November 5, 2012
By Alec Brooks
I recently had a chance to talk with blogger Craig Gilbert as a part of a class. Gilbert, who works for the Journal-Sentinel and blogs at the Wisconsin Voter blog, warned us that there’s still a one in 20 chance that the data is off by more than the margin of error. This is even ignoring the possible mistakes the pollster could have made.
That meant that a single poll is no more than a single data point. It becomes valuable when aggregated with other recent polls. A poll showing a bigger lead than previous polls could either be the result of statistical noise or a pollster’s mistake. It could also indicate an actual change.
So what does the last blitz of polls show?
PRESIDENTIAL RACE – OBAMA 51 PERCENT, ROMNEY 43 PERCENT
We can see that Obama’s edge has remained steady over the past week. However, the average lead is smaller than what Marquette and St. Norbert gave him on Oct. 25.
Whether this is due to a minuscule gain by Romney or statistical noise is hard to tell. Some national measures of the race — including Rasmussen’s tracking poll — show a slight increase in Obama’s lead over the past few days.
Polls agree that Obama is more popular among Wisconsin’s likely voters, whether the lead has grown remains ambiguous. Unless you have reason to think polls are systematically wrong in the president’s favor, that translates to an actual lead.
SENATE RACE- BALDWIN 47 PERCENT, THOMPSON 43 PERCENT
The Senate race has been more volatile. Both candidates have shown a lead in the polls over the course of the past week, but the majority of the polls show a narrow lead for Tammy Baldwin.
The margin is small enough that Baldwin cannot get complacent — and that Thompson has no reason to give up.
As fun as it is to muse, we’ll only know in about 24 hours — when the results come in after Wisconsin’s polling places close at 8 p.m. on election night.