Patterico's Pontifications

6/24/2008

When Is a 19-Point Gap “Narrow” and a 12-Point Gap “Sizable”? When It’s the L.A. Times Doing the Measuring!

Filed under: 2008 Election,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 7:41 pm

The L.A. Times is reporting that Barack Obama leads John McCain by 12 points in a national poll. (If you toss in Ralph Nader and Bob Barr it’s a 15-point lead.)

Guess how they describe that margin?

Wait! Don’t answer yet.

First, recall that, when a poll found a much larger 19-point lead for opponents of gay marriage, this very newspaper told us:

  • voters “slimly reject” gay marriage
  • voters “narrowly reject” gay marriage
  • voters reject gay marriage by
    • a “small margin”
    • a “narrow margin”
    • “a bit”
  • a “bare majority” opposes gay marriage

Remembering that, how do you think the L.A. Times is describing Obama’s much smaller 12-point lead?

A “teensy-tiny margin”? A “wafer-thin gap”? “Not even a majority”?

You guessed it:

Buoyed by enthusiasm among Democrats and public concern over the economy, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has captured a sizable lead over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) at the opening of the general election campaign for president, the Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg Poll has found.

In a two-man race between the major party candidates, registered voters chose Obama over McCain by 49% to 37% in the national poll conducted last weekend.

Sounds like the country is “in play” for McCain!

UPDATE: Another McCain — Robert Stacy McCain — argues that the L.A. Times has oversampled young voters and undersampled the geezers who are more likely to vote for the “older than dirt” McCain. He supports his argument by reference to exit polls from 2004.

63 Responses to “When Is a 19-Point Gap “Narrow” and a 12-Point Gap “Sizable”? When It’s the L.A. Times Doing the Measuring!”

  1. Have I mentioned lately how much I hate people in general?

    Scott Jacobs (d3a6ec)

  2. Why is your misanthropy a proper subject of this thread?

    I mean, I hate people too, but you don’t hear me whining about it.

    Patterico (cb443b)

  3. haters

    fat tony (601b8d)

  4. Have I mentioned how much I hate whining?

    SPQR (26be8b)

  5. You’re probably just not cooking them right.

    Or

    “Sensuality reconciles us with the human race; The misanthropy of the old is due in large part to the fading of the magic glow of desire”
    Eric Hoffer

    nk (11c9c1)

  6. Isn’t it getting to the point where picking on the Times is a little like going after the “slow” kid back in 4th grade? The only difference being the lack of intellectual ability to hit back.

    By the Times that is.

    Rich Horton (25c871)

  7. It is starting to have that feel, Rich. Frankly, however, I never truly tire of picking on the slow kid.

    I’m just not a nice guy.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  8. Make them wear distinctive padded helmets so we can identify them outside of the Times Building!

    Pat Patterson (f44efe)

  9. In this national poll’s random sample of voters, 39% identified themselves as Democrats, 22% as Republicans, and 27% as independents. In a similar poll a year ago, 33% identified themselves as Democrats, 28% as Republicans, and 30% as independents.

    Yeah, a 39-22 sampling of Dems vs Republicans is an honest poll.

    Steverino (b42fd7)

  10. there’s no such thing as objective journalism (or justice, for that matter) because there’s no such thing as objective reality. you fail to take into account human factors and the relativistic effects they bring to situational assessments. optimism clouds our judgments to the point where 19% is a slim margin when we’re battling back and stepping up our game, but 12% is an insurmountable lead when we’re on top. your seeming disappointment that journalists aren’t confined to the literal meanings of numbers in their articles in the same way they would be if they were mathematicians is akin to a child learning the truth about santa claus.

    assistant devil's advocate (75472f)

  11. Yeah, a 39-22 sampling of Dems vs Republicans is an honest poll.

    Considering a 17% point spread in favor of Sen Obama, that he only leads by 12 is rather suggestive, don’t you think?

    Scott Jacobs (d3a6ec)

  12. The latest generic ballot polling was approx. 38 Dem and 27 GOP. This is the unfortunate reality facing McCain and the GOP generally.

    While I completely support the main point Pat is making – convenient statistical headlines, I can’t object too strongly to the make-up of the sample in this poll.

