92 Comments

And this is why we subscribe to you, and read your columns. Those of us who are subscribers, and even those who aren't, read you because we value your honesty. Very simple. And thank you for that.

Expand full comment
author

Thanks, Susan. Much appreciated.

Expand full comment

Chris, I was just about to jump on the comments section and pretty much echo Susan‘s comments above. That’s exactly why I subscribe. Hold the line my friend!

Oh, and by the way, it’s beautiful in Tahoe this week. Lou

Expand full comment

Ditto

Expand full comment

Well said, Susan.

Expand full comment

I follow him for the same reason, but this is demonstrably false when it comes to everyone, haha. His column literally opened with an example of that, and virtually every mailbag has several questions complaining about Chris’ coverage because it’s not telling them what they want as opposed to the truth.

Expand full comment

There's nothing more pointless than arguing over who will win an election. We will all find out, eventually. And we all know plenty of these things are decided at the last minute. Clearly partisans will want to skew polls in a certain direction. It's human nature. You do you, Chris.

And even if we all believed Joe Biden would win easily, how does that help his team? In 2016, everyone believed that HRC would win. She didn't. In 2020, Democrats were a lot more on their guard. In 2022, as well. And they did much better. (That's why I get these terrible fundraising emails, predicting doom.) You should always fight like you're ten points behind, especially when the stakes are a high as they are now.

Expand full comment

Nothing at all wrong with calling the truth as you see it. And “hopium” doesn’t help anyone with anything, being very clear eyed about the very real possibility of a second Trump presidency is just pragmatic. It could happen. And let’s all remember how spectacularly wrong the 538 folks were in 2016. We cannot be lulled into a false sense of security…..if ever there were a year to exercise your right to vote it is this year. Just do it. Vote against Trump, and against Trumpism everywhere that it rears its nasty head on your ballot.

Expand full comment

538 actually got 2016 better than anyone else. They showed Trump having a reasonable chance of winning.

Expand full comment
founding

Oh REALLY. They gave Clinton a better than 70 % chance of winning. But you know who got 2016 right?, It was Prof. Allan Litchman. Guess who he said is likely to win in November,President Biden.

Expand full comment
author

Just for reference, here was the 538 projection of the 2016 election: https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/

Expand full comment

Indeed.

Expand full comment

2016 was an outlier election for the presidency, because so much happened in this final weeks that it was almost impossible for pollsters to capture any trends among late breaking, and relatively low information voters.

Expand full comment

You just stated very clearly exactly why I am a paid subscriber. Thank you, and please keep it up.

Expand full comment
author

Thanks much, Bruce.

Expand full comment

Thanks, Chris, this is great. One thing I look for when thinking about a columnist's (or politician's) "t and a" is whether they ever say "I was wrong". When you should give yourself a yellow card, you do it. I'll continue to be a paid subscriber and to read your columns daily. I wish more people did.

Expand full comment
author

Thanks, Mike. I try to be honest when I get something wrong -- which happens. I am human!

Expand full comment

Thanks, Chris! I don't "like" it when you say that Biden is in trouble, but if your goal was to make people like me feel good, no matter what, then we wouldn't be out there looking for ways to fight against the Trump supporters. I wish that there was a magical solution, where Trump supporters would one day wake up and come to their senses, but that's not a helpful scenario. Your columns keep me aware of that.

Instead of clinging to false hope, I'm thinking about ways to make sure people get out and vote. I work at a high school and I'm going to see if I can set up a voter registration day for the 18 year olds in the fall. I constantly remind my kids that it doesn't matter if Biden hasn't done everything they want. Every person needs to get out and vote!

Expand full comment

Keep up the good work!

Expand full comment

I subscribed to you because I believe you are telling me the truth. I don’t need a rose colored glasses view of things. Just an honest interpretation of what is going on. And, I love your commentary of former President Trump’s speeches. Thank you Chris!

Expand full comment
author

Thanks, Bob!

Expand full comment

I asked about Simon in the chat on Friday and I remember you said you might write a column, so I'm really glad you did.

Some of your columns may make my eyes twitch, but I appreciate you giving it to us straight.

Expand full comment

Keep doing what you’re doing! I don’t always agree with you, but your comments always make me think.

In the end, you have to be true to yourself.

Expand full comment

Thank you. It’s why I subscribe. I want, no, I NEED, balance. I do not want weighted my way information. Thank you for your honesty. Whether you are right or wrong it’s your honest analysis I subscribe to read. I try to watch lots of news sources, read lots of stuff. And I’m telling everyone I know to vote. Period.

Expand full comment

Simon R. NEVER says Trump can’t win the election. He argues that Democrats are in a better position than the polls suggest and there is evidence that this may be true. Your opinion is your opinion but journalism it is not.

