Just a brief set of additional points on the poll skewing theory, which I understand to be that a wide array of polling organizations (excluding Rasmussen and periodically Gallup) are highly susceptible to Democratic lobbying, and have modified their procedures in order to make it appear more likely that Obama is well ahead of Romney. Queries:
- Why are such a wide array of organizations susceptible to Democratic pressure, but not to Republican? What renders Rasmussen immune to such pressure?
- Given that polling organizations have determined, because of this pressure, to report findings that they must know are false, why don’t they do a better job of covering their tracks? Why report the accurate cross-tabs at all?
- Given that polling organizations have determined, because of this pressure, to report findings that they must know are false, why are they bothering to conduct polling at all? Why not just go the Research 2000 route and make it all up?
- If the results on November 6 closely resemble the expectations of the polls, will the GOPsters currently devouring this theory a) recognize that they were being had, or b) adopt the belief that the conspiracy was successful, and that campaign of misinformation discouraged some significant percentage of Republican voters?
I think I know the answer to the fourth question.
The discussion in the comment thread here is interesting for the comparison with Democratic attitudes in 2004. Democrats certainly expressed skepticism about Bush’s lead, for two reasons. First, there was a widespread (but not apparently well-founded) belief that undecideds tend to break for the challenger, and that if Kerry was within twoish points of Bush he stood an excellent chance of winning the election. Second, people were beginning to develop an appreciation of the cell phone effect, which was believed to favor Kerry due to the demographics of cell phone ownership in 2004. Apparently, there’s more empirical support for the latter than for the former, although it didn’t turn out to be a major factor in 2004. [Update: Thers offers an artifact of the skewing obsession from 2004].
What differentiates the Democratic beliefs in 2004 from their Republican counterparts in 2012 is the reliance on conspiracy theory; Democrats were surely over-optimistic in 2004, but (and I’m sure there were exceptions), didn’t tend to believe that the polls were being intentionally skewed in order to discourage participation. Democratic conspiracy theories in 2004 were of a different flavor, involving suspicion that the administration would create some sort of national security justification for delaying or ignoring the election, and in general received little mainstream attention. The Republican theory is considerably more elaborate, involving a widespread effort at intentional deception undertaken not only by the Democratic Party, but also a host of independent polling firms.
If Mickey Kaus were still alive, and had he ever been able to apply his critical faculties to the GOP, he might have referred to the incubation of such theories as “cocooning.” But I suppose we’ll never know…