Elections have become a battle of the “polls.”  A recent poll released by the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics would lead a reader to surmise that the election for the Third District Congressional race is all but over with Stutzman leading by a whopping 25%.

However, that supposition would be entirely inaccurate – just as the Downs Center poll is inaccurate.  The following is the methodology that was used:

Statement of Methodology for U.S. House 3rd District of Indiana: SurveyUSA interviewed 565 registered voters from Indiana’s 3rd Congressional District 10/21/10 through 10/25/10, using Registration Based Sample (RBS) from Aristotle in Washington DC. Of the registered voters, 400 were determined by SurveyUSA to have already voted, or to be likely to vote in the 11/02/10 midterm election. Where necessary, responses were weighted according to the voter registration database. In theory, with the stated sample size, one can say with 95% certainty that the results would not vary by more than the stated margin of sampling error, in one direction or the other, had the entire universe of respondents been interviewed with complete accuracy. There are other possible sources of error in all surveys that may be more serious than theoretical calculations of sampling error. These include refusals to be interviewed, question wording and question order, weighting by demographic control data and the manner in which respondents are filtered (such as, determining who is a likely voter). It is difficult to quantify the errors that may result from these factors. Fieldwork for this survey was done by SurveyUSA of Clifton, NJ.

Note the bold and underlined portion of the statement.  In actuality, the responses were incorrectly weighted with Allen County receiving an inaccurate percentage.  The following are the Third District registered voter totals from the Indiana Government website:

Allen  –      230,789
DeKalb  –     28,999
Elkhart –      58,944
Kosciusko – 52, 328
LaGrange –   15,319
Steuben –      23,125
Whitley –      20,518

Total Third District voters –        456,677

I don’t claim to be a statistician; however, if Allen County has over 50% of the Third District voters, then a sampling should include at least 50% from Allen County.  This was not the case with the recent poll.  My understanding it that Elkhart County was attributed a 25% share of the total even though it is just shy of 13% of total Third District voter registration while Allen County’s percentage was nowhere near the actual 50% + of the Third District sample.

This inaccurate percentage could have been the result of looking at the entire county of Elkhart, not just the portion located within the Third District.  The bump to 25% is twice what should have been attributed to Elkhart County and skews the poll results.

In defending its poll, the Downs Center through Andy Downs stated that he believes his data is more accurate because he surveyed those likely to vote, not just those who are registered to vote.  So, just what is the likely voter vs. the registered voter distinction upon which the Downs Center considers its poll to be more accurate?

A registered voter is just that – someone who is registered but may or may not vote.  A registered voter could skip any number of elections and vote sporadically depending on issues or candidates that are important to that voter.  On the other hand, a likely voter is one who has “more than likely” voted in the last two or three elections and may very well continue that trend. A series of questions asked by the polling firm is used to establish whether or not the contacted, registered voter will vote in the current election and what that voter’s preference is at that point in time.

But how large a gap exists between the actual percentages between registered voters and likely voters?  In a recent article, the author noted that from 1950 to 2006 – where relevant Gallup poll data was available for 13 midterm elections – the average gap between the preferences of registered and likely voters was only 5 points. Only once, in 2002, did the gap reach double digits.

The newly released poll by the Hayhurst campaign more accurately reflects the actual differences noted by the author of the above article.   The Hayhurst poll shows a 4% lead by Dr. Hayhurst with a plus or minus deviation which indicates a possible dead heat in the race for the Third District congressional seat.

The Downs poll is flawed for two reasons:  1) the polling data was not accurately distributed within the district; and, 2) the research does not support the proposition that likely voters vs. registered voters provides a more accurate picture of just who will win this election.   If history serves, the difference is a 5-point margin – but that margin in this race leads not to the conclusion that the race is over but that it will be a tight race on election night.

Flawed polls do a great disservice to the voting public.  And, is so often stated, the only poll that matters is the one on election day.


