Statisticians Warn Of "Systemic Mainstream Misinformation" In Poll Data

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Salil Mehta via Statistical Ideas blog,

Antagonism isn't perpetual

If you recently glanced at the polls and the election markets, then you would be forgiven to believe that a landslide election is looming.  It's likely not, and the spreads have the potential to revert in surprising ways between now and Election Day.  The drumbeat of negative news against Donald Trump may not cause further damage.  We've discussed numerously, starting on October 11 and October 12, that Hillary Clinton's runaway spread would revert (here, here, here, here). 

Of course that's a stand taken against a popular headwind, but also an opportunity to make money on an election bet that is mispriced.  For example, when we wrote the reversion article, the betfair ask that Mr. Trump's popular vote could remain in the 40's% was only priced at 1:6 odds.  Nate Silver's 538 site also reflected this, as shown below.  But we -and other academic statisticians- knew that this was faux election probability, and advised thousands to remain vigilant against planned mainstream misinformation

Incidentally, today's betfair bid is 20% higher; not many investments have risen 20% in just the past couple days.  And the wager could explode to 500% profit, exposing how steeply deluded the polls have been.  This article isn't merely about gambling, but goes to the heart of what makes polls different among one another, and across time.  And what should we be cautious of when interpreting the information, while almost never reading (and sometimes not having access to) all the underlying probability details of the poll generation?  In particular, we'll delve into the inconspicuous L.A. Times poll here, where for much of the past month they showed Donald leading Hillary.  How did they come to that, and what value is there in paying attention to alleged outliers?

Recently the New York Times (NYT) wrote a piece that the USC/L.A. Times (LAT) poll was biased against Hillary Clinton by at least 4 percentage points, through the exaggerated sampling of one Black Chicago youth.  The NYT thesis for sampling issues was not based on general theory at all, but only because the survey respondent was a feverish Donald Trump supporter.  Apparently the LAT has always been a good pollster until this one Black man became a Trump supporter; now the LAT poll is suddenly comprehensively terrible.  Right... Now the NYT was both smart and correct in pointing out the seeming anomaly, but also misdiagnosed the root cause of the puzzle.

The LAT should retain their entire sample, and not simply alter responses because the pollster doesn't like what he or she hears.  Removing select responses has that same effect, and this is partly why mainstream pollsters have systematically unfavored Republicans in nearly 2/3 of elections in the past several decades, where there have been a meaningful surprise in the general election outcomes.  And in every case where such a reversal of fate has led to an actual victory for the October polling-laggard, it was always a Republican who won.  This should give everyone pause to consider the strength of these "scientific" polls.  We can often see something be misrepresented, yet be masquerade as disciplined science.

Now the LAT pollster allows for some interesting statistical features that are not in other polls (many of which follow our blog).  For example, it allows the survey participant to partially self-weigh their own response, and factors in his or her own prior voting record.  These are worthy developments in most cases, including the case here of the 19-year old Black Trump supporter.  Polling has to fill in a lot of gaps, particularly this year where there are a greater than normal number of undecideds and non-responders.  This increases the error, not lessens it (per our viral article here read by >100 thousand including senior advisers of both parties).  And the fact that most other polls do not scale their survey responders accordingly, equally leads to a higher than expected favorability (based only on momentum) for those who for now agree with Ms. Clinton more so than Mr. Trump.

Of course we know across all polls this year there is a perception that Hillary has an polling edge when it comes to "perceived" favorability or social desirability (it's been noted that 10-15% of people have lost a friend due to the 2016 election); though this conflates with the overall bias going back many decades and so it's unclear how much additional bias comes from that.  But the NYT overestimates the overall edge that the LAT has if this one Black youth is completely off in his responses; it is only about 1-2 percentage points.  Not enough to close the nearly 5-10 percentage point difference the LAT has with the rest of the mainstream polls.  The NYT is correct that the overweighting by LAT may exist however, in that this one individual is weighted a little more relative to the typical person.  But this does not negate the data point altogether.  Does anyone credibly believe that not a single Black person is going to vote for Donald Trump?

