Saturday, July 2, 2016

Exit Polls Again - Because You Need It, Lee Camp


This one is primarily for you, Lee Camp. Oh, how I hope you can break free of the black hole of conspiracy theory nonsense before you cross the event horizon!

If you simultaneously believe that exit polls show that Bernie Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton in the primary, while at the same time citing a fake Stanford paper that says Hillary did better in non-paper-trail states, you are debunking yourself. The states with paper trails have solid proof not only that Hillary won, but that the early exit polls which sore-loser Bern-outs have put so much stock in are verifiably and empirically wrong. Paper trails, you see.

I could end the blog post right there and do a victory dance. But, as usual, I need to spike the ball in the end zone several dozen times before anyone acknowledges I've scored anything. So, here's me spiking the football once more for the sake of you die-hards out there.

Okay, for everyone who missed it the first three times, here it is again. Here's how exit polls actually work:

Say you're an exit poller. You stand outside a polling station, holding your clipboard, waiting for those people who are exiting to come and answer the survey you are pleading with them to fill out.

Now, there are two basic types of potential respondents. There's the younger, more enthusiastic Bernie supporter, who is empowered both with emotion and free time, and who is 180% more likely to answer some fuckwad of a volunteer's survey.

Then there's the other type. That person is older, wiser, and has been through this shit 1000 times before, and who looks at the exit-poller as only one of any number of countless vultures who want to feed upon the five damned minutes of free time he or she has left. So of course he or she is unwilling to sacrifice what little has been left unpicked off the bones of what once had been laughingly called his or her private moments! Because they're too busy raising the idiot kids who will vote for the next charismatic but devoid of substance candidate in the next election!

So, bearing these two basic types in mind, you can imagine that the exit polls would be totally biased in favor of the first type of voter. You know, the type who takes exit poll conspiracy theories far too seriously in the first place?

Adjustments are then made to the exit poll data. How? Why, by the exit poller guesstimating the head counts of different demographics walking out of the poll station. The pollster is mentally noting how many elderly, black, latino, middle-aged and young people are walking out. They will then note their estimates on a separate clipboard and use these to adjust the totals after.

This is an open process. Journalists know damned well exit pollers do this, and this is why the early results are shit, and the later results are more reliable. This is also why they don't pay much attention to conspiracy-nuts like Richard Charnin (or, for now at least, Lee Camp) because they know too much to be fooled by it. The experts aren't fooled.

But, in all things politics, its fun to muddy the water, even for those who worship clarity. And so some people think that this early exit poll process, this utterly qualitative and subjective , somehow represents the truth of election results. They will use it to say that Bernie Sanders actually defeated Hillary Clinton, because the early exit poll results show him leading her in the percentages.

Well, what the fuck did you think such early results would show?! I mean, you have the youth gap, the enthusiasm gap, the racial gap, and any number of smaller factors that have made exit polling so much more biased in favor of the underdog than in 2008 or any other era! In fact, this is the era where exit polling is more unreliable than at any other time period in history, and that's saying something in the history of exit poll data!

But no. That's not enough for many people. They are still obsessed with the conspiracy theory that exit polls show the real thing. The obsessive, young, uber-enthusiastic, overly-hyper, free-time saturated Bernie supporters get to pretend that by stuffing the ballot box of the exit pollers, they have somehow swindled them and achieved victory over the Hillary people.

Really fools? Really?

And in light of the potential disaster of a Trump presidency, I'm entirely justified in asking, "Et tu, Brute?"

Case in point, is one of the latest vlogs of Lee Camp, the comedian who I think has so much potential, and yet is squandering it on this propeller-hat nonsense. I honestly don't want to dignify repeating the entire thing, but I almost have to, because it's a classic tin-foil-hat sort of rant. If you want to see it yourself, you can see it here. But here are the highlights (which, I'm sorry, is about 60% of his whole vlog):

"First off, they're not 'early exit polls.' They're just, 'the exit polls.' After the machine results come in, the exit polls are adjusted to fit with the machine vote. 

