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April 23, 2009 05:47 PM UTC

More on why PPP polls are lousy

  • by: twas brillig

(Yeah, baby, rumble – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Tom Jensen, some guy at Public Policy Polling, takes issue with my post yesterday. My central point was that any poll right now that attributes to US Sen. Michael Bennet 75% name rec — let alone 75% opinion-holding — among Colorado voters is laughable on its face. If the guy even breaks 30% name recognition in the state right now, he should take his team out for steak.

Here’s what Jensen has to say in reply — keep in mind, this guy regards himself and is treated in the press as a reputable pollster:

Some blogger in Colorado whacks our poll today, saying there’s no way 75% of voters in the state really have an opinion about Michael Bennet.

I think that’s probably true, but it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with our poll. [twas brillig emph.]

Um…Tom, yes it does. Big time. If you put out a poll memo making claims about Bennet’s standing, and then acknowledge your poll didn’t really measure Bennet’s standing, there’s something very wrong here indeed.

So before going on to accuse me of writing “nasty stuff,” Jensen agrees with my central premise: This poll is meaningless in determining Michael Bennet’s public standing.

However unintentionally, Jensen is conceding PPP’s core methodology is scientifically unreliable. First though, let’s give some leg room below the fold to his goofy rationalization:

We choose to include party labels whenever we do approval or favorability ratings on pretty much any politician. That’s because for a lot of voters party labels go a lot further toward their perceptions of elected officials than anything specific to the individuals themselves. So there were probably a lot of Republicans in this poll who don’t know much about Bennet but disapprove of him because he’s a Democrat and a lot of Democrats who don’t know much about him but said they approved of his work for the same reason. If you don’t include party label you probably get more than 50% with no opinion, but since voters making their decisions based solely on party labels and little else is a real fact in politics we give them when we’re polling.

So basically, Jensen is saying his poll bears no relation to Bennet’s actual performance rating; it’s all tied up in party ID, but it’s a personal gut-level guess how much; and if you don’t include party label “No Opinion” is probably more than 50%, but who knows! In the midst of a number of hackneyed assumptions, Jensen is essentially conceding they think their polling is simply a basic read on current party perception and little more, but then they deliberately write their script in a way to massage candidate results.

This is why reputable polling firms differentiate generic head-to-heads (testing party approval without candidate names) from testing individuals; to get a more scientifically reliable result. PPP’s poll script makes this entire exercise GIGO (garbage in, garbage out).

Jensen’s admissions today is in stark contrast to the confident and definitive claims made in yesterday’s polling memo, which was unfortunately treated as authoritative by press outlets:

41% say they disapprove of [Bennet’s] job performance so far, with 34% approving.  25% don’t have an opinion one way or the other.  He is meeting with approval from 59% of Democrats but only 11% of Republicans, and his overall reviews from independents are negative as well, with 32% approving but 43% disapproving.

We can see now that PPP is in no position to make any reliable claims about what anyone thinks of Michael Bennet, according to their own pollster. They do not have any reliable data upon which to base their claims.

This doesn’t even take into account the classic unreliability of robo-polling generally, the sample problem of this particular poll, and the unscientific quality of the script. Do they even randomize the script to switch up the candidate questions for increased reliability? Probably not, because that would take more work. This is a methodological nightmare!

That PPP seems oblivious to this is the most disconcerting thing. I’m sorry, but two people with a robo-dialer and a logo do not a polling firm make.  


64 thoughts on “More on why PPP polls are lousy

  1. Jensen has.

    I may have to adopt that: “Even when we’re absolutely wrong, we’re still…you know…right…’cause we say so.”

      1. He would seem to be on the wrong side of these populist issues and you know how Coloradoans vote …

        Tea Parties

           Fifty-one percent (51%) of Americans have a favorable view of the “tea parties” held nationwide last week, including 32% who say their view of the events is Very favorable.

