Polls have come to dominate the media's horse race coverage of political campaigns. Pundits and reporters constantly use them to tell us who's hot and who's not -- but skip over the fact that plummeting response rates and variables like undecided voters and margins of error often render these polls useless as anything other than lightweight diversions on par with horoscopes and political betting lines. Below you'll find a slew of polling, astrological, and betting information that will hopefully help the polling junkies in the media keep polls in the proper perspective.
We've also updated HuffPollstrology to bring you regular takes from astrologers on the state of the presidential race. And we've included a section that digs deeper into how polls are conducted. And to make sure we're really investigating, we're going to add various blogs and articles that cast a skeptical eye on polling. Read on for lots of HuffPollstrology:
ASTROLOGER PHILIP SEDGWICK LOOKS AT THE CANDIDATES - **NEW POST 8/21**:
While the polls provide a pulse of collective response in the moment, there's very little hope the polls can predict voter pulse on Election Day. Aren't we fortunate to have astrology on our side? Overlooking expected poll bumps for the candidates on the heels of their VP choices and respective conventions, let's dig deeper.
Mars now occupies Libra. As noted two posts ago, this favors McCain's agenda, closing the poll gap between McCain and Obama and according to red pundits, McCain's winning! It's a virtual tie - for now. Mars in Libra balances, modulates and evens the playing field, vacillating in direct response to fickleness of those polled. It's like a baseball game. Momentum typically shifts several times a game, capturing the dramatic embellishment of commentators and fan fickleness. It's not accurate to say a team's winning in the fifth inning. Just give me the final score.
Today, Mars stands at the same point it occupied on Election Day 2000. On September 24th Mars reaches the identical point it held on Election Day 2004. Though, these effects decrease the polling gap between McCain and Obama; it does not change anything about the election. The standard Republican banners of hawk-infused patriotism (question Obama's) and terrorists resent the American lifestyle - especially those making more than $5 M per year - fly high. You better be afraid of them... all of them. Fear the multi-sect Muslim extremists, Russians, Pakistanis, North Koreans and there's a rumor that the folks in Rapa Nui are feeling their oats. If you're scared, vote for me. I'm not about to direct McCain's camp to astronomical websites that track objects that can potentially collide with Earth. They'd guarantee McCain would know how to shoot down an asteroid while Obama would not. Worse, with these trends, the polls would reflect confidence in such an assertion.
Mars just laid tough energy on a popularity planet in Obama's chart, which simultaneously favored McCain's message and appeal. Use your own planets, pal! Over the next several weeks McCain's assaults on Obama, the GOP scare protocol and McCain's claim that his causes are larger than himself catch on. Solipsism, indeed. Combined with recent good news per CNN tickers that home sales are up in California, exploiting upside down mortgage holders and bargain hunters drive up retail sales in discount stores, previously forecast economic mirages form. Let's at least wait until Bernanke returns from Wyoming.
During September bluster and boldness can be read as confidence and leadership. Such reads gain momentum with planetary patterns peaking on September 9th. Naturally, 9-11 rhetoric returns, invoking tired, obligatory claims that the Republicans are the folks who can protect you. The polls stay tight as evocative memories of the 2001 tragedy replay. McCain gains, possibly sustaining a short term poll lead.
Then McCain persists in applying a heap of his wisdom in global diplomacy, issuing stern ultimatums to other countries that make a Vietnam veteran wonder if he's hiding the conscription card up his sleeve. On September 24th, the communication planet, Mercury, appears to go backward as the planet of war and international provocation reaches the point it held at the 2004 election. Public pulse shifts. Overnight, the ear of the voters tires of talk of war. The gap closes, the lead flips.
Challenges to McCain's grasp of reality abound. His insistence that his policy dead horses are all named Lazarus stirs doubt in the mind of voters. October gives Obama a surge, riding heavily on inspired speeches that deliver another set of chills to Chris Matthews' legs. The polling incites campaign panic, forecasting a poorly strategized, highly contrived and badly timed October surprise.
Let's consider a few election facts polls cannot read. Since 1900, other than 2000 and 2004, there have never been adjacent elections with Mars in the same sign. We migrate from 00's and 04's Election Day Mars in Libra to this year's Scorpionic Mars, signaling era's end. Since 1900 the Mars Libra to Scorpio pattern occurred twice. Both times the vote went from incumbent Republicans riding less than ideal administrations to Democratic victory (1912, President Taft became the only incumbent to finish third, losing to Wilson; 1976, Carter defeated Ford, polishing off the Nixon era). While this trend can hardly be deemed statistically significant, it falls into the category of very interesting coincidence.
My suggestion: When talk of the polls occurs on TV, change to a baseball game. There shifting momentum can harmlessly whisk you away.
