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Friday, October 19, 2012

On Likely Voters, Likely Outcomes, and Other Gleanings from Yesterday's Washington Poll

Posted by on Fri, Oct 19, 2012 at 10:09 AM

As I've already posted, the biggest news from yesterday's KCTS9/Washington Poll is that the R-74 marriage equality referendum is in a good position to win. But, "the biggest surprise," according to pollster Matt Barreto? "It's possible that we could legalize pot."

Not likely, but possible, emphasizes Barreto. If he had to bet, Barreto would put his money on R-74 and Tim Eyman's loathsome I-1185 to pass, and the marijuana legalizing I-502 to fail. (I-1240, the charter schools initiative, is in a category by itself. The polling data suggests that it would likely fail, but the $9 million in unopposed money hitting the airwaves suggests otherwise.)

The pro-pot forces have already spent $5.3 million on their campaign, while the anti-pot forces are nearly invisible. Yet I-502 is barely above 50 percent, 50.9 to to 40.8, among registered voters, and a few points below, 47.1 to 40.1 among likely voters. Typically, initiatives tend to break heavily toward the No side as election day approaches—when in doubt, undecideds tend to stick with the status quo—so this isn't a great place for I-502 to be. But it's within striking distance. A win is possible. And if backers dump in another couple million dollars, they might just get it.

A similar scenario is true for I-1240, which despite $7.6 million in spending, has failed to climb past the 50 percent mark with either registered or likely voters, scoring 47.5-39.2 and 48.8-40.1 percent respectively. That's not a great place for an initiative to be just a few weeks before an election. But the billionaires backing the charter schools measure (Bill Gates: $3 million, Alice "Walmart" Walton: $1.7 million, Bezos family: $1 million, Nick Hanauer: $1 million) are virtually unopposed. "Unless they overplay their hand," says Barreto, "if the Yes campaign is managed correctly," then he thinks this overwhelming money advantage will push I-1240 over the top.

Past charter schools No campaigns have been funded by the teachers unions, but with limited resources, the teachers had to make a choice between fighting I-1240 and backing Jay Inslee for governor. They chose Inslee.

Which brings us to the governor's race.

The poll found Inslee leading Rob McKenna 47.9 to 44.7 percent among registered voters, a margin quite similar to that found in other recent polls. But Inslee's lead slips to only 47.1-46.3 among likely voters, not a very statistically significant margin. So which is the more reliable number, registered voters or likely voters?

"I don't like likely voter," says Barreto, calling the calculation "completely subjective." He says he provides a likely voter estimate—largely based on prior voting records—because that's what other polls do, but since each pollster has their own likely voter model, registered voter numbers make for a more apples to apples comparison.

As for his own model, Barreto says that "likely voters are definitely older ... they tend to look more conservative." But largely, he explains, that's because older voters are more conservative and have a more established voting record. The youngest voters, on the other hand, the most liberal-leaning age group, almost by definition cannot be likely voters because they haven't yet had the chance to establish a voting record.

Barreto's second wave of polling data, to be released just days before the election, should close that registered/likely voter gap, as it will include substantial data from voters who have already their cast their ballots. And you can't get much more likely than that.

And finally, a comment from Barreto about margin of error, and how it applies to the governors race. It is true, Barreto says, that Inslee's small but consistent lead in the polls is well within the margin error. But... "If every single poll always shows that Inslee has a two point lead," says Barreto, "then guess what? Inslee has a two point lead."


Comments (17) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
I seem to recall 1183 polling at under 50% in favor headed into Election Day last year. And then it passed with 60%. So really, what do we know?
Posted by Chali2Na on October 19, 2012 at 10:14 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 2
It's likely I already voted.

Ah, the peace of ignoring phone calls.
Posted by Will in Seattle on October 19, 2012 at 10:16 AM · Report this
Catherwood 3
"The poll found Inslee leading Rob McKenna 47.9 to 44.7 percent among likely voters...But Inslee's lead slips to only 47.1-46.3 among likely voters."

