Obsessive Poll Watching Open Thread: Pew has Obama by 3 . . . Plus, microtargeting voters for GOTV

I’m sure glad MSNBC is running real programming tonight, because I can’t think of much other than the upcoming election. The polls have been moving toward Obama over the past few days, and suddenly he’s ahead in the Pew Poll which has been showing Romney ahead for some time.

Nate Silver reacted on Twitter, saying that the results match his findings:

Nate Silver ‏@fivethirtyeight
Simple average of national polls released Thursday: Obama +0.9. Friday: Obama +1.2. Saturday: Obama +1.3. Today (so far): Obama +1.4

Pew reports:

In the Pew Research Center’s election weekend survey, Obama holds a 48% to 45% lead over Romney among likely voters.

The survey finds that Obama maintains his modest lead when the probable decisions of undecided voters are taken into account. Our final estimate of the national popular vote is Obama 50% and Romney 47%, when the undecided vote is allocated between the two candidates based on several indicators and opinions.

The interviews all took place after superstorm Sandy struck.

Obama’s handling of the storm’s aftermath may have contributed to his improved showing. Fully 69% of all likely voters approve of the way Obama is handling the storm’s impact. Even a plurality of Romney supporters (46%) approve of Obama’s handling of the situation; more important, so too do 63% of swing voters.

Pew expects voter turnout to be lower than in either 2004 or 2008, which could help Romney, but other data favors Obama.

Nearly four-in-ten (39%) likely voters support Obama strongly, while 9% back him only moderately. A third of likely voters support Romney strongly, compared with 11% who back him moderately. In past elections, dating to 1960, the candidate with the higher percentage of strong support has usually gone on to win the popular vote.

Similarly, a much greater percentage of Obama supporters than Romney supporters are voting for him rather than against his opponent (80% for Obama vs. 60% for Romney), another historical indicator of likely victory. And far more registered voters expect an Obama victory than a Romney victory on Nov. 6 (52% vs. 30%).

Obama’s increases in likely voter support are most notable among women, older voters, and political moderates. Women now favor Obama by a 13-point margin (53% to 40%), up from six points a week ago and reflecting a shift toward Obama since early October. Right after the first presidential debate, the women’s vote was split evenly (47% each). Men, by comparison, favor Romney by a 50% to 42% margin, with little change in the past month.

At the Guardian UK, Ewen McAskill writes:

The findings are similar to a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll published at the weekend. The two offer the first firm evidence of the impact of Sandy on the election. Pew carries one caution for Obama, suggesting turnout may be lower than in 2008 and 2004, which could help Romney.

Obama’s team claimed that Romney’s frantic campaign schedule reflected a sense of desperation, squeezing in a late visit to previously neglected Pennsylvania Sunday in the search for elusive electoral college votes elsewhere. The Obama team also cited visits Monday to Florida and Virginia, two states it said the Romney camp had claimed to have locked up.

In an interview with ABC, David Plouffe, who organised Obama’s re-election bid, expressed confidence the president will win on Tuesday, and seized on a comment by Karl Rove that Obama had benefited from superstorm Sandy. Democrats are interpreting this as Rove, George W Bush’s former campaign strategist and co-founder of the Crossroads Super Pac that has poured millions of dollars into Romney’s campaign and those of other Republicans, beginning to get his excuses in early.

“A few days ago he [Rove] predicted a big Romney win. My sense is Karl is going be at a crossroads himself on Tuesday when he tries to explain to the people who wrote him hundreds of millions of dollars why they fell up short,” Plouffe said.

Another Obama strategist, David Axelrod, commenting on Romney’s Pennsylvania trip, told Fox News: “They understand that they’re in deep trouble. They’ve tried to expand the map because they know in states like Ohio. They’re behind and they’re not catching up at this point.” He added: “They understand that the traditional, or the battleground, states that we’ve been focusing are not working out for them.”


On Microtargeting . . .

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been reading some interesting articles on the GOTV efforts of the two campaigns. I was struck by this piece at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about a woman in Mukwonago, Wisconsin, Priscilla Trulen, who received a spooky call on Halloween.

“It was Mitt Romney saying, ‘I know you have an absentee ballot and I know you haven’t sent it in yet,’ ” Trulen said in an interview. “That just sent me over the line. Not only is it like Big Brother. It is Big Brother. It’s down to where they know I have a ballot and I haven’t sent it in! I thought when I requested the ballot that the only other entity that would know was the Mukwonago clerk.”

Other voters are being “creeped out” by calls from Democratic groups.

In Brown County, residents are unnerved about “voter report cards” from Moveon.org that show the recipients how their voting participation compares to those of their neighbors.

The solicitations give only a small glimpse into how much digital information the campaigns are able to access about voters.