HuffPost is delving into the gray area of how polls are conducted. Below is an analysis of how pollsters come up with the numbers through response rates. The definition of a response rate is taken from Arianna's 1998 column "Investigating The Pollsters."
The key to polling's accuracy is the principle of "equal probability of selection." But if larger and larger numbers among those randomly selected refuse to participate, this principle no longer applies.
We asked polling companies to please give us the response and refusal rates for their polls listed below.
Quinnipiac University Poll, Conducted August 12-17
Results: Obama 47%, McCain 42%
Method: 1,547 likely voters polled over 6 days.
"Can you please give us the response and refusal rates for your most recent national poll?": Quinnipiac representative estimated a 10% to 15%, consistent with other Quinnipiac polls. The refusal rate was not known.
Zogby Internet Poll, Conducted August 12-14
Results: Obama 43%, McCain 40%
Method: 3,339 likely voters polled over three days.
"Can you please give us the response and refusal rates for your most recent national poll?": A Zogby representative said, "The response rate is 10% and we do not calculate refusal rates for Zogby Interactive polls."
AP/Ipsos Poll Conducted July 31-August 4
Results: Obama 47%, McCain 41%
Method: Random sample of 1,002 adults across the country over five days. 833 were registered voters.
"Can you please give us the response and refusal rates for your most recent national poll?":
Ipsos representative: "As far as I know we don't publish response and refusal rates...We conducted the poll for the Associated Press, you'd have to ask them about releasing the response and refusal rates."
Associated Press representative: "We don't have them here from Ipsos. It takes a little while for them to get those to us...I can ask them. It shouldn't take too long, but normally it takes a few days...They're not secret or anything."
Gallup Daily Poll Conducted August 15-August 17
Results: Obama 46%, McCain 43%
Method:2,660 registered voters polled over three days.
"Can you please give us the response and refusal rates for your most recent national poll?": 14% response rate, 26% refusal rate. This is an average rate for this particular series of polls, technically defined as the CASRO rate which is similar to the AAPOR-III response rate (these definitions can be found here).
The Economist/YouGov Poll Full Conducted August 11-August 13
Results: Obama 41%, McCain 40%
Method:Emailed panel of 1,000 adults.
"Can you please give us the response and refusal rates for your most recent national poll?": A representative for YouGov wrote, "The response rate for the poll was 31% over a three-day field period. Because of the unique method of collecting data for this poll, the response rate is not comparable to those of telephone-based polls." When asked about a response rate, the representative replied, "As we collect data using our online panel, there really is not a comparable metric to the refusal rates that telephone polls have."
Rasmussen Daily Tracking Poll Conducted August 16-August 18
Results: Obama 45%, McCain 42%
Method: Sample of 3,000 likely voters over three days.
"Can you please give us the response and refusal rates for your most recent national poll?": A representative for Rasmussen told us, "We don't give out that information".
CBS News Poll Conducted
July 31-August 5
Results: Obama 45%, McCain 39% Method: Polled 1,034 --of that, 906 were registered voters. "Can you please give us the response and refusal rates for your most recent national poll?": Response rate -- 11.51%, refusal rate -- 26.54%. Both are according to the American Association for Public Opinion Research's definition of Response Rate 1 and Refusal Rate 1 (both of which can be found in this PDF).
Zogby/Reuters Phone Poll August 14-August 16
Results: Obama 41%, McCain 46%
Method: Polled 1,089 likely voters.
"Can you please give us the response and refusal rates for your most recent national poll?": A Zogby representative told us, "The latest Reuters/Zogby poll has a cooperation rate of 16%".
LA Times/Bloomberg National Poll Conducted August 15-August 18
Results: Obama 45%, McCain 43%
Method: Polled 1,375 adults, including 1,248 registered voters.
"Can you please give us the response and refusal rates for your most recent national poll?": Representatives from Bloomberg have not yet returned The Huffington Post's request for information.
THE LATEST POLLS, WEATHER, ASTROLOGICAL POSTINGS AND BETTING LINES ON THE CANDIDATES:
The final touches to a project that's been going on for some time could be put in place. Though this is probably just the start of the next phase, you might need to mark the moment in some way. Friends born under the Fire signs (Aries, Leo and Sagittarius) could have key roles to play - though you may need to take care that one of these people isn't getting you to do all their work as well as your own. You might also sense that you've turned an emotional corner and that you're in the healthy process of dumping excess emotional baggage.
Part of you might feel in control of all you survey. You might also want to thank others for their assistance by treating them to a special meal. Quality more than quantity is likely to matter most to you. Turned on by a singer's extraordinary voice, you might even think about what you can do with your own - and whether it's too late for you to start singing more regularly.
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General Election Poll: Gallup Daily Tracking
The general-election results are based on combined data from Aug. 17-19, 2008. For results based on this sample of 2,658 registered voters, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points.
Betting Lines: Intrade Prediction Markets