Last night I went out to dinner and briefly checked in on things when I got back. While I was busy with some other stuff, I had this idle Twitter conversation:
I thought we fully litigated oversampling in the 90s
— Clara Jeffery (@ClaraJeffery) October 24, 2016
@ClaraJeffery Nothing is ever fully litigated. It’s always fucking groundhog day.
— digby (@digby56) October 24, 2016
@digby56 @ClaraJeffery They all know perfectly well what oversampling is. They’re just trolling.
— Kevin Drum (@kdrum) October 24, 2016
I had been out of touch with the news for maybe six or seven hours, nothing more. And yet I was completely out of the loop on the latest campaign idiocy. I had no idea what this was about, which explains my foolishly casual tweet. This morning I found out:
This post has currently been read by 1.3 million people, and is ricocheting through the Trumposphere at light speed. Apparently oversampling is this year’s deskewing.
In case you care, oversampling is a normal and longtime practice for folks who are running presidential campaigns—which is what John Podesta was doing. If you survey, say, a thousand people, you’re likely to get a sample of only 130 African-Americans. This means that if you happen to be particularly interested in African-American voters, you need to deliberately oversample them in order to get a statistically reliable pool of respondents. The same is true for any smallish group of people. If, for some reason, you want to target Hispanic environmentalists or white women under age 30, you have to oversample them too.
Ordinary polls don’t normally do this, though they do sometimes. For example, suppose everyone is obsessed with blue-collar white men and their alleged anger at the political system. A polling firm might want to oversample them in order to report how they really feel. That wouldn’t affect the overall poll, though. It would be released as a separate survey on a matter of current interest.
Anyway, this is all obvious and simple, which explains my tweet above. But hell, what do I know? Do the yahoos peddling this stuff know it’s nonsense but only care about ginning up an army of easily-duped malcontents on November 9? Or are they genuinely ignorant? Who knows? But naturally Donald Trump is all over it:
Major story that the Dems are making up phony polls in order to suppress the the Trump . We are going to WIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 24, 2016
Jesus, this election is dispiriting. I’m beginning to think the whole thing is a spectacularly successful plot by the pharma industry to boost sales of anti-anxiety drugs and prescription blood pressure meds.