Expand full comment

I think there’s an overemphasis on polls. Remember when nearly every poll in 2016 said Hillary would beat tRump in a landslide?? I take them with a large grain of salt. Who are the people whose opinions are cited in polls? How are they chosen? How many of us have been included in official polls? Just asking.

Expand full comment

I remember an incident from my career in forecasting (not elections) that might help: my forecast said that the cost of a contract could be anywhere from $5m to $75m with the median* at $35m. The senior managers couldn't cope with that. They wanted to know "the cost" or the "maximum cost" (which in theory would be infinite, $75m was the 95th percentile) and couldn't deal with a statistical distribution of outcomes. It's the same with elections. Pollsters usually tell you the "average" outcome that their poll predicts, and they tell you the error in the "average" due to sample size. They don't tell you the shape of the distribution. They don't tell you if their average is a median or a mean. They don't admit to any bias in their sampling (they try to correct for it... often unsuccessfully). They don't tell you if it's very "peaky", or "flat" with a much higher probability of results far away from the average value. They don't tell you if it's a roughly symmetrical distribution, or skewed with a lot more results to one side of the peak. So, take all "single answer" polls with a large pinch of salt, and understand that the "answer" is only a point on a distribution of possible indications.

*median is the 50th percentile value of a distribution, that is 50 percent of possible outcomes are less than this value, and 50 percent are more.

Expand full comment

Thank you, Louise, for your helpful perspective!

Expand full comment
May 29·edited May 29

As a paid subscriber I decided to put money on the line for Chris like I do for several sites including the NY Times, Washington Post, NY Mag, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, The Bulwark, The Daily Beast, Josh Marshall Talking Points Memo and Andrew Sullivan.

I do not want, nor will pay for "hopium", but I also do not appreciate "doomposting".

Chris does a fairly good job of balancing the two or else I would not continue my subscription.

BUT, there are times when (from my perception) the AVOIDANCE of "hopium" devolves into blind spots with overblown importance to decidedly start sounding like "doomposting".

For example....and this is one of my particular pet peeves.... is citing polls (like from the NY Times) and because they may show a point of two favor for Trump the INFURIATING conclusion that too many journalists use all too often...the dreaded...."...if the election was today....Trump would win".

Of course, the election is NOT "today", so there's that. But the real cause of my frustration is that almost ALL the polls cited have between FIFTEEN and EIGHTEEN PERCENT that are "undecided".

Yeah....this is common...."Trump 43%, Biden 41%" (either in national polling which is irrelevant, and has seeped into "toss-up" states).....the conclusion..."if the election was held today....".....or...."If these numbers hold up, Trump will win!!'

Yes, this election is going to be VERY close. No DOUBT that Trump CAN win. But, the reality is that the polls are extremely inconclusive and the fact that the "undecided" is literally close to one of five voters should be emphasized every single time.

Or, at the very least, cited as much as the lame..."...if the election were today.." or it's kissing cousin..."...if these numbers hold up..." which almost always are followed by "...Trump will win"

That is in effect somewhat dishonest and biased.

Expand full comment

You can take the boy out of CNN but you can’t take the CNN out of the boy…

Expand full comment

Chris,

Electoral predictions based on polling is a very cloudy area of "data science". Polls purport to show who will win and by what margin. However, to access the data validity of any given poll, we must understand who's included in the participant poll and in what proportions.

Polling results can be produced to lean "right/GOP/MAGA" or lean "left/DEM/LIBERAL" simply by over weighting or under weighting certain demographic groups.

For instance, the US population is approximately 75/76% Urban and 24/25% Rural. US Urban voters tend to vote Democratic by +10%-15% compared to Rural voters who are a majority GOP conservative.

Therefore, if a pollster wants to bias the poll in favor the GOP, they can overweight the number of rural participants.

The same is true for other demographics like education level, income or age.

The damage created by bias polling can be significant when the press reports poll results as "facts". The most heinous example I'd the NYTs/Sienna poll. The participant pool in the NYTs poll is significantly GOP biased. It has been since last year.

Using the Times data, political reporters all across MSM report that Biden is behind Trump.

And Biden is behind Trump among less educated, rural voters. However, those are not the 81 million voters who elected Biden in 2020.

The current presidential race would be better served if reporters would qualify candidate predictions based on the inherent bias in the polling data they reference.

This rule would certainly clarify the pissing match between Simon Rosenberg and Issac Chotiner

Expand full comment
author

This is wrong. The NYT polling is not biased. This is a falsehood pushed by the left. again, we need to deal in facts. Not what we WANT to be true.

