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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Ranking the Presidential Candidates... not!

I'm not really a political junkie, but I do pay a lot of attention when election season rolls around. We're just two years away from a unique election cycle, when neither a sitting president nor vice-president will be running for president.

As with most of the things I'm intensely interested in, I have a project I'm working on for it. In this case, it's a ranking of the potential nominees from each party based on their chances of winning the nomination. Positions on the issues play no role in this; I base it entirely on polls and fundraising.

And right now, both are failing me. The FEC's web site doesn't yet contain any financial data for the current election cycle. As for polling, it works very well near the top but is worthless at the very bottom.

Consider this ABC-Washington Post poll. Note that there are six Republican candidates that got 1% in the poll and three that got 0%. The sample size of Republicans is 344, so 1.72 would be the number of respondents that represents .5% of the poll, anything below which shows up here as 0%. How am I supposed to separate those three at 0% when they either got 0 or 1 person saying their name?

It gets worse. The threshhold for 1.5% would be 5.16 respondents. Therefore all those people at 1% got 2, 3, 4, or 5 respondents saying their name. I am left to assume that the poll results are sub-sorted by how many respondents said a name, but ties still exist, and worse, if they're in alphabetical order, I don't know which comparisons of two back-to-back candidates represent ties and which represent a different number of respondents! And it all reflects the luck of the draw! I'm ignoring margin of error in my rankings but even I can't ignore this!

This poll was conducted on a national sample of 1000 adults. That's how many should be polled from each party. The poll's total sample should be closer to 2500.

Then I got an idea. Perhaps we could combine the results from several polls, thus adding to the sample size and lowering the margin of error. The chances of two polls contacting the same person are astronomical, so it's like taking one big poll. For example, there are three similar polls from this month in the same field: the Gallup Poll has 412 Republican respondents, and the Zogby Poll has 301 Republican respondents. All have, ultimately, the same problem, but when you add their sample size together you get 344+412+301=1057 respondents in the sample. That means 5.285 respondents represent .5%, enough for some separation, weak though it may seem; meanwhile, 15.855 respondents represent 1.5%, enough to rest easy that six candidates would have at least some separation.

I would love to be the person to create this "superpoll", which would be important far beyond this context, but unfortunately, the sort of raw data of pure numbers of respondents is treated as fairly proprietary. Either I have to get into a subscription service to get them (always for a fee) or they don't offer it at all. Why, I'm not sure. I could guesstimate it by weighting the results of the various polls, but it's an inexact science to say the least.

Which leaves nothing for me to work with, at least in the back of the field, but the analysis of others. I know it's early and a lot can change, but predicting the future isn't my priority so much as determining what's going on right now, despite my emphasis on fundraising. Judging by polls from 2004, the sample size of polls won't be increasing from here, though it might see a little more separation. It probably won't get there very quickly, though - not with a field of this size.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Sports Watcher for the Weekend of 1/20-21

This is an experiment that, should the topic of Da Blog ultimately fit it (and maybe even if it doesn't), will become a regular feature every Friday. I'll hand out my picks for the go-to sports to watch for the weekend. I choose only one game between competing games, and choose as many sports as possible within those parameters. All times PST.

12:30-3 AM: Tennis, Australian Open, 3rd round play (ESPN). Assuming you don't need too much sleep, of course.

9-11 AM: College Basketball, Louisville @ DePaul (ESPN). Combine for a 5-4 conference record. Really just a warmup for the next two parts of the tripleheader.

11 AM-1 PM: College Basketball, Wisconsin @ Illinois (ESPN). What the hell is Wisconsin doing with a power basketball program? This is their best record in over ninety years.

1-3 PM: College Basketball, Arizona @ UCLA (FSN). Arizona's Marcus Williams not only is a Seattle product, he went to my high school. I never saw a game, only heard of him secondhand before last year, don't like the idea of being a fan of whatever school you went to, and loathe many of my old high school traditions with a passion, yet I still find myself following the Wildcats. (Did I mention that this is a matchup of the top two RPI teams in the country?)

4-7 PM: College Football, East-West Shrine Game (ESPN2). One of college football's many all-star games. What exactly is it? I don't have a clue.

7-10 PM: Tennis, Australian Open, octofinal play (ESPN2). If tennis was as huge in this country as it is in some others, networks would be falling over themselves to put this in primetime. Especially with the new and improved Andy Roddick and Serena Williams likely to show up either here or in the insomniac session.

12:30-3:30 AM: Tennis, Australian Open, octofinal play (ESPN2). Insomniac Special time!

10-11:30 AM: PBA Bowling, Dick Weber Open (ESPN). The football just barely overlaps with the basketball, so why not watch people roll really heavy balls around? Here's one thing I might say about the PBA: When 9-spare is considered heartbreaking, maybe the competition is too good. That's the problem with the pro versions of stuff a significant number of ordinary people do.

12-3:30 PM: NFL Football, New Orleans @ Chicago (FOX). Clearly the same teams go to the Super Bowl year after year in the NFL. Sure, 3 of the last 4 NFC champions were going into their first Super Bowls ever, but these two teams combine for a whopping 1 Super Bowl appearances. Yeah, I know, but that one appearance was only, oh, 20 years ago.

3:30-7 PM: NFL Football, New England at Indianapolis (CBS). Yes, the Colts under Manning have never been to the Super Bowl, yes, they've never beaten the Patriots in the playoffs, and yes, Peyton Manning is not the Manning we're used to in these playoffs. But they're at home!

After Football: Let two weeks of unending Super Bowl hype begin...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Well, this is embarassing...

I was going to make a final decision on the topic of Da Blog on Friday (today, as most of you read this), but I'm instituting an extension because I just recently advertised my prior posts on the topic in the "About me" section on the right sidebar, which in turn was because 43 visitors to Da Blog have added up to one comment so far. You can now make comments until 9 PM PT (midnight ET, since New York Is The Center Of The Universe) on Sunday. (I might not collect the votes until later, though.)

You can also comment on what you want Da Blog to be about to this post. I will post a preview of what will happen if you don't comment later on Friday. If it lines up with what you want, comment on it anyway, because I will only institute it if I get 0 acceptable comments, so even a tie only means I'll probably institute both.

(Note that, as they say on Wikipedia, "this is not a vote". I am ultimately the final arbiter of what I post on, and I will always dip into fields different from my primary focus. As time passes that sharp focus may fade as Da Blog becomes more general and I begin to dip into a wide variety of fields on a regular basis.)

Also, I'm switching Da Counter to show unique visitors rather than hits (which have reached the 70's), because hits by now are a given - I'll probably hit 100 by this time next week. I've gotten at least two hits for at least the past seven days and have been stabilizing at 4 a day recently. Unless the counter is misinterpreting people without cookies as separate people, which can't be the whole truth, most of these people appear to be first timers. Which, you know, is good for a number of reasons, but it is also kinda bad, because now only 40% of my hits over the life of Da Blog are repeat customers. Which makes me worried that people are stopping by but aren't intrigued enough to come back! Which comes back to my blog topic poll, where you can give them a reason to come back.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Alone, alone, alone...

You might think someone as abrasive as me wouldn't last ten seconds with a roommate, and certainly I tried to get a room to myself when I signed up. But Seattle University has a bit of a crunch for space throughout the campus, and no matter how strong a case I might have had, I didn't stand a chance. So I've had a roommate for the course of this year.

It's gone fairly well, but the roommate just left Saturday. I don't think I drove him away; I think there's a lot of reassignment going on. For now, though, I have a room to myself.

Perhaps not all that interesting, but I do intend to add the latest updates in my own life to Da Blog when events warrant...