    Yes, I get that generic ballot does not necessarily translate into “likely voters,” but I would suggest that the Dems are far more motivated than the GOP to GOTV. YMMV.

    Ed (fbb07c)

  13. Yeah, a 39-22 sampling of Dems vs Republicans is an honest poll.

    Just ask President Dewey.

    Drumwaster (8ad883)

  14. The latest generic ballot polling was approx. 38 Dem and 27 GOP.

    Polling where, exactly? The 213 area code?

    Drumwaster (8ad883)

  15. Ed, we’ve heard on more than one occasion on recent Presidential elections that the Democrats outnumber Republicans but seen that supposed advantage fail to materialize at the polls. See the progression of polling in 2004 and the final result.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  16. What has any of this got to do with getting some fresh fruit into BHO’s refrigerator? Don’t any of you folks know what’s important? Sheesh!

    Old Coot (85f458)

  17. ada @ 11…
    When you don’t have anything substantial to say, just dazzle them with bs.
    That had all of the intellectual probity of a lecture in modern anthropology, or (cultural) studies.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  18. …and, I second #6.
    The LAT is truly Low-Hanging-Fruit!

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  19. Would that all our lives were united by the starry bounds of Obamamania
    Wed your fate to his and let him woo you with his lightmaking

    I’m a curmudgeon and a misogynistic misanthrope who gets licentious, libidinous, lascivious and lewd when I gaze upon Urkel’s crotch, hear his melodious ramblings and think of the inpending hope and change he offers up to bring us into harmony with the sophisticated cheese-eating surrender monkeys and wear-their-ripe-underwear-for-weeks Krauts whose legal reasonings should be embraced as our own. At least Europe is headed for a true democracy even if several nations have voted against the whole Euro idea. I, for one, am flummoxed that Americans don’t seem to embrace parity in such things as gasoline prices and socialized meds with our euroweenie brothers.
    Here’s to Jimmuh Carter Deux!

    madmax333 (aaf197)

  20. optimism clouds our judgments to the point where 19% is a slim margin when we’re battling back and stepping up our game, but 12% is an insurmountable lead when we’re on top.

    Maybe I’m a pessimist, or just a nervous Red Sox fan, but almost no lead feels safe, and even the smallest of deficits seems like a sure loss.

    Anyway, back to politics:
    Did they adjust for the Electoral College? From what we saw during the primaries, Obama doesn’t poll well in the swing states.

    bridget (add3eb)

  21. It would be very difficult for Obama to win without Pennsylvania.

    Just wait until the people of Pennsylvania hear about his stance on infanticide.

    Michael Ejercito (a757fd)

  22. Presidential polls aren’t the same as issue polls. A 12% lead is pretty big, that’s not something we’ve seen in America for awhile.

    It’s meaningless anyway.

    Levi (74ca1f)

  23. Ten years from now, the LAT might not be around.

    The sempiternal silliness of this paper is only rivalled by the NYT. Besides, another much more reliable poll [GALLUP] has the gap at 3 poinra, which is statistically a tie.

    Of course, a nationawide Gallup poll means nothing to the morons in the Mging Editor’s office of the LAT. How many levels of morons must the text go through before it is deemed stupid enuf to print?

    daveinboca (50193e)

  24. Dave-
    I imagine you’re aware of the editorial slant of the Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post. What papers are not far left and run by jackasses? Shouldn’t there be something like a Fairness doctrine for print media if libs demand that talk radio be silenced? Free Speech, my ass.
    Many of those polls are hesitant to explain that their methodology is way askew. If 1 of 4 are Repubs and 2 of 5 are dems and Obama has a 15 point lead, what does that mean? It will be interesting to see how the geezer vote in Florida goes and how many Jews that support Israel buy into Wexler’s Obama hearts Israel BS. Btw, the dickwad Bobby has a new book out. Will he once again run unopposed? Must be costing him support if he can’t get that Bush/Cheney impeachment train rolling. Not.
    Don’t you love 82 at 5am in tony Boca with heat factor of 89?

    madmax333 (419721)

  25. “Sensuality reconciles us with the human race; The misanthropy of the old is due in large part to the fading of the magic glow of desire”

    I thought there was a pill for that now. I’m pretty sure geezers today are happier than they were when I was a kid. Seems like there are more of them around, too.

    rosignol (3b8b52)

  26. But I was always told “size doesn’t matter”!!!

    thenakedemperor (2d1d06)

  27. It gets worse, Rosi…

    I’m only 29…

    Scott Jacobs (d3a6ec)

  28. Does the amendment require a majority or a plurality? If more than 50% of voters have to affirmatively vote in favor of the amendment, then a poll showing that 54% favor the amendment is indeed “narrow.” Remember that a presidential candidate does not need more than 50% of the vote, just more than each of his opponents. See, e.g., Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

    Adam (39fc33)

  29. The latest generic ballot polling was approx. 38 Dem and 27 GOP.

    On a national scale? I don’t think so.

