Friday, October 12, 2018

It all comes down to WHO votes

The New York Times recently featured the Senate contest in Nevada where Congresswoman Jacky Rosen (D) is running to unseat sitting Senator Dean Heller (R), in one of their live action Sienna College/Upshot polls. They called over 25,000 Nevadans, talked with 642 (a normal response rate), and concluded that the incumbent is up 2 percent over the challenger during three days in the first full week of October, 25 days out from the election. This outcome is in line with many other polls, though many show Rosen up by a similar slim margin. Most of the professional political prognosticators rate the contest a "tossup."

Until the Times polled this race I'm working on, I thought their live polls were kind of a tacky gimmick. Sure -- it was fun to watch little lights twinkle across a map of the state, representing each call as it happened. But this was also meaning-free. However, along with the visual sparkle, the Times published an interesting dissection of how pollsters might interpret the responses which I've captured here and seems worth picking apart.
Pollsters can never be sure what the characteristics of people moved to vote in a particular election will prove to be. When they guess wrong about the composition of the electorate, their assessments will be wrong. As as general rule, especially in low profile races, the same people --older, whiter, better off -- vote every time. But when an election is higher profile, the electorate can be different.

Reading down the snippet above, this poll estimates that if only the people who voted in 2014 come out, Heller wins running away. But as more people are moved to vote, the result changes. If the people who voted in 2016 were to vote -- when Hillary Clinton and the Senate's only Latina member Catherine Cortez-Masto were on the ballot -- Jacky Rosen runs away with the election.

Nevada is blue when more citizens vote. Our job in Reno is to make sure that people who only vote some years cast their ballots this year. If we do our job -- if we can convey the necessity of voting this year -- Jacky Rosen becomes a Democratic Senator. It is that simple. Join us.

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