About that CBS/NYT/Quinippiac poll

Linked above in our Picks is the CBS News story by Brian Montopoli reporting the results of a CBS/NY Times/Quinippiac poll of large samples of likely voters in three key states (Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida). The poll shows Obama ahead at 50 percent or better in all three states.

Montopoli’s report does not contain any information on the poll samples other than the number of likely voters sampled in each of the three states. I couldn’t find a description of the poll samples or other background on the poll, but reader John Farmer has dug it out and writes:

I found the internals of the poll together with a full set of the results online, which you can view here in PDF. According to the poll:

In Florida Democrats outnumber Republicans 36 to 27 = D+9, and these people polled voted in the last election for Mr. Obama by 53 to 40 = D + 13.

Actual result in 2008: 51.2% to 47.2%, Obama winning + 4.

Elected Republican senator in 2010.

In Ohio, Democrats outnumber Republicans 35 to 27 = D+8, and these people polled voted in the last election for Mr. Obama by 53 to 38 = D + 15.

Actual result in 2008: 50.9% to 48.4%, Obama winning +2.5.

Elected Republican senator in 2010.

In Pennsylvania, Democrats outnumber Republicans 38 to 32 = D+6, and these people polled voted in the last election for Mr. Obama by 54 to 40 = D + 14.

Actual result in 2008: 54.7% to 44.3%, Obama winning + 10.4.

Elected Republican senator in 2010.

(Here are the 2008 results.) It appears that this poll determined whether you are a likely voter simply by asking the person polled whether he is likely to vote and only counting the opinions of those who say they are likely to do so.

The internals show that, if people told the truth about how they voted in 2008, the pollsters managed to find a population that voted for Mr. Obama more frequently than actually occurred. It’s certainly possible that, out of political correctness, some people say they voted for Mr. Obama in 2008 when they did not, but no way is it extensive enough to explain the discrepancy.

While this is harder math than I care to do, it’s obvious that in Florida and Ohio, if you assumed that each person told the truth about who he voted for in 2008 and if you reformulate the poll results so that the percentage of claimed Obama and McCain voters match the actual result, then Romney would be leading in Florida and Ohio and perhaps a couple of points behind in Pennsylvania. My instincts tell me that this is about right, and such a reformulation also aligns better with the national Gallup and Rasmussen poll results and President Obama’s job approval ratings.

Thus, this whole argument that Mr. Obama may be tied nationally but ahead in key battleground states is leaky.

I think Mr. Farmer’s message adds valuable context that is otherwise unavailable in stories on the poll, such as The Hill’s here, for example.

UPDATE: Richard Baehr comments on the poll at the American Thinker in “Propaganda poll shows Obama ahead.” In a message he comments on this post: “Your numbers on 2008 are a bit off, but you identified the problem. Major sampling error. Common for NYT/CBS polls. Quinnipiac used to be very reliable but this cycle has been much more Dem friendly. Could it be their partners?”

MORE: In a subsequent message, Richard Baehr adds: “Obama has spent $15 million on state polling,. They must not be getting numbers they like. Rasmussen says white voters are now splitting 56-35 for Romney. My guess is the other 9 will break Romney’s way too. Hard to see how Obama wins with these numbers for 70-74% of the electorate.” One more thought: “The polls that are favorable to Obama can be self fulfilling for the people who like to vote for winners. So they may not be innocent.”

FINALLY: Ed Morrissey has more here and Hugh Hewitt has more here..

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