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Round 1: What the Lying, Corrupt Narcissist Must Do

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

donald-trump (1)There’s one essential challenge facing Republican nominee (!) Donald Trump in Monday night’s First Round debate, and it’s monumental: Stand on the stage at Hofstra University and appear to be a plausible president and commander in chief.

After more than a year of peddling lies, bluster, self-obsession, lies, racism, incitements to violence and lies, while soiling U.S. politics, degrading the nation’s culture and spewing lies, Despicable Donald has 90-minutes in which to sell himself as a leader credible, smart and prudent enough to prevent a mass panic among half the country’s population, who otherwise are likely to flee in short order to Canada, Tuscany and the island of Corfu.

This just in: Trump seeks late-breaking deal on character transplant.

Why would he need one? Because, as it always is, the No. 1 challenge for any candidate in a general election debate is to look and sound like a president.

hillaryclinton1Fun with numbers. Perhaps it’s merely a Calbuzz failure of benighted imagination, but it’s unfathomable for us to envision Americans electing as president a person they overwhelmingly agree is unfit for the office.

Check out these findings from Sunday’s big Washington Post poll of likely voters, widely ignored amid all the breathless coverage about a horserace dead heat (thereby triggering a nasty outbreak of enuresis among West Coast libs from Cape Flattery to Border Field State Park):

–Nearly six in ten (57-40%) say he’s simply “not qualified to be president.” Six in ten say Clinton is.

–Nearly two-thirds (61-35%) say he lacks the “personality and temperament” to be president. A large majority (56-41%) says she has it.

–A landslide majority (59-38%) say he does not “know enough about the world to serve effectively” as the nation’s chief executive. By 67-29%, likely voters say she does.

And, for good measure, a solid majority (54-38%) says they “trust” her more to handle an international crisis.

And, yes,  we’re cherry picking numbers a bit (the belief that Trump would do a substantially better job, by 50-34%, in “handling ethics in government,” for example, sent us promptly to our fainting couches).

In a survey that shows a wash in how the two would handle the economy and terrorism, the electorate’s top two issues, however, the widespread belief that the troll-haired melon head possesses neither the aptitude nor ability to reside in the White House seems determinative to us.

fistinfaceWhat Hillary must do. As for Clinton, her opening strategy should be Hippocratic: first do no harm.

She probably should spend the first 5-10 minutes or so rope-a-doping, to see if Trump is choosing to play the wild man card; if so, be prepared to deliver one short, sharp and powerful punch to the bully’s face that will reveal him for the overbearing sexist pig he is, to leave him whining, raging and limp. She might make a quick slashing attack, taunting him for not releasing his taxes because they’ll show he’s not really all that rich, for example.

If, on the other hand, he tries to playact as if he’s a normal person, Clinton must be aggressive in making him pay for his repulsive record as an alleged human, and his campaign’s countless vicious, violent and racist statements and actions (it’s a good bet Lester Dolt Holt won’t do it).

wakeupWake up the kids, it’s time to vote. As a political matter, one of Clinton’s most important missions over the three debates is to win over 18-to-34 year old millennial voters, who right now are tending dangerously towards third party candidates Gary Johnson or Jill Stein. Not only must she highlight the existential dangers of a Trump presidency, she also needs to present a positive rationale for her candidacy that goes beyond I’m-not-Trump and fires up younger voters and other key factions of the Obama coalition now tepid about her campaign.

The fact that a substantial majority of the entire electorate presumes that Clinton is not honest is bad enough. However, that belief is magnified strikingly among the munchkin class: According to the Quinnipiac Poll, the 18-34 cohort judges her dishonest by an extraordinary ratio of 77 percent to 21 percent. (Of course, there’s never been a time since they’ve been alive that the Clintons weren’t under attack from the right and falsely accused of everything from murder to corruption to treason.)

As millennial Daily Beast political reporter James Kirchick recently wrote of his cohorts:

There’s something deeper, and darker, about millennial opposition to Clinton and the attendant blitheness toward the prospect of a Trump presidency. It’s best described as a mix of moral relativism, historical ignorance, and narcissism …

millennials“[The] main reason for millennial apathy toward the possibility of a Trump victory, I suspect, is a lack of historical understanding. Millennials, particularly American ones, are too young to have any memories of the Cold War, never mind World War II, when fascists ruled Europe and millions of people died as a result. Trump’s echoes of fascist movements past has no resonance with us.

Worse, when you combine a lack of historical knowledge — abortion has been fully legal in their lifetime, for example — with a belief that no one will ever take away the rights they’ve enjoyed all their lives (“It can’t happen here”), what you get is a generation that simply has no sense of the vital stakes in this election.

You might think they’re morons. They’re not, necessarily. But they sure are ignorant.

