Silver on Gallup's Galloping Numbers

10.19.12 5:26 PM ET

As you know, liberals have been sweating bullets about the Gallup Daily Tracking poll, which yesterday had Mittens up seven (and today is back down to 6). It keeps going more and more in his direction--five, six, sebbin, as my daughter says. It's clearly been an outlier. Other polls, even Rasmussen, not that I put any stock in it, have the horse race inching back toward Obama the last couple of days, and the Potus leads in I think it's six of the seven national polls, although often by narrow margins.

Well, Nate Silver demolishes Gallup today:

[BQ]n 2008, the Gallup poll put Mr. Obama 11 points ahead of John McCain on the eve of that November’s election.

That was tied for Mr. Obama’s largest projected margin of victory among any of the 15 or so national polls that were released just in advance of the election. The average of polls put Mr. Obama up by about seven points.

The average did a good job; Mr. Obama won the popular vote by seven points. The Gallup poll had a four-point miss, however.

In 2010, Gallup put Republicans ahead by 15 points on the national Congressional ballot, higher than other polling firms, which put Republicans an average of eight or nine points ahead instead.

In fact, Republicans won the popular vote for the United States House by about seven percentage points — fairly close to the average of polls, but representing another big miss for Gallup.

Apart from Gallup’s final poll not having been especially accurate in recent years, it has often been a wild ride to get there. Their polls, for whatever reason, have often found implausibly large swings in the race.

In 2000, for example, Gallup had George W. Bush 16 points ahead among likely voters in polling it conducted in early August. By Sept. 20, about six weeks later, they had Al Gore up by 10 points instead: a 26-point swing toward Mr. Gore over the course of a month and a half. No other polling firm showed a swing remotely that large.

Then in October 2000, Gallup showed a 14-point swing toward Mr. Bush over the course of a few days, and had him ahead by 13 points on Oct. 27 — just 10 days before an election that ended in a virtual tie.[END BQ]

That's kind of a lot of misses, innit? I mean, that 2000 race did not swing 26 points. The country was roughly as divided then as it is now. I'd be shocked if that election swung more than seven point. That's ridiculous.

Elsewhere in the post, Silver explains, as he has many times, why no one should get too het up over one single poll. Just look at poll averages. And, looking at poll averages, Obama is suddenly in pretty good shape again. Silver has him back close to 70 percent chance of winning.

Wait,I forgot, I'm supposed to be panicked! Holy shit. It's a disaster. Quick, hit Romney with that story about the time he refused to buy Girl Scout cookies in 1977!