WTF? Did someone leave out some critical words here? Because reading on from there it continues to make no sense. I'm especially taken with the point that young voters cannot be likely voters because they haven't established a voting record. Pure idiocy: what he MEANS is, I can't characterize young voters because I don't have their voting record, NOT that they're unlikely to vote, which is an entirely different question.
Posted by Catherwood on October 19, 2012 at 10:19 AM · Report this
Garfield 4
"The poll found Inslee leading 47.9 to 44.7% among likely voters. But his lead slips to only 47.1-46.3 among likely voters." Huh??
Posted by Garfield on October 19, 2012 at 10:23 AM · Report this
Goldy 5
@3, @4 Already fixed that. It's registered voters vs. likely voters."
Posted by Goldy on October 19, 2012 at 10:27 AM · Report this
California's marijuana Prop 19 broke towards the Yes side in 2010, although eventually losing by a few points. Care to provide some actual research on your assertion that "initiatives tend to break heavily toward the No side," in particular for an issue like marijuana or alcohol? Yes on 502!
Posted by mcnulty on October 19, 2012 at 10:29 AM · Report this
Goldy 7
@6 Well, I suppose if I had the time I could find you the research, but I assure you that those people most familiar with the ballot measure industry will tell you that absent a lopsided media campaign, undecideds TEND to break toward the no vote. Note in my post the use of the word "TEND." There are exceptions. But anecdotal evidence aside, I stand by my assertion.
Posted by Goldy on October 19, 2012 at 10:44 AM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 8
I think we can all agree that no matter the outcome of many of the races, we can look forward to a November filled with re-counts, demands for re-counts and court challenges to the election results.

If there is one thing we should have learned by now, if you don't like an election result bring on litigation.
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on October 19, 2012 at 10:50 AM · Report this
Goldy 9
@8 Actually, no. Recounts are rare, particularly in statewide races. Even rarer are lawsuits challenging the outcome of elections. (Lawsuits challenging the the constitutionality of ballot measures, that's different.)
Posted by Goldy on October 19, 2012 at 10:53 AM · Report this
MacCrocodile 10
@9 - Maybe we're jaded by the multitude of recounts and close calls we've seen in the last twelve years.
Posted by MacCrocodile on October 19, 2012 at 11:03 AM · Report this
Goldy 11
@10, I think they just seem like close calls due to how slow the results come in. But in fact, the only statewide recounts I can think of were Gregoire/Rossi in 2004 and Cantwell/Gorton in 2000.
Posted by Goldy on October 19, 2012 at 11:32 AM · Report this
MacCrocodile 12
@11 - That's in Washington, which I see was your point, but perhaps our increased exposure to the national political stage makes it seem like more. There was the recount in Florida in 2000, and the recounts and lawsuits over Al Franken's victory in Minnesota.
Posted by MacCrocodile on October 19, 2012 at 3:09 PM · Report this
You want to know how to drive one of the phone volunteers nuts? Politely listen to the whole thing. Then at the end, say, "Dang it, I mailed in my ballot yesterday and I voted for (name of the opponent, or the opposite position in the referendum). I sure wish you had called 24 hours ago, because I never would have voted that way if I only knew."

That'll teach 'em to call at dinner time.
Posted by Mister G on October 19, 2012 at 3:54 PM · Report this
Or better yet: "R-74? Damn right I voted to reject that one. Someone's got to tell the religious nutcases to mind their own business!"
Posted by Mister G on October 19, 2012 at 3:56 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 15
@13 for the win.

And then shout "Seattle Oilers! RAH! RAH! RAH!" at the close.

That will confuse the heck out of 'em.
Posted by Will in Seattle on October 19, 2012 at 4:16 PM · Report this
zombie eyes 16
Anyone, including the fully baked who bothered to read the pot referendum would have to vote against it. Hand someone sitting next to you at a party your joint and you're committing a class one felony distribution offense.
Posted by zombie eyes on October 20, 2012 at 8:25 AM · Report this
#16, I will vote against every form of legalized marijuana just for the hell of it.
Posted by Mister G on October 20, 2012 at 9:34 PM · Report this

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