About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
This entry was posted in Congress, Democrat Party, Democrats, Indiana, Marlin Stutzman, Politics, Republican Party, Republicans, Third District and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Charlotte,

    We shall see which poll is more accurate on Tuesday. I think Stutzman will win by 10-15…


  2. Mike:

    As I said, the only poll that matters is the one on election day. I have to say, though, that in my phone banking to all parts of the Third District, I have not seen anywhere near the support that the Downs Center gives to Stutzman.

    And, we are calling voters from all parties – not just democrats.

    We will see!

  3. Jim Stanley says:

    Wasn’t Dr. Hayhurst’s poll an internal? If so, I consider it suspect. ALL internals are suspect, IMO. Not that I disagree with Charlotte’s assertion about the Downs Center polling. But internals are seldom useful to anyone but the candidate himself for demographic purposes.

    As much as I dearly want Dr. Hayhurst to win this race, I cannot see how it is possible — unless the voter discontent and Republican wave has been absurdly overplayed by the media.

    As ever, though, I am relentlessly pessimistic. Somehow, I think this insulates this grizzled, old liberal from too much disappointment. My pillow and a bottle are already under my desk. Here’s hoping they won’t be needed! 😉

  4. Laurie says:

    Excellent factual article. I am keeping my fingers crossed for Tom. Stutzman is not worthy of such a position. Let justice be served and may the best man win!!

  5. Jim:

    Yes – it is an internal poll. The really aggravating issue is that the poll had to be done because the Downs Center through Survey USA failed to provide an accurate poll. With the Downs Center poll coming in the week before the election and with the odds that no one would admit a mistake, the Hayhurst campaign made a decision to commission its own poll.

    I will tell you, though, just like I mentioned above to Mike, I have made hundreds and hundreds of calls to all corners of the Third District, and I have seen very little support for Stutzman.

    Call me the eternal optimist (I guess that offsets your relentless pessimism) :), but, while I do understand the distrust of internal polls, from what I have seen over the last few months, I think this will be a much closer race than many are predicting.

  6. Laurie:

    No doubt in my mind who the best man is – but just in case others don’t know, I have no doubt that Dr. Hayhurst will make an excellent representative for our Third District.

  7. Jim Stanley says:

    One of the most exciting things about any election in which there are a raft of offices at stake is finding those two or three races that are completely off the radar. Who knows? This could be one of them. One thing is sure. Mr. Stutzman has taken a great deal for granted and has approached this race with a sense of entitlement. (I don’t mean to imply any malignant hubris on his part, but rather a simple assumption. This is an R+14 district…I am an R…it is an R year…ergo…) So you never know. Voters could resent that.

    I will certainly be watching this race for a surprise in our favor. I’ll be keeping an eye on IN-01, too. Something has me feeling a bit queasy about that one. I wonder if Representative Visclosky has made some assumptions of his own…

    Just thinking out loud…

  8. Arthur Lewis says:

    I’d love to see Tom Hayhurst as our next rep, and I’ll be voting for him. Too bad he probably won’t win, but we’ve gotta try.

  9. john b. kalb says:

    Charlotte: So, it looks like the “poll that counts” went along with the as-you-called-it, “flawed poll” !!! What a surprise!

  10. cw martin says:

    And yet, Marlin won by MORE than 25 %. Go figure.

  11. John:

    Ah, I was certainly expecting some comments from several of the other side. 🙂 What is frustrating is that I have already talked to several people who saw the Downs poll and, frankly, they said what’s the point? They didn’t vote.

    This is the disservice that occurs when a poll is inaccurate. I will be watching for the publication of the county breakdowns. While Stutzman may have won by more than the percentage reported, a last-minute poll that is inaccurate has the potential to sway an election, especially when the poll makes it appear there isn’t any point in fighting.

    Stutzman may well have won anyways, but I don’t believe it would have been by such a significant margin.