The bottom line is that polls on the fringes (e.g., the LAT and to a lesser degree only the trends in the conservative-advocating Rasmussen both showing Mr. Trump leading for much of the past month) should be taken a little more seriously due to the informative value they provide in how the many undecideds and non-responders will ultimately vote.  In historical polling data people tend to make up their mind for candidates, and rarely does it lead to further subtractions from current polling levels.  It is doubtful therefore that somehow any new negative information about Donald would compel someone, at long last in these final weeks, to ultimately switch allegiances.  And while the theory of poll of polls works great to reduce the variance of errors, it does nothing to counter any systematic errors we may see hurtling through in the current election cycle.  This is a significant lesson that remains lost among political hacks keen to simply analyze the data.

Another note is that you should be wary of taking too seriously the political advice of people who so recently badly errored in the Primary elections!  This is not to cast a spotlight on any one individual, since the entire field of data journalism just saw a catastrophic result over the past year.  But it's clear from the polling and the prediction betting market levels that the grave lessons from the past have not yet been learned.  This summer's Brexit vote was just another example of election-eve overconfidence by pollsters and bookies.  But stateside we do see the promotion of false confidence on preposterous polling statistics.  The media ratings pursuit must inherent some blame, since news demands easily digestible insight that crookedly beguiles their patrons.  And if we expose the overshadowing uncertainty surrounding these election predictions, then no one would venture into paying further attention.  Even more reason for you to pay some attention to the outlier polls, especially this year!


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dsty's picture

God I hate the news media


Handful of Dust's picture

One "good thing" about Hillary if she gets elected is EVERYBODY will be required to sign up for Obamacare, namely, her single payer system.

So all the people suffering with their own Golden private insurance policy like Aetna, BCBS, etc...they will all have to switch to an Obamacare-like health plan. Then they too can share in the delightful benefits of sky high premiums and deductibles, as well as struggling to find a doc who takes it.

Sharing is loving! And Hillary wants to share Obamacare with every American 'cause she luvs ya!

Loftie's picture
Loftie (not verified) Chris Dakota Oct 15, 2016 9:21 PM

George H.W. Bush - Potus - CIA
Bill Clinton - Potus - CIA
George W. Bush - Potus - CIA
Barack Obama - Potus - CIA
Hillary Clinton - CIA

Is Trump toast or what?

philipat's picture

Hey Loftie, previously known as mofio then santafe then Aristotle of Greece then Gargoyle then bleu then oops then lance-a-lot and others. Lance-a-lot got banned very quickly so time to re-use another old persona (non grata)?

You are a serial spammer and a serial pain in the ass. Might I politely suggest that you go fuck yourself? And get a life.

PS. You might have noticed that my attempt to expose you for what you are is always the same. That’s because your Spam is always the same (Using fake links to your BS site which has no connection to your comments, which are deliberately dramatic to encourage people to click on the fake link) so it seems only fair that my exposure of your crap should also always be the same. An eye for an eye.

ThaBigPerm's picture

They're missing the point arguing on who might actually win.  The meme (and fix) is in: if Hillary wins, it's "nanny nanny boo boo we won, suck on it" ... if Trump wins, Russia hacked the elections therefore the election is invalid (fill in the blank with what would necessarily happen next). 

spyware-free's picture

The election will come down to 2 simple steps for the crooked establishment;

1. Skew the polls in Hillary's favor by oversampling Democrats and hype those polls on the corrupt media thereby validating step 2.
2. Steal the election through massive voter fraud in key counties / districts in swing states.

All you have to do is go back to 2012 when Romney did not get single vote in 59 districts around Philly.

Even for a douche-nozzle like Romney it is difficult to believe he didn't get not one single vote.

Tarzan's picture

When you link to a story to support your argument, you should probably read that link first, to be sure it actually supports your contentions. I read it for you, and it ends like this...

Looking at the voter records from six months prior, Democrats in these areas outnumbered Republicans more than 20 to one. That’s before considering what the Inquirer’s reporting suggests: That out of the small minority of GOPers in these sections, many don’t align with the party, or don’t appear to live there anymore.