           …While half the nation has a favorable opinion of last Wednesday’s events, the nation’s Political Class has a much dimmer view-just 13% of the political elite offered even a somewhat favorable assessment while 81% said the opposite. Among the Political Class, not a single survey respondent said they had a Very Favorable opinion of the events while 60% shared a Very Unfavorable assessment.

           One-in-four adults (25%) say they personally know someone who attended a tea party protest. That figure includes just one percent (1%) of those in the Political Class.


           Looking back, 59% of voters nationwide believe the federal bailouts for banks and other financial institutions were a bad idea. [Bennet sits on Banking] The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that just 26% think they were a good idea.

           The numbers are similar for the bailout loans given to General Motors and Chrysler: 60% say they were a bad idea, and just 26% hold the opposite view.

           ….Sixty-five percent (65%) said the companies [financial] should file for bankruptcy. … The more voters learned about the plans, the more opposition grew.

          But, in the end, the opinions of the Political Class mattered more [to themselves] than the opinions of voters. Today, by a 61% to 23% margin, the Political Class still believes the bailouts for the financial industry were a good idea. By a 64% to 23%, they say the same about the auto bailouts.

                  1. About what I expected from you Libertad. You do not disappoint. 🙂

                    And actually, under this President, my taxes are less this year, you profoundly ignorant fuck.

                    Thanks for playing follow the dumbshit (Libertad.)

                    1. a post entitled “Look poop for brains.”

                      Sorry, won’t take civility lessons from you. You’re only civil when you think it’ll show up someone else. Usually you’re snide, self-righteous, and OH MY GOD so fucking condescending.

                    2. There’s nothing that can’t be fixed by a smiley face at the end. Don’t ever forget that!  

  2. If he doesn’t have that name ID, does that show that his efforts to date have been futile at raising name ID, is the public turned off to the Ritter-Bennet message?

    1. I don’t think so. After only a few months, it’s common sense that he is still going to have a ways to go to raise his profile. It will take hundreds of thousands of dollars in media spending to really establish and solidify his, but it would be foolish to start that kind of spending now.

      The only conclusion you can legitimately draw from Bennet’s low name rec is that he has low name rec.  

      1. Most people have no interest in politics right now. When I got an interview scheduled with Michael Bennet I told my wife and daughters and their reply was “who’s that?” And I talk about this stuff at home (clearly they’re tuning me out…)

        1. I doubt Udall has 75% name recgnition, much less Michael “Who?” Bennet. I know from years of canvassing the depressing number of people who can’t name their own Sen. or Rep. 75% or higher is the kind of name rec you get for names like “Jesus”.

          But sorry Dave, I do have serious doubts about appointee Bennet’s chances going up against a Repub with relatively high name rec in 2010 and they aren’t based on one silly poll.  

    2. That most people don’t know who their current congressman is, even if they’ve been there for years. Nobody knew who Bennet was when he was appointed; why would they know who he was four months later? What matters is how well known he is in the summer of 2010 – not four months after being appointed.

      1. and see the number of people who STILL haven’t heard of any of these people weeks, much less months, before an election.  It’s really depressing.  

  3. I gotta give you guys credit.  Promoting this diary in an effort to completely discredit PPP before they come out with their numbers on Ritter is pretty smart.  

    Do your backs hurt from all of the water you’re carrying for Bill Ritter?

    1. I don’t recall if he is U, D, or R but he seems to have some inside knowledge on polling. He’s been saying the polling on the Guv is below 50% for sometime.

      ps when Pols carries Dem water, is it a basin diversion?

        1. If MesaModerate could tap into something that didn’t involve visceral rage, resentment and bleated talking points, the results could be fascinating!

            1. … but they state that they promote “well written” diaries, so in order to qualify your diary must be well written. Yours is just a slap-dash rehash of everything you’ve said on this thread already, minus your usual vitriol. Your statement here makes clear that your intention is to try to get Pols in a “gotcha” and thus prove to yourself that they’re biased. Fail.  