  12. john b. kalb says:

    Oh, come on, Charlotte – I worked the whole day at the VFW at Main & Leesburg where precincts # 576 & 578 voted. I carried, as a watcher, my listing of the primary voting records as to R or D voters and the voting or not records from our precinct for the last 6 elections. It was eye-opening to see at least a dozen R’s AND a dozen D’s voting yesterday who had not voted once in the previous 6 elections (going back to the 2002 midterm)!! And these were all voters who were eligible to vote in 2002. I cannot believe that any of our registered voters were “turned-off” by any so-called “flawed poll”. I realize these are not statistical supportable facts, but I was impressed that these voters felt strong enough about this election to go out of their comfort zone to vote! I believe it points up that you are a member of a minority in our political system – those of the liberal left. You are faced with at least 60 % of our citizens who are either conservative or are moderates leaning toward conservative policies.
    I believe this 2010 mid-term was the most important election that I (at 75 years of age) have been involved with. And firmly believe that 2012 is going to be just as IMPORTANT!

  13. John:

    Then if you don’t believe they were turned off by a poll with what would be considered an insurmountable lead for one side, I assume you believe that a poll showing a close race also would have no effect on bringing voters out. Which is it?

    I agree that I am a minority as the liberal left. Just as the radical right is a minority of the Republican party. There are many democrats who are conservative or moderate. You and others keep trying to lump all Democrats into the “liberal left” which is simply not the case. I am fine with 60% of the voting public being moderate or conservative and that includes both Democrats and Republicans. If I choose to be a member of the liberal left, then that is my decision, and I understand I am in the minority, so your point on that is what?

    I don’t see this election as much different than other watershed elections I have seen in my almost 63 years. Since I couldn’t vote until I was 21, I have participated for 42 years now, and this is by no way any different than any number of other game-changing elections. I assume you could not vote either until you were 21, so you have been participating for 54 years now, not 75.

    What is your foundation for believing this election is the most important in your 54 years? Please review history, and you will see that this happens quite frequently. Perhaps it may be the most important to you, but I see it as just another up and down in the process.

  14. cw martin says:

    Any candidate whose supporters fail to vote because they looked at one disputed poll DESERVES to get beat. What kind of dedication to their principles, what kind of faith in their candidate, does that show? If Dr. Hayhurst wants someone to blame his loss on, he should look to the democratic national leadership. Pelosi still says she has no regrets, even though her “We’re going to put this through whether you like it or not” is what trashed her party’s ability to govern. It is that attitude, unfairly or not, that rippled to candidates like Dr. Hayhurst, who would have fared much better if not tarred by her brush.

  15. Judith Steckly says:

    My husband and I are deeply disappointed that Dr. Hayhurst was not elected. After hundreds of phone calls and yard signs, we find it hard to believe that “final poll.” The margin is staggering. If everyone affected by the GM bailout (suppliers as well as GM workers); if every teacher who values Head Start, Title I, etc.; if everyone who receives Medicare (or who would be paying medical expenses for their parents)–if just everyone of these would have voted for Dr. Hayhurst, the margin would have been closer. For Marlin Stutzman vowed very publically to do away with anything in the three areas I mentioned above, and many more.

    But horrifying is the thought that since the Downs Center poll was true in the Congressional race, it may accurately state that over half of the citizens in the Third District rate the Tea Party favorably. Are we really that extreme and uninformed in NE Indiana?

    The billionaire Koch Brothers of Texas have been implicated in behind the scenes activation of the “grassroots” Tea Party movement. They control the second largest corporation in the U.S.A., and they have paid substancial fees due to non-compliance with safety standards and air and water pollution laws. Though they have denied involvement, a recently found video shows one of them addressing a Tea Party crowd and bragging about the results of their investment. They are getting conservative Americans to protest the EPA and other regulations in the name of smaller government. They are accomplishing this through monetary donations and placing false Facebook, Twitter and e-mails. Certainly every reader has received some of the untrue, shocking e-mails. And when I get one I send it back with proof it is false. That has caused me to lose a (supposedly) good friend.