No. They are adjusted to fit the observed demographic data recorded by the exit poller. And it's not adjusted right away because exit pollers can't do that kind of complex calculation in the field. The earliest results are therefore crap.

However, at that point, once they've been adjusted, it's no longer an exit poll. It's just a bunch of sh*t done to cover up possible fraud and ruin the validity of the polls. So every time Nate Cohn says, 'early exit polls' in [his] article, he means the un-manipulated polls - the original exit polls.

Yes, the original, and fucked up exit polls. Lee literally has his shit bass-ackwards. He continues:

And you would think an 'amazing New York Times journalist' would want to know why do they alter the exit polls to fit the voting machines? What good does that do other than to cover the one thing that could tell us whether the machines are working properly? The one thing is exit polls! That's the only way! Does that bother Nate Cohn at all? Does he want any proof these voting machines are accurate? If so, where would he, uh, where would like to get that? Where would he like for that to come from? Maybe he could get it from the same place he, uh, he got this article. He could pull it out of his a**! Really the title of his article should be, 'New York Times reporter says there is no way to verify whether voting machines are accurate! Wow! That is - that is some story! 

Oddly, the question does bother Nate Cohn (whom Lee Camp persistently mispronounces as 'Kahn,' instead of 'Cone.'). That's why the article that Lee cites from below, deals exactly with that question! You can verify that by reading it for yourself, here. It would appear (though I desperately wish otherwise) that Lee didn't even bother fully reading the article he cites.

Secondly, he says Bernie Sanders did better in the exit polls that he did in the final result. That is true. Bernie Sanders did a lot better. In fact, it happened in a lot of primaries. And it often happened way outside the margin of error. The odds of the exit polls skewing towards Bernie and then the results skewing towards Hillary that many times in a row, by chance, is one in 76 billion! Mr. Cohn failed to mention that! 

He failed to mention it because it wasn't relevant. Those figures come from a moon-bat named Richard Charnin, a sincere yet totally fucked-in-the-head conspiracy theorist. But Cohn didn't have to. I already debunked his bullshit here.

Nate Cohn fails to mention the drastic poll location cuts in Arizona and Puerto Rico. The idea that the primary was rigged in multiple ways is, is, you know, inconvenient for Nate.

True, Nate didn't cover that. But again, it was irrelevant. The poll location cuts in Arizona and Puerto Rico were indeed troublesome, but both of these affected a plurality of voters. Some who were unable to vote were Bernie supporters, and some were Hillary supporters. And the ratio of Bernie to Hillary votes among the disaffected would have to be so dramatically one-sided to result in a Bernie victory that it would be nearly impossible. Yes, the polling problems are serious. But one was caused by Republicans who wanted to influence the general election in November (buuuusted!), and the other was caused by a financial crisis which has left Puerto Rico virtually insolvent. These were problems that did not explicitly favor Hillary over Bernie. How could they?

Nate Cohn fails to mention the Harvard study that ranks America the worst in the Western World for fair elections. 

Yes he does. That's because the Harvard study cited many problems with the American electoral system, and exit poll data disagreeing with final results was not among them! Instead our problems are things like gerrymandering, long lines, poorly trained pollsters, voting machines breaking down, voter ID laws, money in politics, unfairness to smaller 3rd parties, etc., etc. Read about that, here.

Nate Cohn fails to mention the 120,000 knocked off the rolls in Brooklyn alone! That's one burrough! In one borrough! Again, any sign of election fraud is not good for Nate's point. And as I've said before, the purging of the voter rolls that happened in New York was no accident. 

Yes, about 126,000 registered voters were removed in Brooklyn. This came to light when some, not all, voters removed from that roll showed up to vote. What happened to these suddenly unregistered voters? They were given a ballot anyway, they voted, and their vote counted!

According to Michael J. Ryan of the New York Elections Board, about 12,000 had moved out of the borough, another 44,000 people were moved from active to inactive voters and an additional 70,000 people were taken off  the inactive voter list. These were people who had been sent a mailer and did not respond. You can read all about that particular news story, here.