P.S. Best What-Hillary-Must-Do column we’ve seen was penned by former Obama political brain-truster David Axelrod. It’s here.

Cage Match of the Marks: Senate Polling Miasma

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

loretta sanchez Kamala HarrisBehind the news:
California A.G. Kamala Harris remains the favorite against Representative and sister Democrat Loretta Sanchez in the race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Senator Babs Boxer.

However, California’s top two pollsters – Mark DiCamillo of the Field Poll and Mark Baldassare of the Public Policy Institute of California (Mark I and Mark II), differ sharply in their findings on how close the race stands.

Field has Harris over Sanchez 42-20%, a gigonda 22-point lead and a big boost from Field’s July survey, which Harris led by 15 points at 39-24%. However, PPIC has it Harris leading 32-25%, a narrower 7-point gap and a tightening from their July survey when Harris led by 18 points, 38-20%.

Amid drastic, previously unannounced changes in survey methodology (Mark I), and the failure to use the ballot designations voters will see (Mark II), the most inexplicable difference between their polls is the huge contrast in their findings among Latino voters – a factor that dramatically affects the MSM narrative about the race (and as we note later, the Vegas odds).

twomarksQue pasa? In a nutshell: Field, who had Sanchez leading Harris 32-21% among Latinos in June and 49-24% in July (which intuitively made sense), now – after changing from its gold-standard practice of calling actual voters to an online experimental method – shows Harris ahead among Latinos 35-34% (which intuitively seems whacko). PPIC, who had Sanchez leading 45-29% among Latinos in July, now shows Sanchez crushing Harris among Latinos 58-16% — a massive 42-point advantage in that important voting bloc.

That, dear Calbuzzers, is a head-snapping difference. If all you care about is who will win the Senate seat, fine and dandy – Harris is your best bet. But if you care to understand why or what affects California voters, this is a disturbing lack of clarity.

One problem Field has with its new methodology was that finding Latino voters able and willing to participate in an on-line survey meant relying on fewer than half as many Latino voters as PPIC reached on the phone. And whether those on-line Latinos were typical of Latino voters generally is a pretty sketchy prospect.

For political professionals, pollsters, analysts and campaign technicians, understanding the dynamics that affect a race, especially among target populations, is important stuff. When top-ranked surveys differ so radically, no one knows what or if anything has influenced voters.

Confusion PortraitAt least somebody’s awake. The alert Matthew Artz at the Mercury News pressed DiCamillo about the shift in the Latino vote:

“You can see that among Latinos, the initial support for Sanchez had a lot to do with the recognition that she had a Latino surname,” DiCamillo said. “That put her in the early lead (with Latinos). Now more voters at least have some inkling of who the candidates are.”

Huh?

Since not much “on the ground” has happened in the race that seems to make this a logical explanation, beyond a few come-and-go big name endorsements for Dem establishment candidate Harris (starting with President Obama), Calbuzz asked DiCamillo to further explain his analysis:

“It was my judgment that voters, in the absence of lots of specific information about candidates, look for cues to guide their judgments. Usually the strongest cue that they rely on is party.  However, in this race both candidates are of the same party. So, they then look for other cues. Often times gender differences can be a deciding factor.

“But again in this race both candidates are of the same gender. So, it is my belief that one of the more powerful cues in the early polls was the differences in the names of the candidates, especially among Latinos, since they could recognize Sanchez as a Latina,” DiCamillo said in an email.

“However, as the candidates become better known, it is my belief that the influence of the name as a cue recedes and is replaced by other information that voters have learned about the candidates.

“In our latest poll, we see that majorities of voters, including a majority of Latinos, can offer an opinion about both candidates.  And, the very positive image that Latino voters now have about Harris is for many Latinos now overriding the power of their earlier preference for Sanchez based on her being a Latina.  It’s obviously still a factor, just not as big.”

Um, okay.

This is most uncharacteristic conjecture by DiCamillo. We say conjecture because there are no data to back it up and, well, it kinda defies logic – to suggest that Latino voters would abandon a credible Latina congresswoman.

To us, it makes more sense that the Field Poll’s sex change switch to an online survey methodology captured the opinions of atypical Latino voters. Unfortunately, the Field Poll didn’t ask a favorability question about Harris and Sanchez in its June or July polls, which might shed some light on the matter, and PPIC doesn’t ask a favorability question at all.

M8DADOF EC056Mystery deepens. In Field’s latest survey, 98% of Latinos had an opinion about Sanchez and it was 57% favorable and 41% unfavorable — +16%. Among Latinos, 91% had an opinion about Harris and it was 71% favorable and 20% unfavorable — +51%. Again, that’s with the unexpected and unfamiliar internet panel.

