Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Latest Georgia Poll

Good story via the AJC on the latest Georgia polling. I'm going to focus just on the U.S. Senate race between Michelle Nunn and David Perdue. According to the poll (more details on it here):
  •  Perdue 49 percent
  • Nunn 41 percent
If you're a Perdue fan you're loving it. If you're a Nunn fan, not so much. But this is an interesting poll. It uses humans to call landlines and cell phones, the "gold standard" of polling. That's a plus. It only called 436 likely voters. That's a small N, so small that the margin of error is 4.7 percent. In other words, based on the margin of error:
  • Nunn's real number could be from 36.3 - 48.7 percent.
  • Perdue's real number could be from 44.3 to 53.7 percent.
 So the numbers overlap, meaning from a strictly statistical sense it's a tie. Still, you also look at trends and some of the more recent polls have all showed Perdue ahead, so the real question to me isn't so much who will get the most votes next week as it is whether Nunn can keep it to a runoff in which, historically, she's likely to lose anyway. But that's another post for another day, necessary only if there is a runoff.

Interestingly, this poll is 55 percent female and, even so, Nunn does poorly. I'm not sure exactly what that means, if anything. There's no racial breakdown provided, but the poll does a nice job of find likely voters. See below:
Georgia voters drawn from a list of registered voters who voted in at least one of the last four general or primary elections and indicate they are likely to vote in the upcoming election.

Slouching Toward a Curriculum

The UGA journalism department, now made up of the old j-dept. and broadcast news, voted earlier today on its new curriculum. I wrote about it some time ago and the latest version looks close enough to it to let earlier version be your guide. Basically it's heavy on skills classes, heavy on newsroom work, heavy on students getting exposure to lots of different skills, such as work in video. The old 3410 lecture-lab class, for example, will go away. Students will do capstone classes tied either to the broadcast of NewsSource or work to put stuff on its web site (plus, of course, still doing stuff for R&B, etc.). Specialties include investigative reporting and there are classes in data and coding.

There were two votes against it, perhaps due to the overly undergrad aspect to the curriculum and its lack of flexibility, both reasonable arguments. One of the negative voters asked three or four questions, but never offered explicit criticisms. The other "no" vote didn't say a thing. In full disclosure, I'm not as happy about the new curriculum as others are, but I think it's an interesting approach and worth a try. I worry we may be creating generalists, not specialists. But I may be wrong (words, by the way, you'd never hear uttered by our two "no" vote faculty who, best I can tell after all these years, are never wrong about anything. Nor do they ever laugh at funny stuff in meetings. Sheesh.).

Okay, so what's next? The package of classes is sent later today to the Grady College curriculum committee. Assuming no problems there, it'll go to the Dec. 10 meeting of the entire Grady faculty. Assuming no problems there (yeah, yeah, lots of assuming), it'll head "up the hill" to the university curriculum process.

We hope to have a new and improved curriculum in place by Spring 2015. Nothing happens fast at a big university, unless of course the president or provost or athletic department really want it, then stuff happens really really fast. Funny how that works.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Topsy Turvy Georgia Senate Race

A fresh new SurveyUSA poll is just out and it flips the Nunn-Perdue U.S. Senate race. As they report:
One week ago, Nunn led Republican David Perdue by 2 points, 46% to 44%. Today, in a dramatic reversal, Perdue is on top, 48% to 45%, a 5-point right turn in one of the nation’s most high-visibility contests.
So, huh? Is this real movement? A statistical blip? They make a lot of that "5-point right turn" when, honestly, all of this is within the margin of error. There's some interesting stuff, though. For example:
Among women, where Perdue had trailed by 13 points and now trails by just 2. And among core Republicans, where Perdue’s 84-point advantage is the largest it has been in 7 WXIA-TV tracking polls going back to 08/18/14. There is movement to Perdue among seniors, where he now leads by 25 points. Worse for Nunn: among voters who tell SurveyUSA they have already returned a ballot, Perdue leads by 10 points.
That doesn't bode well for you Nunn fans. Yes, this is a robo-poll, but so was the previous one.  

If I have time, I'll dig deeper into the weighting and such to try and understand what, if anything, is happening.

When Research Goes ... Wrong

The problem with real-world experiments is, sometimes, they involve the real world. And the real world doesn't often fully, um, appreciate your efforts. Case in point, this political research study (via colleague Karen Russell). I may add my own comments later.

Update 1

I posted this to one of my listervs (AAPORNet), which is made up of folks who do political polling and public opinion research, and asked if anyone had any thoughts about it or knew much about it. Instantly had 93 hits on the link, but not a single response on the listserv. So far.

Update 2

Now up to 270 clicks, though some from another listserv of data journalists. Also links to responses to this that ably criticize the criticism of the field experiment.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Georgia Senate Race

How close is the U.S. Senate race between Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue? Check out HuffPo's polling summary in the last few days just on this race.

I've analyzed these recent polls already, but what sticks out for me is how well Swafford does in the AJC poll (6 percent) versus the CBS/NYT/YouGove poll (1 percent).  The two polls agree with a slight (within the margin of error) lead for Perdue, The CNN poll has Swafford with 5 percent of the vote and a Nunn lead (again, within margin of error), so it's hard to say what's going on here other than it's going to be a close race and will probably result in a runoff -- in which Perdue (I'm thinking) will have an advantage.

The highest Perdue has ever been in all Georgia polls is 50 percent (Insider/Advantage on 9/10-11) and the highest Nunn has ever been is 47 percent (multiple times).

Luckily the election will be soon. The only reason we have elections, after all, is to find out which poll was right.

Friday, October 24, 2014


It's a nice Friday, so briefly with little discussion I point to this study about how voters become misinformed. As the abstract notes:
Our analysis reveals that voters' values and partisanship had the strongest associations with distorted beliefs, which then influenced voting choices. Self-reported levels of exposure to media and campaign messages played a surprisingly limited role.
This is not unlike what I found in beliefs about Obama. Really, it's more to do with what people choose to believe. Exposure to even correcting information appears to have little influence except, some studies suggest, in the direction of believing even more strongly in the conspiracy theory or misinformation.


I've written before, first here, and then here, about UGA likely salivating over the idea of being invited to the prom -- better known as the Association of American Universities. The AAU is the snobby elite group of research universities in north America. I hadn't given it any more thought after my two September posts until today when, in a fit of boredom, I glanced at the University Council executive committee's proposed agenda and saw this routine item about an update for the university's "parental policies."  It opens with this line:
As part of improving the national standing of UGA and implementing policies that are more in line with AAU universities ...
I find that fascinating. And telling. Is UGA trolling for an invite? You can't ask to join, you have to be invited (see my earlier posts for how the process works). Just to check, I did a quick search of the UGA site for any mention of AAU or Association of American Universities. I didn't find any smoking guns, no other memos, no other instances of a vast AAU conspiracy afoot.

I should point out The Red & Black did a story on this in 2012. It's worth the read. And, perhaps, an update.