Yes, this is troubling. Yes, New York has some cleaning up of its act to do. But no, this did not significantly affect the election's outcome. If it did, it again affected a plurality of both Hillary and Bernie voters. Yes, Bernie Sanders hails from Brooklyn, but Hillary was New York's Senator, too.

Nate Cohn fails to mention the Chicago voting machine audit that showed the machines were wrong in favor of Clinton. When the audit witnesses brought this to the, uh, the Chicago board of elections, their response was, 'Here's how many f*ucks we give!' So that either means they know the machines are rigged for Hillary and they want them that way, or they didn't know they were rigged for Hillary, and they just don't care at all! Either one is not a good thing! 

Actually, that wasn't quite their response. Their response was that the machines were wrong during an audit to measure the performance of the machines, but was not an official count or re-count of the actual vote. This audit failed, and 21 Bernie votes were wiped out and 49 Hillary votes were added in. Read about it here. This is deeply disturbing. I don't know which is worse, the fact that 21 votes were removed from one column or that some number other than 21 got added back in. I have heard of suspicious Diebold machines screwing with the vote before, and I don't like it.

But not to worry. We need to be pissed about the machines all right, but we also know that the Illinois totals were legit, even with this particular vote-tally machine malfunctioning. Why? You will see below.

Nate Cohn fails to mention poll workers in California were instructed to give out provisional ballots like they were fake ti*ts in Hollywood. (Here's you, and you, and you...) Basically, these are placebo ballots. They're designed to make you think you think you voted and go home. Get the hell out of our way! 

I could very easily frame my response to this as a bitter resentment about those whose vote never counted because they never fucking voted when it was supposed to count. You know, the people who didn't show up in 2010 and 2014, and who are now unsurprisingly confused by the ballot process because it's the first time they've actually bothered to see a ballot, and they're now in their goddamned 30's! Well, I won't take that approach. Instead I will remind everyone that the story regarding the ballots was out in the press weeks before the California primary ever happened. Bernie stumped about it at every speech. Everyone who was paying attention had their vote count. Everyone who was not paying attention, some of whom were supporters of Hillary, may have had their vote nullified. But even though some voters were disaffected, they would not nearly overcome Hillary's lead in the state. And even if it somehow overcame Hillary's lead in the state, it would not be enough to sway enough delegate votes to win Bernie the nomination. The most wild-eyed and ridiculous vote estimates are claiming that Bernie won California by something like 65% to 35%, even though pre-election polls showed a Hillary lead, and the most optimistic polls for Bernie showed a statistical tie. Even then, Bernie needed a ridiculously-high percentage of 78% or more to overcome Hillary's delegate lead. He would also have needed similar margines in New Jersey, Montana, New Mexico, North and South Dakota and D.C. That obviously wouldn't have happened. Hillary really only needed 25% of what was left to secure herself more pledged delegates than Bernie. But she not only won at the end, she slam-dunked it!

So complain about California all you want. There were several other states whose outcome you can't contest, and it was over long before then, anyway. (Like, April 26th.) I told you so back then.

Nate Cohn also says, 'All of this starts with the basic mis-conception that the exit polls are usually pretty good. I have no idea where this idea comes from because anyone who knows anything about early exit polls knows they are not great.' This is what they call in the biz, 'horsesh**!' Ask New York Times bestselling author Greg Pallast. 

Ask Greg Pallast what? Lee never really clarifies that part.