Were the 59 divisions worthy of investigation? Yes. And that happened in 2012, and has happened numerous times since.

We rule this claim a Pants on Fire.


I agree there is voter fraud and that they will hold nothing back in their attempt to stop Trump, but a few small divisions of inner city Philly black neighborhoods voting 100% for the first Black President is not shocking

There were as few as 10 registered Republicans in some of these Divisions, They were not Districts as erroneously reported.

Some of the 59 divisions had fewer than 10 registered Republicans, according to records from April 2012. The average number of registered Republicans in these divisions was 17. The Philadelphia Inquirer sought out many of these voters after the election, and found that the rolls could use some updating. Some, neighbors said, had moved, others straight-up told the Inquirer they didn’t know the city had them down as GOPers. One man told the paper while he was a Republican, he had never actually voted that way.

Experts say these divisions reflect a trend of heavily Democratic inner-city neighborhoods. Considering how few Republicans live in these micro-neighborhoods, it’s not shocking that Romney would have a tough go of it against the nation’s first black president, in 59 subzones that only represented a mere 3.5 percent of the city’s vote in aggregate.

You should give your link a read, dig beyond the headline, before adding it to your talking points...

VinceFostersGhost's picture




Trump turns away thousands at his rallies......Hillary doesn't even get thousands.


ANNND.....I think there's a slight chance she may be on drugs...

Kayman's picture

Oh yeah Vince, 

But some pundit was yacking on TV that 100 years ago someone got 45,000 people to a rally in Boston but still failed to get elected.

Nice non sequitur on the lying MSM.  Maybe they really think everyone is as stupid as they are.  More Cheetos face plunges please.

Ballin D's picture

She's so far behind she's airing ads in California. If she losses the liberal stronghold of ca because she didn't buy the voting machines there and wins pa, it will be obvious that the period need to come out and water the tree of liberty.

neilhorn's picture

You talking about menstrual blood? Ewww.

filmmaker's picture
filmmaker (not verified) neilhorn Oct 16, 2016 10:35 AM

My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can't believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do...

fajensen's picture

Does your sisters friend swallow?

Chris Dakota's picture
Chris Dakota (not verified) philipat Oct 16, 2016 7:44 AM




In 1920, America is tired of Woodrow Wilson's war, Globalism, high taxes, and creeping socialism. Pledging a “return to normalcy”, Warren Harding (R-OH) is elected President. An opponent of entry into the League of Nations, Harding's victory over liberal Democrat James Cox (D-OH) and his running mate Franklin D Roosevelt, is the largest Presidential Election landslide in America's history (60% - 34%)!

Challanges the Globalists One Day 1

In his inaugural address, Harding lays the smackdown upon the Wilsonian Zio-Globalists:

"The recorded progress of our Republic, materially and spiritually, proves the wisdom of the inherited policy of noninvolvement in Old World affairs. Confident of our ability to work out our own destiny, and jealously guarding our right to do so, we seek no part in directing the destinies of the Old World. We do not mean to be entangled. We will accept no responsibility except as our own conscience and judgment in each instance may determine.

We sense the call of the human heart for fellowship, fraternity, and cooperation. We crave friendship and harbor no hate. But America, our America, the America built on the foundation laid by the inspired fathers, can be a party to no permanent military alliance. It can enter into no political commitments, nor assume any economic obligations which will subject our decisions to any other than our own authority."   Ushers in the roaring 20's boom

Harding inherits a severe Wilsonian economic Depression. He quickly moves to dramatically slash income taxes and government spending (both by 50%!). Harding undoes Wilson's damage, proclaims American neutrality, and returns the country to the limited government days of Wilson's predecessor, William Howard Taft (who he names as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court).

With the private economy now freed from the parasitic dead weight of big government, an historic economic boom soon follows. The "Roaring Twenties" will be a period of prosperity and happiness for the American people. And boy-oh-boy are the Globo-Zio-Socialists pissed off!

