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Math Politics

Daily Kos Pollster Made Up Numbers 546

Posted by kdawson
from the transparency-wins dept.
jamie found a story up on Daily Kos revealing that the polling firm they had contracted with for 18 months, Research 2000 or R2K, apparently made up or at least manually tweaked its polling results. The blog published a preliminary report by a team of statistics gurus (Mark Grebner, Michael Weissman, and Jonathan Weissman), and it is an exemplar of clarity and concision. The team reports, "We do not know exactly how the weekly R2K results were created, but we are confident they could not accurately describe random polls." Daily Kos will be filing a lawsuit against its former pollster. "For the past year and a half, Daily Kos has been featuring weekly poll results from the Research 2000 (R2K) organization. These polls were often praised for their 'transparency,' since they included detailed cross-tabs on sub-populations and a clear description of the random dialing technique. However, on June 6, 2010, FiveThirtyEight.com rated R2K as among the least accurate pollsters in predicting election results. Daily Kos then terminated the relationship. One of us (MG) wondered if odd patterns he had noticed in R2K's reports might be connected with R2K's mediocre track record, prompting our investigation of whether the reports could represent proper random polling. ... This posting is a careful initial report of our findings, not intended to be a full formal analysis but rather to alert people not to rely on R2K's results."
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Daily Kos Pollster Made Up Numbers

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  • Give them credit. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @02:27PM (#32735238)

    Unlike the many Republican outfits which used partly- or wholly-fabricated polls by Strategic Vision, or the many media outlets which continue to use the horribly flawed Rasmussen polls to create eye-catching headlines, Kos immediately dumped the pollster, did an investigation, owned up to the errors publicly, and is now pursuing legal recourse.

    This is exactly how you would expect an honest media organization (if one with a considerable political agenda) to behave. Too bad the mainstream media and those on the other side of the aisle don't seem to want to do the same.

  • Re:To be fair... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RingDev (879105) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @02:33PM (#32735330) Homepage Journal

    [quote]or anything ever aired on "Air America" before it went bankrupt.[/quote]

    I actually liked Rachel Meadow on Air America. Every night she would give the daily death tolls from Iraq and Afghanistan. Something that no other news/talking head program that I have been able to find on my radio dial does. The rest of the line up was pretty 'meh' though.

    -Rick

  • Re:To be fair... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @02:40PM (#32735444)
    Somebody really fucked up the metamoderation. I used to metamoderate all the time when you had to rate moderations as fair, unfair, or neutral. I thought that worked pretty well, but now metamoderation is an up or down vote, and worst of all, by doing so you have tagged the post and it shows up on your damn profile page! I only made that mistake once, and I'm not metamoderating again until that goes away. I don't want my profile page cluttered with random posts from other people.
  • by Z00L00K (682162) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @02:57PM (#32735674) Homepage

    And when you look at it from another perspective - you will probably exclude the nerd section of the population who never answers calls from 800-numbers (or other known junk callers) by using technology to divert the calls into a tarpit or something.

    At least the open source telephony switch Asterisk do have a blacklist function where blacklisted numbers can be stored and used to perform a response like "The number you have dialed is not in use".

    I do run that feature myself - and it's a lot more effective than using those "do not call" registries.

  • by coaxial (28297) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @03:03PM (#32735758) Homepage

    In Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon [wikipedia.org], there's a scene early in the book where the Allies are assembling the personnel for Station X (aka Bletchely Park [bletchleypark.org.uk]). Statistician, turned Nazi codebreaker Lawrence Waterhouse, points out that his Nazi counterpart Rudy von Hacklheber, would notice something was amiss with the Allied personnel changes based the statistics of people being transfered to Bletchely Park, and then quickly deduce that the Allies are attempting to break the Enigma code. To camouflage the transfers, Waterhouse suggests creating ficticious personnel and have some of them transfered to Bletchely Park as well. However the military can't just make any random fake person, the fictious people must be statisitically drawn from a distribution that when added to distribution of real Bletchely Park personnel, the combined distribution is statistically insignificant [wikipedia.org] (i.e. fail to reject the null hypothesis) than any other large military base.

    If Research 2000 did what is suggested, they failed to taint the polls with the right kind of fake data, just like what the novel warned about.

  • by Intron (870560) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @03:13PM (#32735906)
    You've never heard of exit polls? They're pretty much dead on in predicting vote results if done properly. There was some controversy in Bush vs. Kerry about them, it's interesting reading.
  • by Volante3192 (953645) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @03:45PM (#32736392)

    If you took your car in to get an oil change and your mechanic mucked it up, are you to blame for the damage?

  • Re:Give them credit. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Uberbah (647458) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @03:46PM (#32736430)

    until it became public knowledge that he just made things up?