Let's assume Nate is right, uh, and exit polls are terrible. Just for a second. Let's assume - exit polls are terrible. Then why would CNN or others report on them at all! Man, Nate! You should do a ground-breaking expose about how every media outlet is reporting totally wrong exit polls! Hold the precious! Someone put Wolf Blitzer back in his cage! Now get back in there! The exit polls are all - then stop reporting on it! Oh, wait! The reason no one is saying that is because exit polls are quite good. Pollsters know how to account for things like the youth vote and the non-response rate. They know how to deal with that. But no. Nate Cohn would rather believe expert pollsters are idiots, and nothing they've ever done is correct. In fact he said, 'There's a persistent decades-long bias in the exit polls - even in the final "adjusted" data...' There's a decades-long massive mistake in exit polls? And no one at the exit poll company, Edison Research in this case, has thought to fix this? Oh, my god! Those guys should be - arrested! And no one at CNN or MSNBC or CBS has ever thought to say, 'Hey! Dear viewer, we're going to be telling you about these exit polls. We're going to be talking about them extensively. But they are tremendously wrong. They are nonsense numbers. My two year old makes more sense. They are the ramblings of an insane man on LSD. Don't listen to anything we are about to say, because the exit poll companies, which have been paid millions to do this, are f**king idiots! And for some reason, despite having decades to fix their problem, they just don't know what to do. They just keep pumping out completely wrong exit polls decade after decade after decade. That's what Nate Cohn wants you to believe. 

The funniest thing about this rant is that the article he cites, which again you can read here, is about that very subject! Nate Cohn explores the inaccuracies of exit polling and how the pollsters estimate the demographics of those leaving the polling station, continuously doing a mental and sometimes physical head-count of old/middle-aged/young, white/black/Latino/Asian, male/female.

I want to give Lee the benefit of the doubt, here. I want to see him come around and succeed as a comic. Maybe even be the next Jon Stewart. But objectively I am forced to the conclusion that he didn't even bother to fully read this article. He scanned it, found a couple of sentences that said what he thought he wanted to hear, and ignored the rest!

Come on, man! You can't be The Man if you don't do The Homework!

Nate Cohn also fails to mention Hillary Clinton did best where voting machines flunked hacking tests. This is backed up by a Stanford paper showing that Hillary did statistically significantly better in states with no paper trail. Man! There's a lot that Nate Cohn missed!

Here, Lee Camp is citing this report from Counterpunch that names several states where Hillary did well. When the article finally gets to naming states, it names nine: South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, Mississippi, Ohio, and New York. Two-thirds of these, the article says, are states with machines that are all or mostly ten years old or greater. These six states are South Carolina, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Mississippi and Ohio. So clearly, Hillary had an advantage in these states, right?

Ah, no! Remember that argument Lee Camp used above, where Chicago voting machines in one district failed an audit for accuracy? The implication was that this Chicago district was flipped for Hillary and that consequently Hillary stole the Illinois primary. Well, now in virtually the same breath, Lee is arguing that Hillary did better in states with no paper trail. Now, I thoroughly debunked the bogus "Stanford" paper that claimed Hillary did better in non-paper trail states. (One disclaimer I must share is that the bogus Stanford paper used exit poll data to come up with its Bernie victory numbers. If one uses the actual tally, as I did in my re-calculation, one does not get a Bernie victory no matter which way one twists the numbers. But that was my original point, so I stand by it.)

Here's the kicker: Illinois is a state with a paper-trail! And Hillary won!

So, it was said early on in this blog post, and bears repeating here: On the one hand, Mr. Camp wants to say that bad voting machines stole the election for Hillary in Illinois, but at the same time, he is admitting that Illinois has a paper trail which proves she won.

Lee! My brother! Are you capable of hearing yourself?

And of the six states cited by the Counterpunch article as having outdated voting machines (as if somehow outdated and fraudulent were the same thing), two of them, Massachusetts and Ohio, have paper trials which verify Hillary won fair and square.

And again, as said earlier Lee, how can you cite paper-trail states when that very paper trail doesn't match with the early exit poll data you put so much stock in?! You can't simultaneously argue that exit polls show that Bernie won while at the same time citing paper trails that show Hillary won instead! It proves that your exit poll conspiracy theories are full of shit!

Lee, man, I hope you hear me. Plug your ears with wax and tie yourself to the mast like Odyssius before the siren-song of Richard Charnin's bullshit pulls your ship onto the rocks!

(I know, I know, it was only the crew that put wax in their ears, but you get my point.)


Eric

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