    Another destructive force is Dick Armey and his FreedomWorks. He paid for demonstrators to get to Town Hall meetings during the health care reform debate, along with scripts of what to say and how to keep supporters from being heard. I heard Armey on a talk show admit he wants Medicare eliminated, a position Marlin Stutzman has taken. Imagine how that would decrease lifespans and increase suffering from treatable medical conditions among senior citizens.

    Rupert Murdoch, head of Fox News, admitted during a London interview that they want to destroy President Obama. This is a culmination of many years of increasing cynicism and bearing right by talk radio, then by Fox News. As a child I listened to Paul Harvey, and my family appreciated his tales of goodness and right being victorious over wrong. Then Rush Limbaugh started along the same vein, but as he became more strident his ratings went up. He started making false claims, and when cornered with the truth, his defense was that he is an entertainer, not a news commentator. Glennn Beck joined the fray with his wacky judgments (Obama is a Nazi, no, a Socialist, according to Beck’s mood of the hour) and Beck attempts to put Christian slogans into his hate-speech to give it some credence. Yet listeners seem to accept what he says without researching!

    I agree that the extensive polling and reporting skewed election results nationally. Since millions of dollars were funneled into political ads secretly (e.g. unnamed donors), I wonder if some of those dollars influenced the type of polls and thus the results. We all know the way in which a question is given slants the response. And once the steam roller started, the momentum continued. The Republicans would take over, the Democrats had no chance, President Obama will lose big! We heard that ad nauseam.

    But if the Tea Partiers would be able to reduce the size of government to those things only mentioned in the Constitution, most Americans would be very unhappy. We depend on the CDC, the FDA, the food and safety inspectors, copyrights and patents, our National Parks, our labor laws, the EPA, our anti-monopoly, our research and development supported by federal dollars, our financial regulations and insured bank accounts, etc., etc., etc.

  16. john b. kalb says:

    Hey Judith – Why don’t you face the facts – YOU ARE A MEMBER OF A SHRINKING MINORITY – My wife and I have been on Medicare for 10 years and 8 years respectively and we do not see how we can get the health care we receive with so small a personal expense! I go in for a removal of a gall bladder and, even with complications, we paid only $50 of the cost! And that is through a Medicare Advantage plan where we don’t pay anything over the approximately $100 per month that is taken out of our SS payment! We are hopeful that ALL these wasteful government programs are killed forever – they are destroying the greatest political system that has existed in history!

    The CDC, FDA, EPA, et al are NOT the programs that are distroying us – it’s the whole range of entitlement give-aways that are the millstones hung from our necks by the politican’s greed in DC!!! George Washington warned us that if we allowed our government to stray from the Constitution’s limits on our national government, our republic would fail! And since 1932, we have been on the way to this failure until last Tuesday! I will not live to see it corrected totally, but my kids and grandkids will. This is hope that we can really believe in – not the false , unreachable promises of the radical left! And yes, Judith, I place you in that minority group!

    • Judith Steckly says:

      Ah, yes–Medicare Advantage! Mark Souder wrote to me that one of the main reasons he could not support the health care reform was that so many citizens of his district would lose their Medicare Advantage policies.

      Medicare Advantage was part of the Prescription Drug bill passed in 2003 (President George W. Bush, if you remember.) The insurance company lobbyists convinced President Bush and the Congress that Medicare Advantage would be a great way to privatize Medicare insurance, and that would bring tremendous savings and would deliver care more efficiently. But the government would have to pay at first. They also promised that prescrition drug costs would decrease dramatically. So the 2003 bill passed, and the promises were broken. The Prescription Drug bill (and Medicare Advantage) have greatly added to the deficit because they were, in essence, an unfunded mandate.

      When my husband and I signed up for Medicare supplemental insurance (Jack changed his because his former employer’s retiree health benefits no longer met our needs), we chose not to be part of this “Privatization”, and instead chose to pay a premium to Anthem in addition to our payments to Medicare as withheld from our SS benefits.

      So you are complaining about receiving this great Medicare Advantage paid care, but you are the ones who chose this option.