    At which point he was shitcanned. Your point? Whereas Bill Kristol has gotten virtually everything wrong in his entire career, yet still has a job. As do most Iraq-war-supporting pundits.

  • by bonch (38532) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @04:04PM (#32736728)

    What an awful comparison. If you were telling a group of people that your car is in perfect condition, then yes, you are to blame for not verifying the claim.

  • by Volante3192 (953645) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @04:15PM (#32736884)

    And if the mechanic used the wrong type of oil?

    Well, I guess I could do that myself. Unless the factory filled the bottle wrong, so I guess I should refine my own car oil?

    Where up the chain does it stop being 'my fault'?

    Your example is sidestepping the issue of the seemingly trustworthy third party.

  • Re:To be fair... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by spun (1352) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `yranoituloverevol'> on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @04:28PM (#32737142) Journal

    Uh, there is a HUGE fight ongoing at dkos between the Obamabots and the haters, as they refer to each other. It's hilarious. All the real liberals are pissed as fuck at Obama, because he's a conservative in lib clothing, and we all see that now. But on dkos, we see the equivalent of the Bushtards who approved of the dolt until the end. They can not own up to the fact that they were scammed, and so they will defend Obama to the death even as he bends them over the fence for his corporate masters.

  • Re:To be fair... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fishexe (168879) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @04:48PM (#32737436) Homepage

    Who marked the parent troll?

    Probably somebody paying attention to Daily Kos' record. You show me the times and places they've been inaccurate. Note I didn't say biased, I said inaccurate. Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh make things up, they literally lie on air and in print, so throwing them together with Daily Kos, which at worst selectively covers stories that illustrate its world-view, is a troll-worthy attempt to muddy the waters for the benefit of right-wing hacks at the detriment of honest left-wing news outlets.

  • Re:To be fair... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tumbleweed (3706) * on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @04:51PM (#32737508)

    > Obama is not a liberal, as many on the left have discovered to their consternation since the election. ...and as many others on the left knew long before the election.

    True, and I knew that, too, but I didn't know he was going to go all 'Bush Lite' on so MANY issues.

  • Re:To be fair... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by NotBornYesterday (1093817) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @04:53PM (#32737544) Journal
    Those in the Tea Party never chose the name "teabagger". It was an ad-hominem smear by their opponents. Sort of like if Tea Party members called Democrats jackasses. (Hey, not their fault the Dems have a donkey for a symbol ...)

    The Tea Party is made up of lots of people who aren't well represented by the platforms of the two major parties. As such, it has become a place for people to gravitate to if they disagree with the establishment, which means that you have Intelligent Design wackos and Obama birth truthers lumped in with average joes who want good things like smaller government and lower taxes. "Teabagger" is a convenient derogatory term that lets the Tea Party's opponents pretend that they have nothing worth listening to.
  • by tomhath (637240) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @05:47PM (#32738090)
    Kos' sponsors paid R2K for a year and a half because they got the results they wanted to hear, even though everybody knew the results were complete BS. They finally got called out on it so they go into damage control mode....That's good?
  • Re:To be fair... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TheEyes (1686556) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @08:00PM (#32739206)

    Who modded this Troll? He's absolutely correct: the apathy of the middle is why the extremists have taken over the airwaves. We've got "Tea Party" candidates on one side of the aisle talking about using guns to overthrow the government so we can abolish historically low taxes, and we've got crazy utopianists on the other side saying we've got to close all the banks and give the money to the people who pissed their money away in the first place. And what are the rational, facts-based people in the middle doing? Throwing up their hands and ignoring the whole process.

    You want things to change, fine: get off your butt and make a change. If you always do what you've always done, you'll always have what you have right now.

  • Re:To be fair... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by randomencounter (653994) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @10:08AM (#32744926)

    Taking a quick scan of the teaparty.org home page, they seem to be more anti-Democrat than for anything in particular.

    If they were really an organization of principle instead of partisanship they would be trying to push both parties to work with their principles, in particular note their stance on Gen. McChrystal's comments. It doesn't matter whether he was right or wrong, that level of public insubordination is unprofessional and behavior unbecoming an officer in the US military.

    That they have an article supporting him on their home page indicates that they simply hate President Obama, no matter what he does, rather than a principled stand in favor of smaller government and lower taxes.

  • Re:To be fair... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by NotBornYesterday (1093817) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @11:57AM (#32746866) Journal
    I think we're seeing a coalescing of various conservatives and libertarians under the Tea Party like we saw with the Dems and other varieties of liberals under Howard Dean a decade or so ago. There's a lot of conflicting ideas and demands, lots of unfocused anger being referred to as "energy". The most strident, often unreasonable voices are the ones being heard. There are people who should shut their mouths before they hurt themselves and the cause the represent any further.

"The way of the world is to praise dead saints and prosecute live ones." -- Nathaniel Howe

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