    Steverino (b42fd7)

  30. ” A 12% lead is pretty big, that’s not something we’ve seen in America for awhile.

    It’s meaningless anyway.”

    Not since this point in the last presidential election anyway, genius.

    Correct conclusion, though.

    daleyrocks (d9ec17)

  31. Remember that a presidential candidate does not need more than 50% of the vote, just more than each of his opponents. See, e.g., Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

    Actually, a Presidential candidate does need more than 50% of the vote. But not 50% of the popular vote.

    Steverino (b42fd7)

  32. Stage setting. The mission now is to convince everyone, particularly the minorities that favor BHO, that an Obama win is inevitable. This accounts for the skewed poll AND the “sizeable”.

    When/If he doesn’t win, then it will look like fraud….and the MSM will do everything it can to fan this flame. The uproar in the courts will be nothing compared to the mayhem in the streets. For whatever reason, they’re trying to drive a wedge between the races and foment a revolution.

    I liked the comparison with the “slow kid in 4th grade”, but have to keep reminding myself that these people are far from stupid. This “laughable gaffe” is part of something far darker.
    Bob

    Bob (831736)

  33. Does the amendment require a majority or a plurality?

    When it is an up/down, yes/no vote, there is no way to get a plurality, since there is no third option to pull votes away from the two “main” choices. Those that are still undecided in the polling booth will either flip a coin or simply not vote.

    Unless Perot runs again.

    Drumwaster (8ad883)

  34. I’m considering guerrilla campaigning.

    Big pic of Obamessiah (halo?) and caption:

    “Remember to flush”

    But there’s probably some law against it. There usually is.

    mojo (8096f2)

  35. Nice work. Though I wouldn’t call it low-hanging fruit or like going after the slow kid. I’d say its much more like batting practice. Even the pros gotta warm up their swing before they step to the plate against the real thing.

    Also, was that a Monty Python Meaning of Life reference? If so, I salute you further

    Joe (e0a0f2)

  36. joe,

    Yeah, I almost spelled it “wah-fer thin” so people would pronounce it right.

    Patterico (802a79)

  37. #33. Bingo.

    When/If he doesn’t win, then it will look like fraud….and the MSM will do everything it can to fan this flame. The uproar in the courts will be nothing compared to the mayhem in the streets. For whatever reason, they’re trying to drive a wedge between the races and foment a revolution.

    Vermont Neighbor (31ccb6)

  38. A 39-22 ratio of Rs to Ds is better than the ratio LBJ enjoyed against Goldwater in 1964 after the Kennedy assassination, or than FDR enjoyed against Alf Landon in 1936 or Herbert Hoover in 1932.

    So it’s totally believable.

    David Rogers (d266ea)

  39. [This comment by Bill Quick baselessly accuses me of "lying" in an earlier post, while failing to tell readers that I already refuted the same argument here advanced by Mr. Quick in that earlier post. I encourage anyone considering giving any credence to Mr. Quick's unfounded accusation to read that previous post, linked at the words "told us" in this post. -- Patterico]

    I’m sorry to see Patterico using the same sort of tactics he decries when the LAT uses them – namely, dishonest characterization and carefully strategic omissions.

    Here’s a link to the original LAT article on their gay marriage poll. And here is the hed and sub-head from the same article:

    Times Poll: Californians narrowly reject gay marriage

    Voters also back a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex unions, a new Times/KTLA survey shows.

    Note the two part format: First, voters narrowly reject “gay marriage” (not “anti-gay marriage amendment.”) Second, “and back the proposed amendment. “Narrowly” is not applied to the support of the amendment, so Patterico’s attempt to pretend that the LAT says that a 19 point bulge signifies narrow approval of the amendment is essentially dishonest.

