Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Election News, Of A Sort
Fausta has real, live US election news from France. The detail of the reporting and the incisive quality of the analysis will just astound you.
Pajamas Media really does have a nice roundup.
Much is being written about the impressive veil of secrecy lowered over the exit polls. Apparently all the reporters have been sequestered in a dome of silence. Well, anyone old enough to remember Maxwell Smart knows how well that works, so we should be getting info of the "Bush DOOMED" variety quite soon.
Human perversity being what it is, the veil of secrecy inspired me to do some exhaustive, penetrating research into the mechanics of exit polling. What do you know, I found a really reliable and informed person (you can establish his credibility here) inadvertently left out of the dome of silence who agreed to answer a few questions on the condition of anonymity:
Q: Are there going to be any of those ridiculous questions like the "values" thing on this exit poll?
A: Well, we didn't think it was ridiculous. After all, the purpose of exit polls is to make money later by selling data to political operatives of both parties so they can reach and influence potential voters more effectively. Sure, the networks pay for the expenses for the actual polls so they have something to talk about, but that doesn't pay our bills in between elections! The bread and butter money is in the campaign consultancy fees. But we did get requests for more detail, so that is what we focused on for this round.
Q: Hmm. Detail. Could you explain further?
A: Representatives of both parties wanted to be able to isolate what it was about values that inspired people to vote as they did. As one person commented to me, "Everyone has values!"
Q: Good point, that. So did you break down the "values" question in more detail? It seems as if one can only know what the meaningful categories are in voters' minds afterwards, if you get my drift. You could ask 20 questions about the environment, social ideas, whatever, but those concerns might not be relevant for this particular election, especially since this is a midterm, local election.
A: Well, there were concerns about the poll getting too lengthy, so what we finally did was break it down into different detail sections to be asked based on demographics and responses to an initial few "breakpoint" questions. So every interviewee will be asked a framework of basic questions, and then depending on their responses to those questions, each interviewee will answer one or two sections of detailed questions. This way the length of the poll can be kept to a minimum, increasing compliance, which creates a better sample. We trained our corps of pollsters very carefully for this to ensure they could execute it correctly.
Q: Aha! Did you put those little arrows and pictures on it, like fast-food restaurant cash registers? And by "training", do you mean you told them they couldn't just interview hot college chicks?
A: (With dignity.) They are color-coded, and the pollsters have been instructed to follow strict sampling procedures, as always. For example, in some districts they are supposed to interview every tenth person leaving the polling-place.
Q: Yes, but when people leave in groups, have the exit interviewers been told not to consistently choose the hot college chicks wearing "I hate Bush" and "I HEART NAR" stickers? You have read that research about the average male thinking about sex every minute or so, haven't you?
A: Indeed. We have warned them that there will be monitors walking through the designated exit polling sites, and also that any request for a date with an interviewee will result in immediate termination.
Q: Very good. I can see that you guys have realized that this is big business which could lose you big bucks if boobs and butts are allowed to skew the results. But back to this issue about the differing detail sections. What are the breakpoint questions that determine which details section is used?
A: Oh, things like party affiliation, which party's candidates the person actually voted for in this election, religious affiliation and region.
Q: Religious affiliation? Do you mean that if a person says he or she voted Democratic and they're Catholic they would be asked different detail questions than if the person says he or she voted Republican and they're Catholic?
A: Actually, it's a bit more complicated. The answer to each question has a number assigned, and then the interviewer adds up those numbers, and each detail section is assigned to a range of possible totals.
Q: Whoa! Did you check to see if the interviewers can add? They are mostly college students, right?
A: (Reluctantly.) We provided them with calculators, and made sure they could use them.
Q: I hope it wasn't an open-book quiz, that's all. Could you give me an example of a detail section?
A: Well, those are for our own use and we are not going to report those findings to the networks. They are to be used for later analysis.
Q: Come on! If you are asking all these questions, thousands of people are going to know them by now. No one's going to trace this back to you. I promise. There could be hot trading tip in this for you, you know.
Q: Guaranteed! That trading tip is guaranteed! No SEC investigations, guaranteed! Let's try this - I give you two sample voters and you give me the questions those voters would be asked....
A: Okay - Party affiliation, the party generally voted for in this election, atheist, agnostic, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, pagan or other, gender and northeastern, southern, midwestern or western.