            2. gopstudent just wrote a much better diary on the same subject. One of the things that makes it better is that he actually quotes pertinent findings from the poll and presents a new perspective not yet discussed under other diaries. Learn from that.

    2. We’ve been writing here for months that Ritter isn’t polling well. It was even in the Big Line for a long time. That’s not a secret, and it’s not something we’ve shied from talking about.

    1. Maybe not to us so much, but to the candidate and campaign.

      Good poll numbers obviously help with fundraising.  Nobody wants to sink money into a loser.

      A reliable poll on name recognition is also essential as a guide to how to spend money.

      And as an incumbent, you always want to have more than 50 percent positives.

      That said, the only polls I’d rely on are internals: ones I commissioned myself done by people I trust.

      1. but so much is going to happen between now and election day that they cannot possibly tell us what the outcome will be.

        The closer we get to the election, the more they’ll be able to tell us about Bennet and Ritter’s chances.

  4. but not as high as 75%. I’m sure it’s over 50% though(but not by much). Everyone was watching to see who’d get it so it isn’t like only 3 out of 10 people in Colorado know their junior Senator.

  5. You Dem babies cry when a poll is not to your liking.  But it’s ok because unless the economy gets better Dems are going to lose Congress!!


  6. sjintheno,

    Is the McCain campaign still promising you mcpoints 5 months past the election?

    The least you could do is run off a good rant about the “torture memo’s” and how you’d waterboard a meany to save millions.

    Turn off 24 and give us a laugh.

  7. We can argue methodology all day here (and it sure is fun) but I think what is really news is that if the election were held today, Bill Ritter gets beaten by a trained monkey.

    McInnis 48

    Ritter  41

    Penry   40

    Ritter  42

    A West Slope relative newcomer like Penry is within the margin on a sitting Governor.  Be afraid my liberal friends.

    1. although it is the Ritter number in absolute terms, which is under 50%, that matters, rather than the opponent numbers, which are more a function of name recognition than actual support at this stage of the game.

  8. Isn’t the whole POINT of a poll to attempt to accurately gauge public opinion? And if a poll fails to do that, isn’t there BY DEFINITION something fundamentally wrong with it?

    So if Jensen of PPP actually wrote …

    “Some blogger in Colorado whacks our poll today, saying there’s no way 75% of voters in the state really have an opinion about Michael Bennet. I think that’s probably true, but it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with our poll.”

    … what the heck does he MEAN? He simply makes no sense at all. And neither does his poll. It’s meaningless.

    Might as well take a poll of 100 people as to whether they like George W. Bush. Only 20 respondents said no – but that’s because the other 80 were under two years old.

      1. That would assume the basic methodology of the poll had any validity to it. It doesn’t. There’s no margin of error when there is 100% unreliability.  

    1. Jensen inadvertently invalidated PPP as a firm. These guys are not serious pollsters. They have no idea what they are doing.

      Unfortunately, I have a feeling that journalists are going to continue running their stuff.  

  9. I think PPP’s poll is fine and accurate

    Bennet’s numbers, in my mind, more represent how people feel about a Democrat incumbent right now, more so than Bennet, personally

    I did my fair share of initiating polls in the past and many respondents answer questions based on how they feel about the 2 parties, often more so than whether they know the candidate or not

      1. Obviously they’re off the reservation. Is it painful when your socialist agenda is exposed as ineffective, destructive and opposed by the majority of America?

  10. as strange as that may seem (consistency, anonymity, a greater ability to call lots of people at reasonable hours instead of stetching into unreasonable hours and a greater tendency for people not to waffle with a robot are the main factors), at least under the Survey USA methodology (I don’t know precisely how PPP does it).

    But, I agree that claiming that someone who only knows who Bennet is via the poll itself counts as approval or disapproval as that term is typically used.

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