Attacked by the Globo-Zionist Press

Harding's support for free markets, limited government, low taxes, neutral foreign policy, and his refusal to grant diplomatic recognition to Lenin's murderous Soviet Union, are all positions that anger the Globalists. An intense newspaper smear campaign regarding an "oil scandal" involving members of Harding's administration is then unleashed against the highly popular President."The Tea Pot Dome" Scandal got its name from Harding correctly dismissing it as a "tempest in a teapot". Elements of the Eastern Globalist Press are unrelenting in their breathless attacks upon Harding. But the American public isn't buying the propaganda. Harding, and his policies, remain popular.

Dies suddenly and mysteriously

Mourns by millions succeeded by Coolidge

In 1922, while recovering from a strange sickness that had stricken him in San Francisco, President Harding shudders and dies suddenly during the middle of conversation with his wife. Doctor's cannot agree on the cause of his strange death. Within an hour of his demise, Harding's body is embalmed and placed in a casket. The following morning, the body is on a train, headed back to Washington Incredibly, no autopsy is performed! The suspicion ("conspiracy theory") of a deliberate poisoning rages throughout America.

The sudden death of the immensely popular 57-year-old statesman, who successfully reversed most of Wilson’s damage in only 29 months, remains a mystery to this day. Not much is known about how Harding's soft-spoken successor (Vice President Calvin Coolidge) will govern. It soon becomes apparent that Coolidge's tenure (1923-1928) will be just as pro freedom as Harding's. The Globalists and their wholly owned Federal Reserve Bank will have to wait until 1929 to deliberately crash the economy under Hoover, and then install FDR in 1932.

Still vilified by modern historians

Not surprisingly, lying modern historians universally rate Harding as "the worst President ever.”


thatthingcanfly's picture

Yeah, I never understood the villification of Harding.

And "worst president ever" is a title for which Lincoln alone - with no close competitors - can contend.

Not My Real Name's picture

It's no mystery. Revisionist history is what you get when the education system is infested with leftists. 

Chris Dakota's picture
Chris Dakota (not verified) Chris Dakota Oct 16, 2016 12:07 PM


Citigroup (((Michael Froman))) picked Obama's entire cabinet.

New Republic:

The most important revelation in the WikiLeaks dump of John Podesta’s emails has nothing to do with Hillary Clinton. The messages go all the way back to 2008, when Podesta served as co-chair of President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team. And a month before the election, the key staffing for that future administration was almost entirely in place, revealing that some of the most crucial decisions an administration can make occur well before a vote has been cast.

Michael Froman, who is now U.S. trade representative but at the time was an executive at Citigroup, wrote an email to Podesta on October 6, 2008, with the subject “Lists.” Froman used a Citigroup email address. He attached three documents: a list of women for top administration jobs, a list of non-white candidates, and a sample outline of 31 cabinet-level positions and who would fill them. “The lists will continue to grow,” Froman wrote to Podesta, “but these are the names to date that seem to be coming up as recommended by various sources for senior level jobs.”

The cabinet list ended up being almost entirely on the money. It correctly identified Eric Holder for the Justice Department, Janet Napolitano for Homeland Security, Robert Gates for Defense, Rahm Emanuel for chief of staff, Peter Orszag for the Office of Management and Budget, Arne Duncan for Education, Eric Shinseki for Veterans Affairs, Kathleen Sebelius for Health and Human Services, Melody Barnes for the Domestic Policy Council, and more. For the Treasury, three possibilities were on the list: Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, and Timothy Geithner.

This was October 6. The election was November 4. And yet Froman, an executive at Citigroup, which would ultimately become the recipient of the largest bailout from the federal government during the financial crisis, had mapped out virtually the entire Obama cabinet, a month before votes were counted. And according to the Froman/Podestaemails, lists were floating around even before that.

Many already suspected that Froman, a longtime Obama consigliere, did the key economic policy hiring while part of the transition team. We didn’t know he had so much influence that he could lock in key staff that early, without fanfare, while everyone was busy trying to get Obama elected. The WikiLeaks emails show even earlier planning; by September the transition was getting pre-clearance to assist nominees with financial disclosure forms.

