The Voter Fraud Squad Loves Polls Now


Republican Kari Lake failed in her bid for governor of Arizona by a narrow margin last November, falling about 17,000 votes out of 2.6 million votes. Lake filed a lawsuit to block the swearing in of his opponent, Democrat Katie Hobbs, but that lawsuit was dismissed. His claims that his constituents were unable to vote were dismissed by the voters themselves.

Meanwhile, other statewide races, including the razor’s edge contest for attorney general, were subject to automatic recounts that did not affect the results. Lake’s loss wasn’t close enough for a recount but, given that Republicans didn’t win enough to win in narrower losses, it’s unlikely she closed the required gap.

In other words, Lake lost. She doesn’t like to admit it and, in fact, didn’t. Instead, she continued to expose alleged fraud and misconduct in her race as feverishly as she did for years about the 2020 election – a loyalty to former President Donald’s worldview. Trump who helped win her enthusiastic support in her own race. But, all that said, she still lost.

On Friday, however, Lake and other Trump allies seized on a new poll to claim she did not have lost; that instead, she had won. This poll, they claimed, offered strong evidence that she not only won, but won easily.

It’s not. And since that’s not candid enough, let me elaborate: not only does it not show it, but it’s a misguided poll from a deeply partisan company that very obviously contradicts reality.

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To its credit, this is the second time in the past month that the company, Rasmussen Reports, has made the news. The first time was when cartoonist Scott Adams grabbed hold of one of his partisan polls, conducting polls to tell the world that he was now considering shunning black people. Now we have this new poll, in which the company claims to show (but in no way shows) that Lake was the real winner of the election.

The survey was sponsored by a group called College Republicans United, a sponsorship that Rasmussen’s Mark Mitchell explain to Stephen K. Bannon – yes, him – understood to reach out to Rasmussen to conduct this specific poll. The pulse, Mitchell explained, was a different poll that showed broad confidence in Arizona’s election results. College Republicans United got their money’s worth, with Rasmussen coming to a different conclusion.

As you might expect. The cabinet has always leaned to the right, but in recent years has taken an aggressive partisan stance that shows in the question it asks. His focus on “likely voters,” even long before the actual election, seemed to lead him to weight his results in a way that favored Republicans. But now the company is explicitly trumpeting its partisanship, perhaps hoping other right-wing groups will get it to conduct sponsored polls.

A Rasmussen tweet posted during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Speaking to Bannon, Rasmussen’s Mitchell explained how they came to the conclusion that in fact Kari Lake had won her race.

“A lot of pollsters, those who are maybe less brave, would really use those results to weight the poll to match the election result,” he said, “and then bury the questions and pretend that they had never even asked them. And, you know, to be honest, those results were so incredible that we had to report them. Instead of weighting the answers to the results, he said, they weighted them to the output of the polls.

“What we found out,” he added later, “is that voters told us that just four months ago they elected Kari Lake as governor of Arizona by 8 points.”

Let’s leave the larger questions about Rasmussen’s objectivity aside for a moment. Just consider this matter of weighting.

Since the people interviewers are talking to when conducting a survey are never a perfect representation of the population, they weight the responses they get. If you have too few Democrats compared to what you expect, for example, you might give their answers more weight. If you want to gauge the opinions of people who voted in an election, it makes sense to weight your responses so that the results reflect the actual outcome of the vote. But Mitchell scoffs at that, weighting exit poll results instead, meaning the composition of responses is structured to look not like results but turnout.

Beyond questions about the accuracy of exit polls — which themselves are weighted by election results, mind you — consider what those exit polls found. There were more Republicans than Democrats, which Mitchell says roughly matches the weighting they used. But a plurality of voters were Independents, and they preferred Hobbs by 7 points. Among Republicans, meanwhile, Edison Research exit polls show about 1 in 11 also favored Hobbs, twice the rate at which Democrats voted for Lake.

In Rasmussen’s results, independents voted for Lake by 14 points while 1 in 6 Democrats and Republicans crossed party lines to support the other candidate. It’s just not believable, even setting aside the fact that we know what really happened.

Asked for comment, Rasmussen had no immediate response.

Bannon certainly wasn’t going to push that away, so Mitchell insisted, arguing for the accuracy of his company’s polls.

“If you average all of our generic polls from September and October, we were 1.2% of the official National House popular vote,” he said, which is a strange metric to use. . In fairness, Rasmussen’s last generic poll was much better last year (putting the GOP up 5 when they ended up gaining 2.8 points in the House vote) than in 2018 when they had the Republicans up 1 point in an election where Democrats won the National House Vote by more than 8 points. Also, Mitchell said, “we nailed the Republican primary in Arizona at the end of the summer” — perhaps not surprisingly given their tendency to overrepresent Republican voters. (Rasmussen did not participate in the general gubernatorial elections last year.)

Mitchell didn’t need to go into numbers to convince people like Lake (who shared the poll results several times on Twitter) or Donald Trump’s spokeswoman Liz Harington. Harrington said a poll shows Lake likely won in “a landslide.”

The irony, of course, is that Trumpworld has long decried the polls for their inaccuracies, their failure to capture the true sentiment of Republican voters. Here, however, this dubiously weighted poll from a partisan pollster is hailed as solid evidence that the election was somehow stolen. (How, of course, is never really explained.)

There’s an old saying in politics: the only poll that matters is the poll on Election Day. Here we have a new maxim: the only poll that matters is one conducted by a partisan company using questionable methodology four months after the voters were weighed.


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