    Further, if you look at the results of the poll as a whole, you will find that it does tend to support the overall LAT characterization of it.

    I dislike the LAT as much as anybody – but lying about its reporting, whether by commission or omission, doesn’t do anybody any good.

    Bill Quick (de113c)

  40. I’m sorry to see Bill Quick get out of his kitchen, leaving his countless kitchen implements behind, to criticize a far better blogger than he will ever be. Just read the LAT story
    Patterico linked to see who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s in large print and small words. Not all that hard.

    nk (11c9c1)

  41. Very convincing ad hominem, nk. As it happens, I linked the same heds and Patterico – and I invite everybody to read both cites, my analysis, and then see if nk is about as bad a commenter as he claims I am a blogger.

    Bill Quick (de113c)

  42. not to be an apologist for any media outlet, but…

    as was pointed out above- presidents are elected by majority- a 12 point lead is fairly sizable- and while I do not know California’s specifics, most constitutional amendments have a higher threshhold (ex on a federal level 2/3 of legislature or 3/4 of states) in which case 19% is narrow

    thanks for playing

    douglas (56c999)

  43. Mr. Quick,

    Had you bothered to read my previous post — linked above! — you might have seen that I already refuted the argument you advance here:

    “The paper also explains that the recent California Supreme Court decision is disapproved of by Californians by a 52% to 41% margin. But that 11-point difference illustrates only what people think of a decision that purports to say what the law is. It is not a reflection of what people think the law should be. For the answer to that question, you have to look to the numbers for and against the amendment — which is, again, winning by a much wider 19-point margin.”

    Thus, the gap to which you refer is irrelevant, and I already made that point in my previous post. Try reading the linked material next time before hurling irresponsible and baseless accusations of “lying.”

    Oh — speaking of which, I notice you also fail to tell readers that the gap to which you refer — a gap you claim was accurately described as “narrow” — was an 11-point gap, one point less than the gap today described as “sizable” by the same newspaper.

    If I were as reckless as you demonstrated yourself to be above, I might term this rather significant omission of yours a “lie.”

    Patterico (1056fc)

  44. I vote for Bill Quick being a liar.

    JD (75f5c3)

  45. Who is “Bill Quick”, and why is he important here?

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  46. AOL poll

    McCain 53%

    Obama 40%

    Undecided 7%

    400,126 participants

    Hazy (56a0a8)

  47. Gallup’s daily rolling average shows a consistent 1-2 point advantage for Obama among registered voters.

    Currently they have it as a 45-45 tie. Somehow I believe Gallup more than I believe the LA Times…..

    Kevin Murphy (805c5b)

  48. The LAT poll again oversamples self-identified Democrats. The respondents to the poll self-identify as Dems over GOP by a margin of 17%. Most national polls over the last 2-3 months have that number at 8-10%.

    Since Obama is going to win 75% or more of Dem votes, increasing the number of Dems in the sample is simply putting a finger on the scale.

    WLS (68fd1f)

  49. I vote for Bill Quick being a liar.

    Comment by JD — 6/25/2008 @ 12:06 pm

    Well, JD, I’m glad that you stayed at Mr. Quick’s level of discourse and did not descend to ad hominem by saying that he is not as good a blogger as Patterico.

    nk (11c9c1)

  50. Don’t tempt me, nk.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  51. I think Obama leading McCain is to be expected considering the general mood of things right now in America. The miracle would not be an Obama win. The miracle would be McCain overcoming the impossible odds presented to him by a very unpopular republican administration, an economy in bad shape, an unpopular war, rising gas prices, and an age disadvantage, and beating a democratic party poised to take back the white house. Thats the miracle here.

    love2008 (1b037c)

  52. #

    I think Obama leading McCain is to be expected considering the general mood of things right now in America. The miracle would not be an Obama win.

    You are forgetting that there are more skeletons in Obama’s closet than Jeffrey Dahmer’s; he is, after all, a Chicago politician.

    For one thing, he defends infanticide. Another thing, he supports a total handgun ban. A third thing is that he worked on the board of a nonprofit with a terrorist sympathizer. A fourth thing is that he made a campaign speech in the United Church of Christ despite having promised not to do so.

