Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

The GOP convention negative bounce: a final look

September 7th, 2012, 6:23pm by Sam Wang



(Greetings Political Wire, Andrew Sullivan, Reddit, Fark, & others. For what our low-noise approach recommends for your Dem/GOP donation, click here.)

Soon, post-DNC state polls will begin to arrive. So here is the best glimpse we are going to get of the negative post-GOP-convention bounce. Basically, their convention appears to have helped…Obama. It’s the part in red at the end.

Some notes and caveats…

As always, this EV history is viewed through state polls only, using Electoral College mechanisms. Therefore it is most sensitive to swing-state changes. In practice, changes in this index resemble changes in national polls. Since the state polls sample more voters, the Meta-analysis has considerably less noise.

The horizontal axis reports the date that polls were released, and therefore when they entered the Meta-analysis. This accounts for the 2-3 day delay for a news event to exert its effect. I have color-coded the events for clarity.

The following events appear to be notable: the Bain Capital/tax return attacks, the Ryan VP pick, the Todd Akin “legitimate-rape” comment, and the last day of the Republican National Convention.

The negative GOP bounce. As I stated before, the GOP convention was of no help to them in the Electoral College. Indeed, it appears that the race shifted towards President Obama by 6-15 EV, or about 1.0% of Popular Vote Meta-Margin. From an analytical perspective, a negative bounce is quite remarkable because all the talk in recent weeks has been of bounces being smaller or zero, but always in the hosting party’s favor. It is all the more remarkable because of the relatively small number of state polls over the last week, so that the Meta-analysis’s inputs have not fully turned over (for discussion see comments). So the negative bounce may be larger than what is shown in the graph. Such an event would have been missed in past years (and even this year) because national polls don’t have the best resolution.

The natural question arises: why would the Republicans be hurt by their own convention? Two answers come to mind.

(1) The Ryan-VP bounce effectively used up whatever room there was for a bounce. This year, opinion seems to be fluctuating in a very narrow range: Obama up by 1.0-5.0%. Maybe there was no room for improvement.
(2) The GOP convention was not particularly inspiring. Indeed, the most notable event was Clint Eastwood’s empty-chair routine, which overshadowed Romney’s acceptance speech.

Bain Capital, tax returns, and “you didn’t build that.” As I noted at the time, the Bain/taxes attack appeared to be very effective. I note that July 13th, which is nearby, was when President Obama made the “you didn’t build that” remark. So whatever we think of that remark, we can safely discard the hypothesis that it was of immediate help to Romney.

The Ryan VP pick and Todd Akin. The pick of Paul Ryan on the GOP ticket led to major media saturation, and positive attention for Romney/Ryan. This drowned out other stories. As I pointed out at the time, the political media seems to be unable to cover more than one story at a time. This could account for the large, sudden shift. The Ryan bounce ended at the same time as Todd Akin’s remark that “legitimate” rape victims don’t get pregnant, which either hurt Romney directly, or just reset the media’s mindless attention.

And now we wait for the post-DNC bounce. I wrote the other day that given the narrow band of opinion movement, I will be surprised to see the bounce to go above 5.0% in Meta-margin or 330 EV. On the other hand, it was a very strong convention. Also, the negative RNC bounce is not fully apparent in the Meta-analysis. So perhaps there will be a big shift next week after all.

Tags: 2012 Election · President

54 Comments so far ↓

  • Xtalographer

    Prof. Wang-

    I wish your blog were required reading for media types who cover polls or write about them.

    Anyway, we know that there are far fewer polls this election cycle than last time around. How much of an effect is this having on the sensitivity and confidence of the meta analysis?

    • Sam Wang

      Xtalographer – Thank you. It’s a good question about the low density of state polls.

      My frank opinion is that aggregators flowered under boom conditions in 2004-2010 — so many polls. As a result, many of them did not develop skills to extract maximum information from what was available.

      The Meta-analysis is still remarkably low-noise. However, it doesn’t always reflect the full change. For example, right now it probably reflects only about half of the true post-RNC change. Per state it uses the last 3 polls or 1 week’s polls, whichever is greater. In key swing states, RCP shows polls ending after 8/30 in the following quantity: 1 in CO, 2 in FL, 1 in NC, 1 in OH, and 0 in VA.