Please read this: https://www.nytimes.com/article/times-siena-poll-methodology.html

Expand full comment

No Chris you are wrong. I suggest you scroll done to the bottom of thim month's NYTs poll to see the demographics in each of the 6 swing states highlighted. You will find an overweighting of rural voters in each state. Nothing wrong with this if the pollster wants to show what a big rural vote might mean in Nov. However, as a neutral poll suggesting how America will vote, it's biased as hell

Expand full comment

So based on Merrill’s comment I went into each of the demographics of the participant groups for the swing states and found the following (urban/rural): PA (65/35); WI (48/52); AZ (75/25); GA (61/39); MI (62/38); and NV (82/18). The only state that really looks out of whack WI which is 70% urban vs 30% rural. I didn’t look up the distributions in the other states. Regardless, the poll states: “To further ensure that the results reflect the entire voting population, not just those willing to take a poll, we give more weight to respondents from demographic groups underrepresented among survey respondents, like people without a college degree.” So, even if the demographics of the respondents didn’t match the overall population, the poll accounted for this in their results through their weightings.

Expand full comment

According to the Census Bureau, 80% of the U.S. population lives in urban areas. The remaining 20% lives in areas classified as rural.

Expand full comment

Jim

Thanks for looking into the urban/rural split. If you check census stats you'll see that truly rural population in the US is about 24% so I'm not sure how you determined the Times poll isn't biased to rural voters who are far more conservative/MAGA than urban voters.

Expand full comment

That’s on the population as a whole. The breakout varies by state which is why the Polsters take into account the actual geographic breakout but state. And IF their participant pool differs from that breakout, they adjust their weights accordingly so that the disparity is accounted for. You will never see the actual participant breakout exactly match the state geographic breakout. You cannot look at the pure participant breakout to determine a poll is biased. You must dig much deeper, which you will not typically see, to the actual weights they use to adjust the results to,account for the disparity. It’s impossible to look at the published results and determine if the poll is biased, UNLESS they also published their weights.

Expand full comment

The rural and urban population of Pennsylvania:

In 2020, rural municipalities had a total of 2.9 million residents or 22 percent of the state's population. Urban municipalities had 10.1 million residents or 78 percent of the state's population.

Expand full comment

I'm not sure where your 65/35 urban/rural split came from for PA.

Several sites I checked showed results in the 22-25% rural residents for PA. If 35% of respondents included in the Times data are from rural areas, then the Times survey data is over counting rural voters by ~17%. Since rural voters are more Republican these days, this is one key factor in why the Times' polls Aren't biased

Expand full comment

My numbers were from the poll. I was not describing the actual demographics. So the PA participants in the poll broke 65/35. As I’ve said before the poll participants will almost never match the actual geographic distribution. That’s why they use weights to adjust the numbers. You again are misinterpreting the results. You are correct that the rural population was over represented but you are not correct in saying the results are biased because the weights will offset the over representation. It’s basic polling statistical methodology.

Expand full comment

I meant why Times' polls are GOP biased.

Expand full comment
founding

Chris I will not just dismiss Merrill's scientific analysis of these polls as wrong just because it's NYT. Merrill's statistical/ scientific analysis makes more sense to me than the NYT analysis of their polls. I guess everyone can pick the analysis he or she wants to believe

Expand full comment

Thanks Dr Abubakar

I think mine is really a simple point. Political poll results are really indicative of the attitudes and opinions of the participant group.

How broadly any given poll results can be applied to the broad voter population, depends on how closely it matches the broad population. When we see and read Nate Cohn's polls, we must take him at his word that the Times poll intentionally leans GOP.

Expand full comment
founding

The basic principle of Statistics (Statistics 101) is that for you to be able to generalize a study (poll) to a population , your sample demogrsphics must be representative of the population you're trying to apply your study(poll) to. This NYT poll and many other polls do not represent the general electorate. These pundits just like using the polls to drive their parochial narratives.

Expand full comment

Polls do not purport to tell anyone who will win. They are a snapshot in time of a representative opinion sample. Actual voting and counting is the only thing that tells us who won, and includes a bunch of factors that pollsters have an incredibly hard time measuring. Voting habits change by state laws allowing mail-in and early voting, the number of polling places and wait times, and even the weather in certain places. Especially in very close elections, polling has little way of capturing those factors that are election-day specific.

Expand full comment

While this is all well and good, there is such a thing as media focusing so much on the horse-race that it skews national perspective and public perception. I would also point you to Larry Sabato at UVA and John Della Volpe at Harvard, who both looked at the recent batch of polls and thought they were garbage. They specifically noted the discrepancies in the cross-tabs between neighboring states, where the youth or black vote in Wisconsin varied widely from the corresponding youth or black vote in Michigan. Similar issues between cross tabs in Arizona and nearby states. That type of variance across demographics is incredibly unusual, which would seem to indicate something is going on. One of those polls may be right, or neither, but not likely both.

Expand full comment