Tags: Zogby | Predicts | Kerry | Will | Win

Zogby Predicts Kerry Will Win

Friday, 29 October 2004 12:00 AM

Zogby gave his take on the heated presidential contest to New York Daily News columnist Sydney Zion in Friday’s paper.

"It's close," Zogby said, "but in the last couple of days things have been trending toward Kerry - nationally and in the swing states. Between this and history, I think it will be Kerry."

Zogby also rebutted an article by Robert Novak published this week that indicated Zogby was predicting a Bush Victory.

"I said Bush was winning, I didn't say I thought he'd win. On Monday, he was indeed looking good. But on Tuesday, things changed. Kerry, in that one day, picked up 5 points," Zogby told Zion.

When pollster John Zogby speaks, people listen – after all this was the guy who, in 1996, came within one-tenth of one percent of the presidential result.

Showing a penchant for prescience, Zogby was the most accurate pollster in 2000. As Dick Morris said, “All the polls were wrong except Zogby.”

“The race has been, and continues to be, very close,” Zogby had been saying before his recent Kerry prediction.

Speaking this past week at Utica College in New York, Zogby explained why Kerry has been rising. “Today was a big day for Kerry. He has consolidated his base support just as Bush did early in the race, taking a 2-to-1 lead among Hispanics, 90 percent of blacks, 84 percent of Democrats, 55 percent of union voters and 65 percent of singles.

“Both candidates have consolidated their base as they go into the final days, and all that is left is the 4 percent undecided – and we’re watching them like a hawk.”

Zogby International, which works out of New York and Washington, D.C., is understandably in overdrive.

According to a Zogby spokesperson, the main man has been fast on the speaking tour – having just finished up engagements at Potsdam University in Potsdam, NY and Utica College in Utica, NY.

The much-in-demand pollster is now ramping up for a presentation to the Christian Science Monitor Breakfast in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

The burning question, of course, is whether the nation is in store for a November surprise – perhaps like the infamous upset of Thomas Dewey by incumbent Harry Truman in 1948.

It was hardly a landslide in terms of the popular vote: Truman bested Dewey with 49.07 percent to Dewey's 45.07 percent. However, “Give 'Em Hell Harry” wound up trouncing his three rivals with 303 electoral votes to their combined 228.

But Zogby is the first to admit that polls have their limitations with regard to soothsaying – then as now.

“Polls predict the winners and losers. Actually, a poll is only a snapshot of a moment in time. It can point to trends, but things can change on Election Day, when a lot of undecided voters make up their minds. We do try to ask ‘projective questions’ – i.e. to see how people will react to situations and messages, but a poll can only measure a fixed moment in time.

“Polls generally only confirm what professional observers (and many voters themselves) already know – whether a race is close or not. Early polls can have an effect on a candidate’s ability to raise funds, but they do not shape how an election will turn.”

As dry and listless as that reality-check may sound, Zogby is not above having some fun with this most pragmatic tool of political science.

For instance, Zogby revealed to The New Yorker magazine that his polls include the Oz question: “You live in the Land of Oz, and the candidates are the Tin Man, who’s all brains and no heart, and the Scarecrow, who’s got all heart and no brains. Who would you vote for?”

Interestingly, in 2000 on the Saturday before the presidential election, voters were in a dead heat between the Tin Man (Al Gore) and the Scarecrow (George Bush).

However, this year the all-brains-and-no-heart Tin Man (John Kerry) leads by a commanding ten points.

And then there’s the bogeyman of the cell phone. Seems like everyone has one, but pollsters are prohibited from dialing those digital numbers during the course of a sampling.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that as many as 5 percent of the population relies on cell phones as their as only phone service. They tend to be younger people.

Doesn’t this affect the reliability of the response?

“I still conduct telephone polls,” reveals Zogby. “The reality is that polling on the telephone is becoming more difficult; caller ID and the widespread use of cell phones are affecting response rates. That said, I feel that representative samples can still be achieved on the phone.

“I stand by both my telephone and interactive results. I have yet to see evidence that the situation has gotten to the point where telephone surveys are unusable, and I am equally confident that my interactive surveys have reached a point where they are valid…

“It is illegal for polling firms to call cell phones. Coupling that with the rapidly increasing rate of cell phone use and the gradual decrease of land lines, the polling industry will face a crisis within a decade. For now, the 170 million cell phones are largely duplicates and triplicates of landlines.”

