, is making a subconscious commitment to actually vote. If you just say you’re REALLY EXCITED, there’s no similar commitment from the voter to the pollster.
So what’s all this stupidity mean? It probably means that this mid-term will not be all that different from other mid-terms. No matter how supremely excited anyone gets as they vote their one, single, very excited and awesomely cast vote. It also means that the Dispatch poll, which has no likely voter screen at all, is probably bunk.
I now return to not talking about polls.