Corporations working for candidates request publicly available voter data as well as information about absentee ballots from state governments, which they can combine with other data to target individual voters.

The cost of the entire state database is $12,500. Four requesters have been willing to pay that since Sept. 1, Magney said: Catalist (a progressive voter database organization), the Democratic National Committee, and data analysis firm Aristotle – all based in Washington, D.C. The last requester was Colorado-based Magellan Strategies, a firm that specializes in “micro-targeting” for Republican parties and candidates….

In an interview with PBS that aired in October, Aristotle’s chief executive officer, John Phillips, said the company keeps up to 500 data points on each voter – from the type of clothes they buy, the music they listen to, magazines they read and car they own, to whether they are a NASCAR fan, a smoker or a pet owner, or have a gold credit card. Some of that information comes from commercial marketing firms, product registration cards or surveys. Other information is obtained through Facebook, door-to-door canvassing, petitions and computer cookies – small data codes that register which websites the user has visited.

Through data modeling, analyzers can categorize voters based on how they feel about specific issues, values or candidates. They then try to predict voting behavior and figure out which issue ads voters are most likely to be susceptible to – for instance ads on education, gun control or immigration.

One of the companies that requested the full Wisconsin voter database, Magellan Strategies, explains on its website that it conducts surveys on people’s opinions and merges that with their political, consumer and census demographics.

Whoever targeted Trulen made one important mistake, however. She tends to vote Democratic although she lives in a Republican district.

According to Sasha Issenberg, author of the book The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns, writes that in 2008 and 2012, the Democratic microtargeting operation is far superior to the Republican one.

In fact, when it comes to the use of voter data and analytics, the two sides appear to be as unmatched as they have ever been on a specific electioneering tactic in the modern campaign era. No party ever has ever had such a durable structural advantage over the other on polling, making television ads, or fundraising, for example. And the reason may be that the most important developments in how to analyze voter behavior has not emerged from within the political profession.

“The left has significantly broadened its perspective on political behavior,” says Adam Schaeffer, who earned graduate degrees in both evolutionary psychology and political behavior before launching a Republican opinion-research firm, Evolving Strategies. “I’m jealous of them.”

In other words, the Republican dislike of science and academia may be holding Romney back in the microtargeting area.

Schaeffer attributes the imbalance to the mutual discomfort between academia and conservative political professionals, which has limited Republicans’ ability to modernize campaign methods. The biggest technical and conceptual developments these days are coming from the social sciences, whose more practically-minded scholars regularly collaborate with candidates and interest groups on the left. As a result, the electioneering right is suffering from what amounts to a lost generation; they have simply failed to keep up with advances in voter targeting and communications since Bush’s re-election. The left, meanwhile, has arrived at crucial insights that have upended the conventional wisdom about how you convert citizens to your cause. Right now, only one team is on the field with the tools to most effectively find potential supporters and win their votes.

Go read the whole thing if you’re interested. It’s quite a long article, but fascinating. After reading some of his pieces yesterday, I was also able to heard Issenberg on MSNBC’s “Up with Chris Hayes” this morning. So many books to read, so little time.

Now what are you all hearing/reading? Are you as excited as I am?

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77 Comments on “Obsessive Poll Watching Open Thread: Pew has Obama by 3 . . . Plus, microtargeting voters for GOTV”

  1. RalphB says:

    From ‘Outside the Beltway’, a moderate Republican blog, yes there is one. :-) This post is fun and the comments are funny, as they usually are, most are actually Obama supporters.

    Romney Relying On Teleprompters During Final Campaign Swing

    Given the ridiculous obsession that many on the right have had with the fact that President Obama — like both Presidents Bush, President Clinton, and President Reagan before him — utilizes teleprompters for many public speeches, one has to wonder how they’ll feel about this:

    • ecocatwoman says:

      The Rombot has been using teleprompters for quite some time. Not all the time, but he’s been using them. First time I saw it, same thought – it’s bad if Obama does it, it’s okay if their bot does it.

  2. RalphB says:

    BB. I’m glad you posted on the micro-targeting. I’m fascinated and creeped out at the same time at how little privacy we really have left. I just got a live call from the TX Dem party reminding me to vote. I found myself kind of relieved they didn’t know I had already voted.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Me too! To pick up the phone and hear Romney’s voice would be bizarre, but I’d especially be weirded out by the “voter report card.” My mom and I have both been getting kind of threatening e-mails from the Obama people. Like “this is your last change to donate, or you’ll never hear from us again.” Except they don’t stop. My mom gets 2-3 per day.

      • Yeah, me too. And those are the ones that aren’t sent to spam. And I didn’t even sign up for any Dem Party/obama emails, I don’t know how I got on the list.

