Well it's election eve and Nate Silver is still predicting an Obama win....with the caveat that it is possible that if Romney wins it will mean nearly all state polling might be biased against Republicans.
I don't think he was saying this to be glib, or ruling the possibility out. He actually goes quite in depth as to where he thinks error could occur.
To me though, this brought up an interesting point.....what do we do if it's true? If nearly all swing state polls are saying Obama, and they break Republican, we will have to do quite a bit of reworking of our polling system. But that's not what this post is about.
This post is actually about a rather entertaining comment I saw in a discussion about this. Why haven't there been more concentrated efforts to skew polls? Essentially, if you live in a swing state and hate political advertising, why not start a movement to get people in your state to all answer the same candidate to obscure the fact that it was a battleground state and reduce the number of dollars spent there?
This sounds wacky, but how many people would really have to buy in to this to make a difference?
Let's take my home state of New Hampshire. As of January, there were about 770,000 registered voters. As of today, polls show they are tied for Obama and Romney. From what I can find, even the best polls only have a 10% response rate, and many are at 2 to 5%. The UNH Granite State Poll is widely reported and only surveys 500 people. It seems it would not take many people making an effort to answer their phones and state they are for a particular candidate to start to skew things. Even if word got out, it would introduce enough uncertainty in to the polls to confuse the heck out of the political consultants and the media...and wouldn't that at least be entertaining for the rest of us?
It's not like this is unprecedented....it was tried with Sanjaya on American Idol and there were rumors about Bristol Palin on Dancing With the Stars. Those efforts took far more people than it would take to skew the polls in a small state like New Hampshire. With 58% of adults using Facebook to get political information, it shouldn't be too hard to mobilize people....just like Twitter was used to start chants at the Boston Garden during the playoffs last year.
This is the danger of big data. While data driven decision making is awesome, it's also hackable. I'm just curious what the back up plan is if polls don't work any more.