      Response time right now is up to two weeks to get a full effect, less time to see the direction of change. It showed the Ryan bounce with the same speed as Palin 2008. So it’s still fairly good.

      Where the low poll density really hurts is in Senate and House races. That has been a bit frustrating.

  • Steve16748

    I very much enjoy finding this site. So I supposes, the best I can do is get my personal business done by Oct. 15, (including a corp. tax return), fly into Las Vegas, file for an absentee ballot and vote for Obama. (Actually, I was in Las Vegas for a trade show in August, and except for the time I was out at the beautiful Valley of Fire State Park reading petraglyphs, I was bombarded by ultra conservative messages on the video, (including the Ceasars Corp. internal feed at the greatly dimminished Rio. I remember how Harry Reid beat the poll odds in 2010. Thanks to God red blooded Americans are robust in Vegas and blow away the turnout models.

  • wheelers cat

    well here comes some new polling.
    It will be interesting to see if this weeks battleground ad-blitz can change the seeming immutable spread. You can bet there will be many polls commissioned to test the permeability of the electorate to this big-money message.
    http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/09/ad-war-update-7.html
    generic ad formula–>
    “Here in [state], we’re not better off under President Obama. [list of problems Obama is implied to be responsible for].
    Romney’s plan? [list of generic GOP solutions], create [number] new jobs for [state].”
    This is a test of two Team Romney hypoths, really.
    H1: Can post citizens united spending make a difference?
    H2: There are enough undecided voters left in the battleground states to change the EV maths.

    cant wait for fresh state polling, for battle ground states at least.
    this is a Koch-funded attempt to step on Obamas convention bounce.
    Interesting times.

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  • Tapen Sinha

    https://mmicdata.rand.org/alp/?page=election#shifts-between-candidates
    Look at the scale of vote switching. Basically one percent. And this is VERY
    different from other polls as they track the SAME people over a long time.
    Bottom line: People have made up their mind and the model of Sam Wang
    rules.

  • Robert

    Here is another proof that Obama has got the real bounce after convention. Look at this chart and latest polls: http://www.pollheadlines.com/obama-vs-romney-polls.html

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  • D Yancey

    Excellent work! Makes an ancient econometrickster proud…

    A dumb question:

    Why is Ohio included in your “as of today (sep 8th)” EV projection (of 309) but shown as a white toss-up in the state-by-state map?

  • Scott

    As you alluded to, TV journalism is so DUMB now. Makes anyone who bathes in it, with any channels or programs, relatively less well informed and less intelligent. Blogs and articles like this, and your competitors ;) make people smarter and more well informed.

  • Tapen Sinha

    Sully sees the light. He should have paid more attention to Sam’s website!
    http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/09/have-the-conventions-changed-the-race.html

    Tapen

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    • Sam Wang

      Jack Moss – the statistic you cite in favor of your conclusion is a single measurement, 47-46 Romney-Obama. Statistically, there is an approximately 40% chance that it sampled from a population that in fact preferred Obama. So I would not get too excited.

      The Obama win probability of 88% on my site is based on a similar argument that you propose, but on a far larger quantity of data. This will be a close election, but it is unlikely to go in the direction you suggest.

  • D Yancey

    (Head bowed in FAQ’d up shame):

    Ah, probability, not the mundane bean-counted reality that your 60% or better blues add up to 291, and 309 if Ohio’s 18 are added.

    Clearly, a (non-Sandra) fluke.

    Thanks!

  • badni

    Jack Moss- putting aside everything else that’s wrong about that article (which is nearly everything), where does that 95% come from? Is yhe author asserting that 12/15=.95? And if the history is 12/15 how are there only two that do not follow the pattern? That article is so weirdly wrong I’m wondering if it’s a spoof

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  • Tim

    Sully’s giving you some serious exposure, right up there with Nate Silver. I’ve been sending him links to your site for weeks now.

    Congrats. You deserve it.

    Our country desperately needs this kind of artful empiricism.