      • RalphB says:

        I think if you ever voted for a Dem or have family who did, you’re on someone’s list. I suspect he got my name from Hillary’s donor list, if nowhere else. With me it worked in that I have given a little money, but not a lot.

      • RalphB says:

        None of the emails I’ve gotten have seemed threatening though.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Not really threatening, just pushy. Like you won’t be part of our in-crowd unless you ante up.

    • janicen says:

      To be honest, I’m not that shocked about parties knowing whether or not you’ve sent your absentee ballot. I remember phone banking for the Democrats back in ’04 and we were calling the registered Democrats who had received absentee ballots. We would remind them to mail them in before the deadline. For those states where one can register in a political party, those lists exist. Obviously technology has improved and they can just send a robocall. That’s all we get these days, robocall after robocall. And then the TV commercials! Don’t get me started! ;-)

      • pdgrey says:

        I wasn’t either janicen, I started phone banking in 1976, I’ve done poll watching, and canvassing too. The parties have had crazy information for years.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I feel for you Janice. In MA all we got were Senate race ads, and here in IN we get Mourdock and anti-Mourdock ads, plus Pence and Gregg ads for Gov. Very few presidential ones–although I did see a horrible Romney ad earlier tonight.

  3. PD, I don’t think I can bring myself to see that ad. In fact, if I am awol from the blog, it is because I can’t take it. All the news about what is happening to people trying to vote is sickening.

    • pdgrey says:

      I understand JJ,I cried yesterday reading a post from Charles Pierce.

    • pdgrey says:

      JJ, try this
      Cleveland Massage Therapist Says Election Has Stressed Out Her Town, Boosted Her Business

      CLEVELAND, Ohio — Like many others here, Vickie Bodner waited in line outside in the cold for more than an hour so she could vote early in the election. But despite the frustrating circumstances, Bodner, a massage therapist, said she thought the experience was a good thing for her community.

      “Cleveland is tough … But these politics that have been going on on the TV have been very stressful,” she said, as she began pointing to the activity going on around us. “So when you get something like this, you have people over there who were singing, these guys here, pizza, these guys next to me are nice. It’s a nice thing.”

      Bodner said she has many “stressed clients,” and suspects some are coming to see her as a result of being generally worn down from their city serving as a focal point of the contentious presidential election. Cleveland is in Cuyahoga County, a region that some view as a bellwether for how the state will vote and, potentially, how the presidential election will go.

      “I’m booked way out,” Bodner said of her work schedule. Asked if she’s noticed an uptick in her business in recent weeks, she thought for a second before responding, “I would say yes. I would say yes. People are stressed.”

    • Beata says:

      I’ve been feeling sicker than usual the past three days. Can barely get out of bed. I’m avoiding the news. I already voted so I figure I can’t do anything to change the outcome of the election now. I just want it to be over and then we can all deal with the aftermath together, can’t we?

      • bostonboomer says:

        I’m so sorry you’re not feeling well, Beata. Get lots of rest.

        Of course we Sky Dancers will stick together no matter what. But I am really sure Obama will win. I’ll be shocked if he loses.

      • Beata says:

        Thanks, BB. I’ve been drifting in and out of sleep lately and sometimes the whole thing seems surreal. I’m afraid I’ll wake up on Wednesday with Romney as President, Mourdock as Senator, and Pence as Governor. What a nightmare.

  4. ecocatwoman says:

    Fascinating post, bb. I’d say that most of the calls & direct mail I get is from Republicans. Anecdotally, that confirms their microtargeting isn’t working on me. I’m just so glad I closed my Facebook page.

    • bostonboomer says:

      For some reason, I’ve gotten a lot of stuff from Scott Brown. It could be because I voted in the Republican Party this year, because there was nothing happening on the Dem side.

  5. pdgrey says:

    If anyone is watching Chris Matthews, Howard Finnman and Chuck Todd, the punch line is Todd at the end. “Both sides are going to be upset”.

  6. pdgrey says:

    Paper that endorsed McCain in 2008 endorses Obama. Also,

    AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will join former President Bill Clinton in rallying for Obama in Pittsburgh Monday morning saying,
    “Mitt Romney says coal country his his country. Well, he’s wrong — it’s ours,” Trumka said recently. “Mitt Romney doesn’t know about getting his hands dirty, and he sure doesn’t know anything about coal mining.”
    http://www.chillicothegazette.com/article/20121104/OPINION01/311040011/Obama-s-skills-needed-second-term?gcheck=1&nclick_check=1

    • RalphB says:

      Chillicothe is a very Republican part of Ohio.

      • Beata says:

        Yes it is. My father is from that area and I have distant relatives there. They would normally vote Republican but they can’t stand Romney. They think he’s an elitist ass.

      • NW Luna says:

        They think he’s an elitist ass.