Chris Dakota's picture
Chris Dakota (not verified) philipat Oct 16, 2016 8:37 AM



The State Department 'tried to make the FBI change the classification of emails during the Hillary Clinton investigation in exchange for more overseas postings for agents'
  • A senior official with the State Department allegedly tried to have the FBI change the classification of an email during Hillary Clinton investigation 
  • Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz made the claim on Saturday 
  • Chaffetz said he has been briefed on new documents showing the claim 
  • He accused Patrick Kennedy of an 'alleged quid pro quo' with the FBI
Read more:
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August's picture

A good rule of thumb is never click on a cryptic link which follows a short, vague and/or stupid comment.

Thus, you are unlikely to be troubled by any of Loftie's thoughts.  Even after he move on to his next name....

MalteseFalcon's picture

"How I acted like a pundit and screwed up on Donald Trump by Nate Silver."

As I wrote earlier Silver ,IMHO, was biased in his Republican primary estimates, because he personally disliked Trump.
In the process he damaged his brand.

Then Silver had Trump with a 67% chance of being president in July.
Rumor has it he received a "phone call".
His next analysis had Hillary Rodent in the lead.
That obliterated his brand as far as I was concerned.

I've not been back to his site since.

FireBrander's picture

I wish someone, honest, would do polling that excluded all R's and D's...we know who they're voting's the LOE folks we need to hear from.



If Mega-Lefty Jill Stein can see that Trump is the better Evil; then I'm betting the 15% of "Lessor of Evil" (LOE) voters can see it too.

Green Party's Jill Stein on the "Lessor of Evils":


"It should be clear to everyone that a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for war."

 "On the issue of war and nuclear weapons, it is actually Hillary’s policies which are much scarier than Donald Trump who does not want to go to war with Russia. He wants to seek modes of working together, which is the route that we need to follow not to go into confrontation and nuclear war with Russia.”


Jill Stein: Trump Is Less Dangerous Than Clinton; She Will Start Nuclear War With Russia



J S Bach's picture

If Trump's adversaries in the media are anything, they are top-line deceivers.  They are masters at cheating and manipulating the dumbed-down public's phyche.  If indeed there is a "landslide" victory for the witch, enough people will KNOW what happened... that is, criminal fraud by TPTB.  Take heart in knowing that lies cannot be sustained indefinitely... and all of the untruths perpetuated over the last 5 decades are beginning to unravel.

radio man's picture

I wish I had your faith. 

Chris Dakota's picture
Chris Dakota (not verified) J S Bach Oct 16, 2016 6:48 AM

Matt Drudge the guy who broke the Monica Lewinsky scandal when the MSM refused to touch it posted this.

Hillary sex scandal ready to drop.

Oct 14

Democrats prepared fake Trump "grope under the meeting table" Craigslist employment advertisement in May 2016

MalteseFalcon's picture

There will be more information.

More damning.

You'll say to yourself "Even I wouldn't have thought she would do *that*."

Took Red Pill's picture

According to Reuters in this article, if the election were held today, Hillary's chances of winning are 95%! Seriously? I find that very hard to believe! They say it's because of all the bad news about Trump this week. What about all the bad news about Hillary? MSM has beeb trying hard to control this election and yet we're supposed to fear that the Russians are influencing it?


RiverRoad's picture

The "bad" news about Trump this week is laughable.  It still makes him look like a saint compared to Crooked Hillary.

Chris Dakota's picture
Chris Dakota (not verified) Took Red Pill Oct 16, 2016 1:51 PM

Rueters owned by Rothschild.

Who is Hillary's handler?

Lynn Forester de Rothschild!

 Trumps accusers  are Jews.