  • Tapen Sinha

    Nate Silver’s prediction of Obama winning moved nearly 2 percent in ONE day. It now stands at 79.8%. His EV forecast is now 316.9 – even higher than Sam’s. Whereas the probability of winning at Intrade actually went down today for Obama now standing at 57.1%. Iowa, winner take all, last bid shows 64.5%. There are two possible reasons for this wide gap. (1) Silver/Wang are overly optimistic about Obama win that are built into their models or (2) these markets are NOT forward-looking enough (technically – no rational expectations).

    Tapen

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  • Peter Principle

    “The Ryan bounce ended at the same time as Todd Akin’s remark . . . which either hurt Romney directly, or just reset the media’s mindless attention.”

    Not mindless — just chronic ADD.

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  • wheelers cat

    @Tapen
    Dr. Wang has Obamas odds at 9:1, Nate Silver at 8:2. These are the guys with the best track records in Known Blogspace.
    I would take those odds.
    Lets go all pragmatic on you for a moment. How exactly is Romney going to pull ahead of Obama at this point?
    The economy has not flipped the curves. The VP pick didnt flip the curves, the RNC didnt flip the curves. How does Romney flip the curves to pull ahead, even if its only temporarily? What demographics will switch to Romney?
    This coming week we will see if the Citizens United decision can flip the curves in the battleground states. I dont believe it can, because of the extreme electoral polarization and the vanishing cohort of undecideds. It is doubtful the debates will flip the curve– if anything, the debates represent a potential gaffe situation for Romney, based on his past performance.
    No, Romney’s only hope is a black swan event, and Dr. Wang allows for the [remote] possibility of that with his t-distribution.

  • Matt McIrvin

    The most likely big game-changing crisis to hit between now and the election would be an Israeli attack on Iran. But however that works out, and whatever Obama does in response, I’d say it’s more likely to help Obama in the election than hurt him.

    Netanyahu and the neocons might well think that it’d box Obama into joining the war lest he be portrayed as weak. But scary international crises usually drive people to rally behind the President in the short term, regardless of his response (we don’t usually remember it today, but Jimmy Carter’s job approval actually spiked over 50% in the early months of the Iran hostage crisis). And all we really have left is short term.

    Besides, it’d pivot national attention back to foreign policy, and this is an area where Obama actually has a huge advantage right now.

  • Kevin O'Bryant

    I have a question about the electoral vote histogram. It shows “the” 95% CI in blue, and the tails in green. Which CI is this? It doesn’t seem to be centered on the mean or the median; is that just an optical illusion? Given your preference for median-based methods, I’d have thought you would show the middle 95% of the mass, but the low-side tail is much heavier than the high-side tail.

    • Sam Wang

      I coded it as you suspect. Could be a display bug because of those sharp green peaks right at the edge. Good eye! But another chore for us.

  • wheelers cat

    That is all true, Matt, but Obama already warned Bibi off and downscoped the joint exercises at the end of October from 5k american troops to 1500.
    http://world.time.com/2012/08/31/exclusive-u-s-scales-back-military-exercise-with-israel-affecting-potential-iran-strike/

    Bibi is pretty furious that Obama spoiled his black swan, but I think the probability of an Israeli October Surprise is now minimal.
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4276276,00.html

  • Matt McIrvin

    @Jack Moss: That’s similar to a “bellwether” argument: you look at the gigantic collection of available numbers for previous elections, and pick out some arbitrary thing that happens to be correlated with a lot of wins. The thing is, there are so many numbers to examine that you’re almost guaranteed to find a spurious correlation.

    It used to be that political commentators liked to talk about the Missouri bellwether: with rare exceptions, nobody in the 20th century had won a presidential election without carrying Missouri. But 2008 was another exception, which makes it sound ridiculous to say that Obama can’t win in 2012 because he can’t get Missouri.

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  • Tapen Sinha

    @Matt MacIrvin is right on the money on any Iran attack now by Israel. Bibi will not be able to dislodge Obama with that strategy. 1979 Iranian hostage crisis did make Carter more popular in the beginning. Had there been no hostage crisis or had his mission to rescue them succeeded, he would have definitely been a two term president. On a personal note, that crisis did not help me none! I was yelled at in the street (“$%& Iranian go home”) or was spit at from moving vehicles and so on. Never mind that I am not Iranian at all. To the white folks in Minnesota, it made no difference.

