With Republicans up in arms over poll after poll showing President Obama ahead, conservatives have latched on to a new polling site that promises to “unskew” the data, correcting what the site believes are polling samples with too many darn Democrats. Rick Perry has tweeted his approval of the site — which shows Mitt Romney ahead by 7.4 points — and even Stephen Colbert expressed his faux appreciation.
Here’s what the site’s founder, Dean Chambers, does. He changes the baseline assumption on how much of the electorate is Republican and how much is Democratic. Initially, he used Rasmussen’s real numbers on party identification to re-weight various polls. Rasmussen’s numbers break down to 37.6 percent Republican, 33.3 percent Democrat and 29.2 percent Independent. As of Thursday night, Chambers began using party identification numbers from his own web-based poll.
Chambers’ project started in July after he noticed an ABC News/Washington Post poll that “just didn’t look right.” An ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted this month showed Obama up over Romney 49 percent to 48 percent. “Unskewed,” however, after applying Rasmussen’s numbers on party ID, Romney leads Obama 52-45 in the poll. It’s like magic. But Chambers insists he isn’t “changing” or “making up” data. “The only thing I’m doing is weighting.”
But that’s exactly what most pollsters don’t do. “We don’t have any preconceived notions about the party breakdown of a poll before we conduct it. The only things we make any adjustments for are gender, race, and age,” Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen told TPM in an email. “It makes sense that as support for Obama increases, more people also identify themselves as Democrats. I know conservatives want to think it’s more Democrats in the poll causing Obama to do better, but it’s actually Obama doing better causing more Democrats in the poll.”
“The reality is that (Republicans are) losing, they can’t accept it, and they’re going to find some reason to dismiss every poll that makes them unhappy no matter what its composition is,” Jensen added. “This isn’t really about Party ID, it’s about hardcore denial.”
In every poll Chambers has reworked — save for a recent “unskewed” Fox News poll that has Obama up 2 points — Romney leads the incumbent. While Chambers, 45, of Duffield, Va., is a Romney supporter and longtime Republican, he said he is simply reporting the numbers “as they are.”
It doesn’t quite work that way, though. Scott Rasmussen told BuzzFeed this week: “you cannot compare partisan weighting from one polling firm to another.” Different firms ask about party identification differently, he explained. It’s not apples to apples. Rasmussen added:
“Some ask how you are registered. Some ask what you consider yourselves. Some push for leaners, others do not. Some ask it at the beginning of a survey which provides a more stable response while others ask it at the end.”
Missing from Chambers’ model is the fact that party identification is not a static metric. The current PollTracker average of party identification, which tracks the broader samples of American adults, shows 33.3 percent of citizens consider themselves Democrats, 22.1 percent Republicans and 34.3 percent independents. In 2010, when Republicans swept the House of Representatives and made gains in statehouses across the country, Republican party identification was much higher, around 31 percent. Based on a web poll he is currently conducting on his site, Chambers found only a 0.4 point spread between Democrats and Republicans today, with Democrats holding a narrow edge.
Still, Chambers said he believes pollsters aren’t skewing the data with malicious intent. They are just operating under faulty assumptions, he said, believing there are many more self-identified Democrats in the country today than Republicans. But the media, Chamber said, are over-reporting the polls showing Obama ahead. “That’s driving the analysis,” he said. “If one were to believe all these polls, you would think (the election is) over. It’s not over.”
Meanwhile, here’s the PollTracker average of where the presidential race stands today:
Kyle Leighton contributed reporting.
David Taintor is TPM’s News Editor. He contributes to TPM’s Livewire coverage, among other areas. David is from Chanhassen, Minnesota, where, yes, it gets very cold. Reach him at taintor [at] talkingpointsmemo.com