        That would be because he is indeed an elitist ass.

  7. pdgrey says:

    More good news. Women favor President Barack Obama to Mitt Romney by a 13-point margin going into Tuesday’s election more than his 8 point margin in 2008. Men favor the Twit 50 to 42.

  8. Hey, any lawyers out there? Can you tell me how this is constitutional?

    Florida Early Voting Fiasco: Voters Wait For Hours At Polls As Rick Scott Refuses To Budge

    Early voting is supposed to make it easier for people to carry out their constitutional right. Tuesdays are notoriously inconvenient to take off work, so many states have given voters the option of turning out on weekends or other weekdays in the run-up to Election Day.

    But in Florida this year, it has been a nightmare for voters, who have faced record wait times, long lines in the sun and a Republican governor, Rick Scott, who has refused to budge and extend early voting hours.

    “People are getting out to vote. That’s what’s very good,” said Scott.

    People are getting out to vote — but many of them are having to wait in line for three or four hours to do so. One contributor to DailyKos claimed it took 9 hours to vote. In Miami-Dade on Saturday, people who had gotten in line by 7:00 p.m. were allowed to vote; the last person wasn’t checked in until 1 a.m., meaning it took some individuals six hours to cast a ballot.

  9. RalphB says:

    President Barack Obama rallies 23,000 supporters in Broward County

    He had a rally of about 24,000 last night in Virginia. Who says he can’t draw a crowd?

  10. pdgrey says:

    Ralph, I think you will enjoy a little Tbogg on right wing crazy’s “all a’worrin'”
    http://tbogg.firedoglake.com/2012/11/04/banjo-playing-guy-predicts-riots-because-the-twitter-says-so/

  11. pdgrey says:

    OK this is a really funny tweet from
    Atrios @Atrios

    whatever happens on election day, it’ll prove that america is, now and forever, a center right country

  12. NW Luna says:

    residents are unnerved about “voter report cards” from Moveon.org that show the recipients how their voting participation compares to those of their neighbors.

    I got one of those cards two days ago. I didn’t like that anyone can get that information, either. It was from the League of Conservation Voters (as opposed to the league of conservative voters!), not MoveOn. Yet my husband didn’t get one. Weird.

    Someone at work said she got called?/mailed? because the Board of Elections thought her signature on her ballot didn’t match her usual signature. In our county we have to sign the outside of the envelope in which we mail our ballots (all elections are by mail-in voting now). Lots of us don’t like that our signatures are on the outside of envelopes.

    • ecocatwoman says:

      The League of Conservation Voters is one of the good guys. However, I had no idea they bought voters’ lists & personal data. I don’t understand how the gov’t can release the voting record of citizens. That is disturbing.

      • NW Luna says:

        I’d heard of them many years back and knew they supported natural lands preservation and other good things. But I agree, it’s unnerving to have such personal information available to anyone with the money.

        I’d read many times of reporters looking into politicians’ voting records. But it never dawned on me that just anyone could access this info. Privacy regs in the US are atrocious. Most of Europe has much better privacy laws.

  13. RalphB says:

    The final USA Today/Gallup Poll of swing states finds voters “have become as enthusiastic and engaged in the 2012 presidential election as they were in the historic contest four years ago.”

    President Obama and Mitt Romney are tied in these battleground states, 48% to 48%. However, the results indicate a surge for Obama as he’s closed a four-point deficit from early October.

    Also important: “Most of the interviews were completed before Hurricane Sandy hit, and the president’s disaster response may have bolstered his standing a bit since then.”

  14. RalphB says:

    If the final polls fromThe Economist/YouGov are correct, President Obama will win 303 electoral votes.

    The final Reuters/Ipsos polls suggest Obama will win 294 electoral votes.

    The final Public Policy Polling surveys point to an Obama landslide of 332 electoral votes.

  15. RalphB says:

    Moderate in public, a nutbag in private!

    buzzfeed: Ryan Warns Evangelicals: Obama Threatens “Judeo-Christian Values”

    DENVER — Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan told a group of Evangelical Christians Sunday that President Obama’s plans threaten “Judeo-Christian values” — a dramatic charge aimed at the Republican base, and delivered during a conference call that did not appear on his public schedule.

    In his remarks to what organizers said were tens of thousands of members of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Ryan said that President Barack Obama’s path for the next four years is a “dangerous” one.

  16. RalphB says:

    The GOP should STFU!

    • dakinikat says:

      ohferpetesake what is wrong with this old white republican dudes? are they all either fascists or confederates ?

      • RalphB says:

        I would appear so anyway. This doesn’t count because the “wrong kind” of voters would put Obama over the top there.

  17. RalphB says:

    Charles Pierce has one really gorgeous piece of work!

    For Obama, the Clock’s Running in His Own Head Now