The last time we know of that Field asked favorability about Harris and Sanchez was eons ago politically, in January 2016 in live interviews by phone, Sanchez had a 49-13% favorable rating among Latinos (+36%) and Harris had a 37-14% rating (+23%). More Latinos had an opinion about Sanchez (62%) than had an opinion about Harris (51%).

Just for good measure, DiCamillo has pointed at least some California reporters to the fact that PPIC didn’t include ballot designations in its questions, i.e., they didn’t refer to Kamala Harris, Attorney General of California, and Loretta Sanchez, United States Congresswoman, unlike Mark I.

That’s a five-yard penalty in the Calbuzz Official Polling Rule Book, too. But at least PPIC has been consistent in how it refers to the candidates over time and their entire play book hasn’t radically switched in the middle of the game.

sad elephantGOPers vote with their feet. The two Democrats advanced from the June open primary, leaving many Republicans without a candidate they care to support; this might help explain PPIC’s Mark’s most salient issue in his poll: 43% of voters say they won’t vote at all in the Senate race, or they don’t know who they’d support. That compares to just 6% in the presidential race.

As for the notion that Latinos have shifted to Harris because they no longer are persuaded by Sanchez’s surname:

“I don’t have any evidence to show that, and as an observer, there hasn’t been the kind of activity or coverage in the media that would suggest there’d be any significant shift in candidate preference.”

“We’ve done three polls and in each one Harris is ahead and a lot of people don’t know what they’re going to do,” he said. “Latinos are supporting Sanchez by sizable margins in our polls,” he added.

Interestingly, two-thirds (66%) of Latinos say they’re satisfied with their choice in the Senate race, compared to just 42% of whites, according to PPIC.

A brief digression. (As long as we’re ranting about polling, here’s a factoid for all the Democratic bed-wetters about the national polling that shows Hillary Clinton only slightly ahead of Despicable Donald: the average winning percentage of presidential candidates since 1824, when the people started electing presidents directly, is 51.36%. What matters is what happens in the Electoral College, which means Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Iowa, etc. Keep your eye on the ball, people.)

bookieCalbuzz – Too Big to Fail? There’s one more, very practical, reason why the DiCamillo-Baldassare cage match matters: their polls shape how we set the betting line for the Senate race.

Sure, the contest as of today looks like a walkover for Queen Kamala, but the divergent surveys suggest there’s still volatility with more than a month to go. So there’s plenty of action to be had laying down on the Over-Under – i.e. wagering on the margin of victory (N.B. for those who like long shots, Vinnie “The Vig,” Capelli d’Angelo, our Las Vegas Bureau Chief and Sporting Life Consultant, is also offering 35-to-1 odds on a Sanchez win).

When last heard from, our bookie was fleecing us on our daft and rash wager favoring the low-energy Jeb Bush to win the Republican presidential nomination.

Full disclosure: Our Bushman bet made us the web site version of Lehman Bros: when a sharp downturn in advertising revenues (btw: Buy Now – Crazy Calbuzz is still offering 2009 rates! Plenty of free parking) left us a little shy of the requisite cash, he started compounding the vigorish on a weekly basis. Let’s just say he’s getting a little impatient for his money.

So we’re looking to make a score on the Senate race Over-Under: our number today is 10 ½ points – if the winner finishes 11 points or more ahead of runner-up, you win; 11 and under, you owe us.

Place your bets.

P.S. Further disclosure — We already owe Mark I dinner for a bet on Clinton’s victory margin over Bernie Sanders which was, in the end 7.1% We were closer, but over. Aagh, more nonstop compounding interest.

Clinton, Harris Lead; Field Poll Goes Online (Yow!)

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

hillaryanimatedHillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by 17 percentage points in the race for California’s 55 electoral votes, down from 24 points in July, while Kamala Harris has expanded her lead over Loretta Sanchez in the U.S. Senate race to 22 percentage points, up from 15 points in the same time span, according to new survey data from the Field Poll and the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley.

Nothing too surprising there: Clinton 50-33%, with 17% for others or undecided; Harris 42-20% with 26% undecided and 12%, mostly Republicans, not voting since no GOP contender made it into the finals.

kamalaharrisIs it real or Memorex? What’s horrifying shocking stunning surprising is that the Field Poll, widely regarded as one of the most accurate survey firms in the country, suddenly switched up its methodology, abandoning calls to known registered voters with a history of voting, to use an internet panel provided by YouGov.

For those who care about polling – including Calbuzz – this is shocking. Not that we have anything but the highest regard for Mark DiCamillo at the Field Poll and Professor Jack Citrin, at UC Berkeley’s IGS. But even with YouGov, a creation of Professor Doug Rivers at Stanford, providing the panel, and with DiCamillo weighting the data to approximate California’s voting population, this is like Ghiradelli suddenly announcing they’ve switched from sugar to Splenda.