    Michael Ejercito (a757fd)

  53. Heh! I think it’s a Pauline Kael thing. “I don’t know how McCain could possibly win, I don’t know anyone who will vote for him.”

    nk (11c9c1)

  54. Which is funny. Only a Far Left Liberal would restict their circle of friends to people who walk lock-step idealogically with them.

    I have way more Liberal friends than my liberal friends have Conservative friends…

    Scott Jacobs (d3a6ec)

  55. Patterico:

    First, recall that, when a poll found a much larger 19-point lead for opponents of gay marriage, this very newspaper told us:
    * voters “slimly reject” gay marriage

    * voters “narrowly reject” gay marriage

    * voters reject gay marriage by
    o a “small margin”
    o a “narrow margin”
    o “a bit”

    * a “bare majority” opposes gay marriage

    You are clearly trying to conflate two different items into one description here, and in so doing giving the false impression that the LAT characterized the 19 point gap as small. You are therefore lying by both omission and obfuscation. Don’t blabber bafflegab about some previous post linked somewhere – this is what you did in this post. In theory you are an intelligent lawyer, perfectly capable of making your points accurately and without referral to previous posts in an effort to parse them. And, in your post above, you also neglect to mention that 11 point difference is what the LAT is actually characterizing as “narrow.”

    In short, you are doing precisely what you accuse the LAT of doing, and it does your whole position no good. And you are smart enough to know that you are doing it.

    Throwing a hissy fit when you get called on something merely demonstrates the weakness of your own position. You know what you attempted to do in this particular post – present a false analysis of an LAT article as factual – and you’re just annoyed that I pointed it out.

    Bill Quick (f6a720)

  56. Bill, you need to refresh yourself on Patterico’s original post. He’s got the progression of LS Times headlines there. You are wrong.

    daleyrocks (d9ec17)

  57. Shorter Bill Quick: “Hey, you kids get off my lawn!”

    SPQR (26be8b)

  58. you guys must’ve felt pretty stupid when you realized that amendments require over 50% of votes cast to pass so it was only about a 4% margin of victory which is pretty slim.

    libtard (2d5e78)

  59. Now that I saw that Instapundit linked this, I understand. Bill quick is jealous. Instapundit did not link to his new kitchen knife instead.

    nk (11c9c1)

  60. And, in your post above, you also neglect to mention that 11 point difference is what the LAT is actually characterizing as “narrow.”

    No, it was the 19-point difference, as I made clear in my previous post. Try reading it, Mr. Quick.

    In theory you are an intelligent lawyer, perfectly capable of making your points accurately and without referral to previous posts in an effort to parse them.

    I never thought I’d have to explain blogs to the Guy Who Named the Blogosphere™ — but here goes. Blogs use links.

    When I make a point in a post, and I know that some carping crank could raise an irrelevant and pointless objection to it, I confront and refute said irrelevant objection. Then, in the future, I can link said post for the major point, without having to re-refute the idiotic distraction each time.

    Anyone who questions what I say in the previous post is welcome to follow this thing called a “link” to see whether I backed up what I said before.

    Anyone who bothers to follow the links in this post will see that my previous post was accurate, and your complaint is unfounded.

    Following the links. You might try it sometime.

    Patterico (cb443b)

  61. Oh, and calling you “reckless” is hardly a “hissy fit.” It’s an exercise in restraint.

    That’s something you might want to consider as well, instead of casually accusing people of “lying” when you haven’t bothered to understand their position.

    Next time, if you believe you have perceived a discrepancy in something I have written, you might try politely asking about it. That way, if you have botched the analysis (as you have here) I can set you straight more gently, rather than publicly demonstrating how poorly reasoned and unhinged your argument is.

    I guarantee you’d end up looking far less foolish than you do right now.

    Patterico (cb443b)

  62. I commented about this on my blog. It is absolutly embarassing to have this rag, the Left Angeles Times, be the “leading” newspaper in Southern California. Reading it as little as possible, it is because it is unreadable. And it is not since the Tribune company bought the rag. It had been going downhill back in the Chandler years. Once the L.A. Herald-Examiner was vanquished, the Times forgot that it might have been wise to have some appeal to those readers. But, alas,it does not and now has no credibility.

    Mark J. Goluskin (56a0a8)


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