Polling firms all have a methodology for making the people they polled match up with how they think the country looks. For instance, if 70% of the people they reach are women, they know that voters are not 70% female, so they give a lower weighting to their results from women, and a higher weighting to their results from men.
That leads us to UnskewedPolls. The crew at UnskewedPolls took a look at all the major polling firms – you know, the ones that kept showing Obama in the lead – and concluded that they were all liberally biased. Those polls had the audacity to assume that there would be lots of Democrats voting and not enough Republicans! When everyone knows that Obama is terribly unpopular and that most Americans are conservative, right? Clearly there will be lots more Republican voters than that! So UnskewedPolls took the poll data and “unskewed” them, adjusting the weightings.
Their results? Romney with 311 electoral votes! Romney wins by 3.5% of the popular vote! Romney will win 9 of the 11 swing states! I will admit that one of the things I was looking forward to on November 7 was UnskewedPolls getting a serious comeuppance – and indeed, UnskewedPolls is now a laughingstock, while Nate Silver and his “liberal bias” make a victory lap.
Here’s the problem, though. On election night, says a senior Romney advisor, the Romney campaign was shocked, astonished, devastated. There’s a reason Romney hadn’t prepared a concession speech: because he was fully confident he was going to win. Why? Because the Romney camp used the same methodology as UnskewedPolls:
They believed the public/media polls were skewed – they thought those polls oversampled Democrats and didn’t reflect Republican enthusiasm. They based their own internal polls on turnout levels more favorable to Romney. That was a grave miscalculation, as they would see on election night…
State polls showed Romney winning big among independents. Historically, any candidate polling that well among independents wins. But as it turned out, many of those independents were former Republicans who now self-identify as independents. The state polls weren’t oversampling Democrats and undersampling Republicans – there just weren’t as many Republicans this time because they were calling themselves independents.
Romney’s late-campaign push into Pennsylvania wasn’t a Hail Mary play, it turns out; it was a “stretch goal”, since Romney thought he had the battleground states locked up.
If there’s one thing I hope comes out of the 2012 election, it’s that the conservatives will recognize that the right-wing media bubble they’ve been fostering and living in told them what they wanted to hear, rather than what was actually happening. Plugging your fingers in your ears and declaring that anyone who says something you don’t like is under a liberal bias leads to moments like Tuesday night, when the Fox News talking heads were genuinely shellshocked that Romney didn’t win — even though poll after poll showed that Romney was at best even with Obama, at worst four points behind.