Q: Democratic, Democratic, Catholic, female, northeastern:
A: (Sound of rustling papers is heard in background): Ah, okay. That's err, a total of 23 and section 3A:
1) How many years of post-graduate schooling do you have?
2) Do you attend your church or temple rarely, seldom, monthly or weekly?
3)(a) Did you attend a Catholic elementary school for more than one year?
(3A) Was it run by the Dominicans?
4) Are you aware that the Pope has said that the church should not interfere with secular affairs?
5) Are you aware that prominent Catholic theologians have stated that it's not a sin to differ from church teachings if the conscience of the individual believer truly says it's not?
6) Are you in favor of same-sex marriage?
7) Do you believe Bush should be impeached?
8) Are you aware that Kerry is a regular communicant in the Catholic church?
Q: Good Lord! That sounds almost like a push poll! Did you get help drawing up these questions from the Democratic and Republican party operatives?
A: (Huffily). We did request input as to what information would be useful from parties likely to be interested in the results.
Q: Well, didn't mean to offend you.... OK, let's try another. Ahhh. Independent, Republican, confirmed Protestant, leaning Catholic, female, southern.
A: (tick, tick, tap.) Ahem. What type of church does this voter attend, if she attends at all?
Q: Catholic, unless the Church of God patrol catches her with their annointing oil before she makes it into the sanctuary! Hahaha! I'm sorry, that was a joke that no non-southerner would enjoy or understand. I guess you'd better make that Protestant.
A: Ahhh, that would be section 7D. Let's try another, more representative one.
Q: Hah. No, let's try this one. No reply, no hot trading tip. I can assure you that there are quite a few in that demographic. I could change party affiliation to Democratic, if that helps.
A: Well, that's still section 7D.
Q: Well, then let's have section 7D.
A: (A bit stiffly)
1) Did you graduate from high school?
2) Has anyone in your family ever attended any sort of formal instructional program such as trade school or a vocational education program after high school?
3) Is anyone in your family (including you) in the military or National Guard?
4) Has anyone in your family (including you) been in the military in the last ten years?
5) How many children do you have?
(5A) Have you ever heard of birth control?
(5B) Haven't you heard that children from large families don't do as well in life? Does that make you feel bad? Guilty?
(5C) Would you use birth control if the government provided it?
(5D) Would you use birth control if the federal government paid for it and paid you $3000 every year in which you did not get pregnant?
(5E) Considering the needs of your family, would you be willing to get an abortion if the government paid you $3000 that year and every year thereafter in which you did not get pregnant?
6) Can most people in your family read?
7) Are you married to your first cousin?
(7A) Are you married to your second cousin?
(7B) Have you heard that marrying your cousin can cause a much higher rate of birth defects?
(7C) Would you be willing to get prenatal screening if the government paid for it?
(7D) Would you be willing to get an abortion if prenatal screening showed that you were carrying a baby with birth defects and the federal government offered to pay for the abortion?
8) Do you live in a trailor park?
(8A) Has anyone ever dragged a hundred dollar bill through it?
(8B) Was anyone injured in the mad scramble for the hundred dollar bill?
(8C) Any deaths resulting?
9) (Pick relevant question below)
- How much do you hate black people?
- How much do you hate white people?
10) Did your pastor or minister instruct you to vote Republican?
(10A) Could we please have his name and the name and address of the church so we can send him a contribution to thank him for his dedication to the electoral process?
11) Did anyone offer you money to come and vote today?
Q: (Thoughtful, brooding silence.) Ahhh, just as a wild guess, is George Soros one of your best customers?
A: We promise all of our clients complete confidentiality. Our integrity guarantees it. Now where's that trading tip?
Q: (Emerging from dazed ruminations) If you have any homebuilding, Lowe's, and Home Depot stocks, sell them. Then make friends with three contractors. When your contractor friends start looking cheerful again, buy homebuilding, Lowes and Home Depot stocks and hold them for three years. Before choosing a current investment advisor, verify that he or she has not bought condos since March 2005. Sell WalMart and buy Target. Remember the two basic rules of safe investing: Buy low/sell high & TANSTAAFL. Always make sure to find out whatever your investments your dentist and doctor are buying - then avoid those investments like the plague. Stay away from hedge funds. Ahhhh, given your line of work, I think I'd try to develop some relationships with Republican customers.... That should do more for your financial health than any trading.