Question: How do you know when a poll was conducted primarily for public relations purposes or to draw viewers to a website?
Answer: When the number of sponsors of the survey exceeds the number of sponsors on a NASCAR driver’s jacket.
“The Pepsi-Viagra-SmartWool-Chevy performed great today Hal, but hold on a second while I take a sip of this delicious low-calorie beverage.”
While the Tampa Bay Times/Bay New 9/UF Bob Graham Center poll (a.k.a. the Times poll) is a pitchman’s dream, we put it to the test nonetheless. This poll showing the race (shock!) dead even seems to meet all the criteria for a rock solid instrument.
Live operators. Check.
Cell phones too. Check.
Likely voters. Check.
Large sample. 781 checks.
Balanced to match the likely electorate. Check…but not so fast.
The balancing act of this poll hinges on this statement:
Results were weighted by age, party registration and media market, thus allowing the results to mirror the distribution in the Florida Voter File.
…and it was based on:
“…voter’s history for the general elections in 2012 and 2010.”
If the sample was balanced to mirror the distribution in the “Florida Voter File,” then it would be reflective of current voter registration numbers. This would mean a +4 Democratic turnout advantage as Democrats currently outnumber Republicans by about 454,000 or a nearly 4-point advantage. If it is a hybrid of voters who cast votes in both 2010 and 2012, that would indicate a 1-point Democratic advantage.
If the Times poll did that, it favors Crist in a fairly large way as there is no way that turnout in an off-year election will favor Democrats by 4 points or likely even plus 1 point (recall that in the Presidential years, with Obama on the ballot, Democrats only beat Repubs by 1 point) and this will not be a Presidential-like turnout.
Verdict: Take this poll with a grain of salt.*
*So many polls are showing the race dead-even, but so many of these polls also have skewed (to favor Democrats) samples – could this mean the race is trending back towards Rick Scott?