The overall results may turn out to be OK in terms of who wins and who loses California. That’s easy. But explaining how or why or what the state’s voters tell us about what is happening nationally is far less satisfying. For example, how do you explain that Latinos in California favored Clinton 71-9% over Trump in July but now it’s 61-21%? Do we really believe Clinton lost 10 points and Trump picked up 12 points among Latinos? Or that blacks went from 80-5% for Clinton in July to 77-13% in September?

No, we do not.

But the Field/IGS/YouGov poll says so.

dicamilloSwitch hitter. DiCamillo – who for years has argued that no online panel can actually stand in for a random sample of actual voters – says he was persuaded to give it a try because there are so many ballot propositions in California and they are so complex that a pollster who tries to read the ballot summaries to telephone respondents can’t keep them focused and engaged.

He readily acknowledges there are weaknesses to the methodology – and he had to weight the final data for Spanish speakers, older voters, non-party-preference voters and others in order to match known frequencies. But since 90% or more of California registered voters have internet access, he thought it was worth a try to see if he could get more accurate measures on the ballot props.

And hey, lots of respected pollsters are trying to figure out how to deal with declining response rates for telephone surveys and they’re struggling to figure out ways to recreate the accuracy of probability sampling with cheaper internet surveys.

CourtneyPew is on the case. There’s a long way to go. As our old friend Courtney Kennedy, director of survey research at the Pew Research Center, said in a recent study of internet panels:

We found that not all online surveys perform equally well. A key reason seems to be the different methods employed by vendors. One of the nine nonprobability samples clearly performed better than the others, and it seems to be related to the fact that they use a more sophisticated set of statistical adjustments, both in selecting their sample and weighting their results [This, we understand, was YouGov] Our conclusions about why that sample performed the best are preliminary, though, because we have just one survey from that vendor and the relevant design features were not experimentally tested within that survey.

One of the other major findings was that, in general, subgroup estimates from these samples for blacks and Hispanics were very inaccurate. Almost all the samples were off by double digits – more than 10 percentage points – on average in their estimates for blacks and Hispanics. That is quite concerning for researchers like us who study the experiences of different groups within the U.S. population.

Quick PEW: there may be hope for online surveys but the jury’s still out.

trumpfaceChicken hawks come home to roost. Even with all our reservations about the Field/IGS polling methodology, it makes sense that overall, Clinton stayed at 50% and Trump rose to 33%, up from 26% in July. Why? Because the Republican voters – apparently — are accepting they have no other real choice.

Back in July, Clinton was pulling 81% of Democrats in a three-way race and Trump was winning just 64% of Republicans. In the new survey, Clinton has 85% of Democrats and Trump has 84% of Republicans. (Of course, because the sample is not of actual registered voters, the pollsters are relying on respondents themselves to say how they’re registered to vote – not always a reliable factoid, especially without sophisticated questions to weed out those who aren’t really registered or who don’t know how they’re registered).

pollingFor the deep divers. Here’s part of what the Field Poll reported about its methodology:

The findings in this report come from a survey of California voters conducted jointly by The Field Poll and the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. The survey was completed online by YouGov September 7-13, 2016 in English and Spanish among 1,800 registered voters in California, including 1,426 considered likely to vote in the November 2016 general election.

In order to cover a broad range of issues and still minimize possible respondent fatigue, some of the questions included in this report are based on a random subsample of voters statewide. YouGov administered the survey among a sample of the California registered voters who were included as part of its online panel of over 1.5 million U.S. residents.

Eligible panel members were asked to participate in the poll through an invitation email containing a link to the survey. YouGov selected voters using a proprietary sampling technology frame that establishes interlocking targets, so that the characteristics of the voters selected approximate the demographic and regional profile of the overall California registered voter population. To help ensure diversity among poll respondents, YouGov recruits its panelists using a variety of methods, including web-based advertising and email campaigns, partner-sponsored solicitations, and telephone-to-web recruitment or mail-to-web recruitment. Difficult-to-reach populations are supplemented through more specialized recruitment efforts, including telephone and mail surveys.

The Field Poll and the Institute of Governmental Studies were jointly responsible for developing all questions included in the survey. After survey administration, YouGov forwarded its data file to The Field Poll for processing. The Field Poll then took the lead in developing and applying post-stratification weights to more precisely align the sample to Field Poll estimates of the demographic characteristics of the California registered voter population both overall and by region. The Field Poll was also responsible for determining which voters in the survey were considered most likely to vote in this year’s election.

Polls conducted online using an opt-in panel do not easily lend themselves to the calculation of sampling error estimates as are traditionally reported for random sample telephone surveys.

Bottom Line That last sentence is important. It says in essence: because this was not a probability sample, we have no way of actually telling you what the margin of error is.