    Tapen

  • Olav Grinde

    Dr Wang, I wonder if you could offer some thoughts on the methodology of the Rand Poll, which follows the opinions of the exact same base of people over time, charting how opinions actually change. I am fascinated by their explanation:

    Why this [Rand’s] poll is different
    “… it allows us to ask the same people for their opinion repeatedly over time. In comparison to most polls, this leads to much more stable outcomes; changes that we see are true changes in people’s opinions and not the result of random fluctuations in who gets asked the questions.”

    https://mmicdata.rand.org/alp/index.php?page=election

    Thoughts?

    • Sam Wang

      Olav – That is an extremely interesting survey. I have heard about it, but never dug into the details. The intention-to-vote parameter is very telling, and reveals the higher intensity of Romney supporters. On most opinion polls we have to guess at how the net change is composed of noise, switching in one direction, and switching in the other direction. Carefully analyzed, the Rand poll might be an excellent complement to other polls.

      Wheeler’s Cat – Some controls could be done by taking some respondents and polling them at lower frequency. Or making the interval between polling dates random, and seeing if the interval affected the rate of opinion shift.

  • wheelers cat

    Tapen, I believe Obama has already forestalled Bibi’s black swan, but you and Matt discount the economic impact of an Israeli strike on Iran.
    If the Israelis hit Qom, their most likely target and the second holiest city of shi’ia islam, the euroconomy would crash and gas prices would spike. Not to mention the likely start of WWIII, the open war between Islam and the West.
    Also, any American troops deployed in MENA would become instant targets….

  • wheelers cat

    Olav the problem I see is that repeat questions are being asked of “panelists”. How are the panelists selected and are they actually representative of the electorate?
    And also I see no way to remove asymmetrical political bias like backfire effect in conservatives.

  • Tapen Sinha

    @wheelers cat

    I did not mean to suggest that an Iranian attack now would have no impact on the world economy. All I am saying is the following: Given that there is less than two months time, the negative impact will be further down the line, NOT before the election day. Even “wimpy” Carter got a bounce for the first three months of the hostage crisis.

    Tapen

  • Tapen Sinha

    Further to
    @wheelers cat
    (apologies to others for being somewhat off-topic)

    I am not sure if an attack on Iran will galvanize the rest of the Middle East. There is a huge chasm between the Shiites and the Sunnis that goes back a long way. The entire Iran-Iraq was fought on that basis. Would the Wahabis be unhappy to see an attack on Iran, their nemesis? Spike in the oil price? Most certainly. But a generalized anti-American jihad as a result of an Israeli strike on Iran? No.

    Tapen

  • Olav Grinde

    @Wheeler’s Cat: Thanks for your thoughts on Rand’s polling. What you say makes sense. Nevertheless, I think the swing toward Obama and away from Romney in the Rand poll is significant.

    @Tapen Sinha: I think you’re right on the mark with your analysis. Moreover, the “leak” of papers detailing how an attack would be carried out, makes it very clear that Israel has decided not to attack Iran at this time. These are hardened targets, and the sustained attacks that would be necessary are beyond Israeli capability — and attempting this themselves would be detrimental to Israel’s interests.

    Militarily, this would be very different from Israel’s impressive Operation Babylon against Iraq’s Osirak Reactor in the summer of 1981, which was silently applauded by much of the Arab world.

    In my opinion, it is clear that this “security leak” was designed merely to pressure the Obama administration into concessions, such a drawing a line in the sand. Obama has not blinked in the face of Netanyahu’s bluff.

    So for the time being, we can discount the possibility of that particular black swan; if an Israeli did take place, I think Tapen is right.