Look at the pics of them

Cathy Heller

Natasha Stoynoff aka John Kerry

Summer Zervos


Jessica Leeds (47 yrs at the time, gime a break)

New Accuser

Kayman's picture

The filty elite don't seem to understand that electing Trump is their last chance.  Contempt for the heart of America has consequences.

adanata's picture


The media is only preaching to the choir of party line voters and they are a small minority trying to convince themselves they're 'winning' something; they're all in their little echo chamber talking to each other. Gonna get their heads handed to 'em I think.

X_in_Sweden's picture
X_in_Sweden (not verified) FireBrander Oct 16, 2016 7:46 AM


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JRobby's picture

No one is doing accurate polls no matter who is paying them.

Fraudulent votes could be 10% of votes cast. Maybe more?

prefan4200's picture

The MSM is skewing their polls to support a Hillary landslide because it suits any outcome:  1.  Skewed polls could help Hillary win by discouraging Trump voters from bothering to vote   2.  If Trump voters do turn out and vote and Trump wins, skewed pre-election polls showing Hillary way ahead will bolster their false claims that the election was stolen and should be invalidated..... If all the shit-heads screwing up this country are ever hung, the MSM should be the first ones swinging from the ropes.  Otherwise, who will know anything is going on?

RiverRoad's picture

Re the skewed polls:

Somehow I have a sneaking suspicion that what we are witnessing now is an attempt by the Dems to keep Hillary at the top of the ticket at all costs:  IMO they saw re the Independent vote in March that Obamacare would take her down.  They also know she is very prosecutable at this point and that for her to pull out now would be devastating to many of her cohorts as well.  They are throwing everything they've got now into this to keep her in the race and at the top of the ticket to gain the Presidency by any means possible.  It won't work.  

Took Red Pill's picture

and if Hillary happens to lose, they'll say Russia hack the election!

Chris Dakota's picture
Chris Dakota (not verified) JRobby Oct 16, 2016 10:17 AM

We have no way to check, did they call anyone at all?

Maybe why none of say we have been called. Even if you are OLD you have never been called.

JRobby's picture

Generally do not call cell phones. Hello?

Online and social media polls favoring Trump. Need to worry about illegitamate/multiple voting.

They are doing it, Trump needs to consider it.

RiverRoad's picture

Believe me, they know who NOT to call.  Pollsters get the voter registration lists under FOIA.

radio man's picture

You're wasting your time here, for we know an ass hat when it speaks. Perhaps mommy still wants you you. Whoa, change of address

Richard Head's picture

He needs to post in order to collect his payment from Soros. No one is dumb enough to post that garbage for nothing.

root superuser's picture

One racist once wrote 88 precepts. One of them goes: No greater motivating force exists than the certain conviction that one is right.

Umh's picture

Which leads to some people casting ballots for the winner, not because they like them, but because they like being on the winning side that much.

Kayman's picture

You have to be motivated to get off your ass and vote.  The lying polls will have every Trump supporter voting and the Cheetoh swilling Snap carders staying home watching reruns of Oprah.

sleigher's picture

I have seen a few Hillary supporters / Trump haters who aren't registered.  Theyw ere told all you have to do is fill out this paper and mail it in.  They couldn't even be bothered to do that.  "But Trump is so evil he has to lose" yet they can't put a piece of paper in the mail.  If that is who is supporting Hillary, she isn't gonna win.  

Billybullshit's picture

Thanks for that chris! made my morning!

max2205's picture

I thought they only admit that when the election is over and they were off by a mile.   

Notveryamused's picture

According to an article on RCP yesterday The L.A times poll was essentially the RAND poll in 2012. When nearly all national polls were predicting a 0.3 edge for Romney, it was a major outlier predicting a 3.6 edge for Obama, which was nearly exactly right.

I've also looked at Brexit & other recent polls & only online polls were close to being right. so besides conflict of interest and over-sampling of democrat leaning voters, a lot of polls just aren't reaching an accurate cross section of modern voters + other reasons.

(I think you'll see a huge rebound in the other polls even though they'll still lean Clinton because a lot of the establishment polls added a few extra points over the leaked tape in the hopes they could torpedo his campaign entirely by getting Republican politicians to abandon him completely.)