So what makes the Zogby numbers so different (and accurate)?

Says Zogby: “We poll only likely voters who are different from just all adults. In addition, we poll all day long – 9 am to 9 pm local time (to the region we're calling). Finally, we apply weighting for party identification to ensure that there is no built-in Democratic bias in our sampling.”

That “weighting for party identification” is a key feature of the Zogby methodology.

By way of explanation, the pollster likes to use the example of the polls that followed on the heels of the Republican convention. One poll in particular gave the incumbent president an 11-point advantage. Zogby disagreed, saying the spread was really a modest two points:

“I checked out Newsweek's poll on the heels of the Republican convention. Their sample of registered voters includes 38 percent Republican, 31 percent Democrat and 31 percent Independent voters.

“If we look at the three last Presidential elections, the spread was 34 percent Democrats, 34 percent Republicans and 33 percent Independents (in 1992 with Ross Perot in the race); 39 percent Democrats, 34 percent Republicans, and 27 percent Independents in 1996; and 39 percent Democrats, 35 percent Republicans and 26 percent Independents in 2000.

“While party identification can indeed change within the electorate, there is no evidence anywhere to suggest that Democrats will only represent 31 percent of the total vote this year.

"In fact, other competitors have gone in the opposite direction. The Los Angeles Times released a poll in June of this year with 38 percent Democrats and only 25 percent Republicans. And Gallup's party identification figures have been all over the place.

“This is no small consideration. Given the fact that each candidate receives anywhere between eight-in-ten and nine-in-ten support from voters in his own party, any change in party identification trades point-for-point in the candidate's total support.

“My polls use a party weight of 39 percent Democrat, 35 percent Republican and 26 percent Independent. Thus in examining the [post RNC convention] Newsweek poll, add three points for Mr. Bush because of the percentage of Republicans in their poll, then add another 8 percent for Mr. Bush for the reduction in Democrats. It is not hard to see how we move from my two-point lead to their eleven-point lead for the President.”

If all that sounds like so much confusing hocus-pocus, Zogby retorts that it’s more scientific than it may seem to the uninitiated. “It's pure probability and statistics. The same theory is involved as when you take a blood test and the clinician draws only a small sample rather than draining all the blood out of your body.”

Then there is the omnipresent concern of built-in bias:

“We are independent and nonpartisan,” Zogby explains. “I am personally a Democrat, but the firm does a lot of work for media (like Reuters America, New York Post, St. Louis Post Dispatch, etc.) and we work for both parties.

“None of us who are public pollsters - i.e. polling for major media - wittingly produce polls that are skewed toward Democrats or Republicans. While I do have some disagreements with some of my colleagues about the over-sampling of Democrats (simply because they are more likely to respond to polls than Republicans) this is a sampling issue and not the result of any built in bias or prejudice.

“My firm only polls ‘likely voters’ on matters of politics and public policy because they are the ones who actually count on these matters.

"Because of that, our polls tend to show less support for the President and Democrats in general because actual voters tend to include fewer minorities and lower income groups than all adults.

So who exactly do you call?

“If we are polling the U.S., we poll from a sample drawn from all households with telephones in 48 states,” says Zogby. “We, like others, do not poll Hawaii or Alaska because of time differences and because Republican Alaska cancels out Democratic Hawaii. As well, out of a sample of 1000 likely voters there would only be a total of 1 from both states (combined).”

And the final word:

“Polls are a good thing,” concludes Zogby. “They help connect us - just like newspaper letters to the editor and talk radio. They let us know if our opinions are in the mainstream or not. They measure values, the ideas we cherish the most. They can also be abused, like anything else.

"But one thing I have learned in my decade and a half of doing this professionally: those who complain the loudest about polls follow them more closely than anyone else.”

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Zogby gave his take on the heated presidential contest to New York Daily News columnist Sydney Zion in Friday's paper. "It's close," Zogby said, "but in the last couple of days things have been trending toward Kerry - nationally and in the swing states. Between this and...
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2004-00-29
Friday, 29 October 2004 12:00 AM
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