    Men det vil ikke være særlig morsomt! ;)

  • wheelers cat

    oh Tapen, the gap between the sunnis and shi’ia is nothing compared to the gap between muslims and AmerIsrael.
    The constitution of KSA is the Quran. The Saud monarchs might want to stay out of it but dar ul Islam would not.
    And that is a good point, about the long term effects. In the short term I think Bibi is more worried about Oabamas second term. There will be no chance of dragging America into a war with Iran after Obama is relected.
    And Obama plans to force a two-state solution, and Bibi knows that.
    He was pretty furious.
    http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/09/intelligence-committee-chair-describes-explosive-confrontation-between-netanyahu-and-american-ambassador/262056/
    I also am sorry for the OT…..but the only truly interesting things left are black swans and the house/senate races, n’est ce pas?

  • Tapen Sinha

    @Olav

    Indeed, it will not be funny.

    @wheelers cat

    I do not want to belabor the point but consider the evidence. The number of dead during the Iran-Iraq war (both civilian and military) is a million on the Iranian side and another half a million on the Iraqi side. Show me ONE example of US-Israeli versus Middle Eastern/Muslim conflict that can even come anywhere near that level of casualty.

    Will Obama election force a two-state solution? Not unless he can produce a filibuster proof Congress. I am sure you will agree that is impossible in 2012 and beyond. Adelson still has a lot of firepower and Citizens United is unlikely to be repealed any time soon.

    Tapen

  • Olav Grinde

    (Please forgive me for continuing on this tangent, which I don’t believe is entirely off-topic.)

    @Wheeler’s Cat: I hardly think Representative Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) can be relied on to provide a neutral narrative. First of all, this is election year, and the Jewish vote may well be key. Second, what in the world is Mike Rogers doing offering a “narrative” in the first place?

    For Rogers to do so is a breach of confidentiality, and it is highly unprofessional! To put it bluntly: the Republican Congressman is undermining American foreign policy and diplomatic efforts.

    The President sets that agenda, in close dialog with professionals. Mr Rogers does not.

    Nor, thank God, does Mr Romney.

  • wheelers cat

    @Olav
    all true, but it still happened.

    lol@Tapen
    And who is more chummy with Iraq now? Iran or the US? No, if you can count on one thing in the ME, it is the undying hatred of Unjust Israel, and their lapdog the USA.
    Like the Prophet said, a nation can survive without god. But a nation cannot exist without justice.

  • wheelers cat

    ok, the RAND poll is interesting.
    I retract my previous statement.
    They divide the panelists into 7ths and only pose questions to one fraction.
    You and Olav are right, Dr. Wang.
    It deserves study.

  • wheelers cat

    Im sorry to belabotr this point Tapen, but your attitude is a prevalent one in the West.
    “Show me ONE example of US-Israeli versus Middle Eastern/Muslim conflict that can even come anywhere near that level of casualty.”
    How about OIF and OEF? Roughly 3/4s of a million muslims dead by 2009. It is estimated that the number is over a million by now.
    To date 40 American soldiers have been killed by the very Afghan policemen they were training.
    And that curve is ascending.

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  • badni

    Why should the gray bar be centered visually? It looks right the way it is – odds of O going to 345 are reasonably non-remote, but chances of getting above 345 or so are vanishingly small, whereas he has more room on the downside. It matches the histogram, as it should. Is there some other reasoning I’m missing?

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  • Jean A. Dickey

    InTrade was rocked by controversy when a gambler picked up a $70,ooo to $100,000 win by betting on Paul Ryan as the GOP veep in the last week of the hectic selection process. “Strangelove” who is one of the posting board regulars wanted to be reassured that “insider” information had not been a tip that led to an advantage. The posting board people are now expecting Barack Obama to win in November and think the ratio is accurate, as a rough rule of thumb. Given that InTrade is a small outfit with some of the profit margin coming from the analysis of the betting patterns, keep in mind that the bias for Scott Walker was born out by the election, but there have been egg on the face misses. InTrade has an honor code that is very difficult to enforce in full, and the newer “regs” that try to stop untracable funds and deception are a further hurdle restricting the betting pool.

  • Jean A. Dickey

    this election could trigger a black swan moment if our electoral college totally splits 269 v. 269 especially if mitt romney pulls up in the polls despite any inroads from gov. gary johnson!!!

  • Bob h

    The closeness of national polls may be the result of big Romney margins in Texas and Dixie. Can they be corrected for this? The result would be more meaningful.

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