Posts about Poll
Were Republican voters under-sampled? Would exclusion of cell phones skew results away from a candidate favored by younger voters? Do we actually expect 69% of registered voters to show up?
These are interesting questions and valid criticisms. But in the end, the poll turned out to be very accurate, almost eerily so.
Let's first compare the election night results with the poll results:
First off, note that the poll gets Perry Redd's and Paul Zuckerberg's election results exactly right, and Michael Brown's small showing justifies his exclusion from the poll. Essentially none of the undecided voters went for Redd, Zuckerberg, or Brown.
Another common criticism of the poll results was that 43% were undecided: with that many undecided, any candidate would seem to have a chance. But a more likely result is that the undecided voters will, in the end, follow the pattern of the already-decided voters. For the four major candidates, we look at this by comparing the election night results to the percent of the decided voters each candidate got in the poll:
Here we see that the results for both Patrick Mara and Anita Bonds nearly exactly match. This tells us that the undecided voters, in the end, broke for Mara and Bonds in exactly the same proportion as the decided voters in the poll had.
On the other hand, when compared with their shares of the decided voters, Matthew Frumin under-performed on election night and Elissa Silverman over-performed. They were, of course, the two most closely-matched candidates, so we can add their totals together to see how the polling predicted their combined performance:
|Frumin + Silverman||38.97%||37%
Their combined share of the decided voters in the polling was within two percentage points of their combined election night totals. The close matches for Mara, Bonds, and Frumin-Silverman show that it's reasonable to presume that the undecideds, even at 43%, will not deviate too strongly from the decideds.
Silverman did get more of the undecided voters than Frumin did, which is evidence of some degree of coalescence. Many would have been happy with either Frumin or Silverman, and perhaps were wavering between the two. When the poll (and other indicators) showed that Silverman was finishing stronger, they gave her their support. From the perspective of the Silverman campaign, though, this was too little and too late.
The first take-away from the numbers is that polling, even in a low-turnout special election in DC, can be very accurate. The second take-away is that polling data which shows one candidate to be stronger than another can lead to support consolidating behind the stronger candidate.
As Patrick Mara reminded us, Tuesday's election was the third one in recent memory in which multiple reform-minded self-styled progressive candidates have split the vote, giving a win to the establishment candidate. (Though others dispute whether Mara can claim the label of "progressive.") Many have wished for a progressive coalition which would rally around a single candidate.
One other thing that this poll has shown is that polling itself does not need to be the exclusive province of the traditional media and the campaigns. If Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps can support a poll, anyone can. We should all thank Adam Eidinger There's no reason a group of like-minded activists couldn't commission it's own timely and transparent polls, and to use their results to consolidate support for the strongest favored candidate.
There's no reason a group of like-minded activists couldn't commission it's own timely and transparent polls, and to use their results to consolidate support for the strongest favored candidate.
A new Washington Post poll shows large majorities of residents favor transit expansion and are generally pleased with the quality of Metro.
62% of respondents said the region should focus its resources on "providing more public transportation options, such as trains or buses," while 30% favored "expanding and building roads" (question 16).
Residents said this despite more listing traffic as the greatest problem facing the region (38%) than any other (question 1), and 65% of those who commute to work driving alone (question 3).
Residents, even those who themselves drive, seem to broadly support the idea that our region must accommodate its growth through transit and transit-oriented development to avoid even greater traffic. 43% of respondents reported not being able to take transit to work (down from 56% in 2005), but still support building transit.
One of the commonly heard arguments against Smart Growth or improved transit is, "I drive, and many people are going to drive, and some people want to live in low-density areas, so we have to spend most of our resources on roads." This poll shows that significant numbers of drivers don't fall into that trap. We have roads, and we have transit. If one-third of commuters don't drive alone, that's a lot of commuters not taking up much space on the roads. For every percentage point the Washignton region improves its mode share, it can add more jobs without adding traffic.
An Action Committee for Transit press release pointed out, "The priority that area residents favor by a majority of more than two to one differs drastically from current spending patterns. The cost of highway expansions now being built in the area, including the Intercounty Connector, the Virginia Beltway toll lanes, Montrose Parkway, and numerous lesser road widenings, dwarfs investments in transit. The only major transit project currently under construction is the Metro Silver Line to Tysons Corner and Dulles Airport."
A Transportation for America survey found similar preferences nationwide, with a supermajority preferring transit expansion to highway spending.
The Post survey also revealed that residents generally feel positively about Metro despite the recent mishaps and constant negative press coverage, sometimes warranted, sometimes not. 80% of Metrorail users and 70% of Metrobus users see their systems positively.
Rail users gave high marks for reliability (75%), comfort (78%), value (72%), and even safety (67%) (question 7). Some of these have declined since 2005, with reliability taking the greatest hit from 87% to 75%; "convenience to your home" and "going to the places that you want to go" increased by one (probably statistically insignificant) point.
Metro is also back to regularly breaking ridership records, recording its second highest ridership day on Friday, beating out the previous #2 record-holder, set the day before. And today is Opening Day for baseball.
Will these results shift the tenor of press coverage? Metro's harshest critics don't seem moved, like Unsuck DC Metro who Tweeted, "April Fools' was last week, guys."
Finally, the poll has sobering news on distracted driving, which U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood calls "an epidemic." 80% of drivers reported frequently seeing others not paying attention on the road, with 61% saying they see it "very often" (question 17). 80% also say they see others driving aggressively.
Of course, few people believe that they are the problem, though some actually do admit to it: 16% say they "very" or "somewhat" often don't pay enough attention, and 12% say they drive aggressively (question 18). But many more admit to certain behaviors that fairly clearly involve not paying attention some of the time: In stop-and-go traffic, 54% say they talk on the phone, 42% say they eat, 23% say they email, text or use the Web, and 14% of women say they put on make-up (question 19).
Large majorities agree it should be illegal to read (92%) and send (94%) text messages and talk on handheld cell phones (76%) while driving (questions 20-23), but 68% still feel it should be legal to talk on a hands-free device despite highway safety groups saying it's just as dangerous.
Update: Added mention of Transportation for America survey.
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