      Unfortunately for those under 65 years-of-age, there is no option to purchase health insurance unless the insurance company agrees to take their money: considering their pre-existing conditions; and before renewal of the policy, the length of their current illness. This is especially grievous for parents whose baby is born with a birth defect, or who has a child with a chronic condition such as severe asthma!

  17. john b. kalb says:

    Who EVER said that “Life Is Fair”? I’m sorry, but this earth does not owe you ANYTHING! All that we are blessed with is “by the grace of God” – we don’t deserve any of these blessings – so just why do you think you do??? There is ALWAYS someone in better shape than we are and others who are in a worse condition!

    AND the government DOES NOT exist to make us all equal – it just should treat us all equally! Cain asked God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” – God told Cain that he was – God didn’t say, “No, Cain, your government should be your brother’s keeper!”

  18. John:

    “Life isn’t fair” is nothing more than a tired, overused, and worn-out phrase used to shirk duty to others. Now, if one truly believes “life isn’t fair” then people should stop giving to charities, stop donating food to food banks, stop taking meals to older citizens, and the list goes on and on.

    Charity and giving are based on the very assumption that “life isn’t fair.” And, frankly, I am tired of hearing that phrase tossed about as a way to denigrate those to whom life hasn’t been fair.

    If you want to bring religion into it, then I suggest a reading of Matthew 25 – a section that is based on the “life isn’t fair” concept. The Old Testament is not the foundation for Christianity although it is a part of the history of Christianity and is regarded as such.

    The New Testament with Christ’s philosophies and preachings is the basis for Christianity. Christ was sent to relieve the burdens found in the Old Testament and provide a path to salvation.

    And, really, I doubt there was a government back in the days when Cain slew Abel. Perhaps that phrase will work well for Republicans as they try to cut medicare and social security. Of course, those in Congress attempting to do this are wealthy and probably have no need of social security or medicare.

    So, let’s look at life isn’t fair in that context. Life isn’t fair to those who need social security. You are a millionaire several times over, so let’s see that you get less social security since you don’t need it. Oh, life isn’t fair, so you certainly can be taxed a higher rate. Sorry, life isn’t fair.

    The time has come to take the phrase “life isn’t fair” out of the language. It is simply a cop-out to pity ones self and to avoid helping others because the minute you help someone else you are acknowledging that life isn’t fair.

  19. Judith Steckly says:

    Believing “life is not fair” eliminates any personal responsibility for others. Adding the “God blesses us by His grace” only adds to the sense of heaping up riches for yourself. But God says you fool, for though you have filled your barns, your soul will be demanded of you, and your possessions will be left behind.

    Our forefathers wrote our Constitution with the unique idea that all citizens have rights and responsibilities. The rights guarantee liberty until it becomes unfair to others. They wrote that we are to seek unity and work for the common good.

    The founders of the U.S.A. prohibited debtors’ prisons and the limiting of opportunities to any “class” of people. Over time that has led to public financing of education, safety standards, disease prevention, highways, etc.–all to keep our nation unified while preserving fairness as people live within the laws established by our representatives. Those with wealth are prohibited from taking unfair advantage of the masses through monopolies, financial schemes, patent infringement, and other exploitations.

    Our nation has become a world leader as all citizens have been able to fully participate. Our form of government has been copied. Our inventions have changed the world. We are known as a compassionate people, helping others during times of crisis. If we did not seek to be fair, the world would have a different opinion of us.

    We have the best health care available anywhere in the world. Yet we have rationed that health care to those who could pay for it, or to those who have been able through charity to get basic care. Yes, some of that charity has been legislated by our representatives. But medical advances in recent decades have increased the stakes. Not only is the care far more expensive due to many factors, but the gap between those who can access the highest quality of health care grows proportionately to income levels. So we wrestle with the choice that wealth brings the best health care, or that life-saving/enriching medical care is available to all citizens. All other industrialized countries have made the choice to provide health care to all citizens. How does denying care to our citizens who cannot afford it hurt our country in the minds of our citizens, and in the eyes of the world? And as Jim Stanley has written, in Matthew 25 Jesus is talking to nations and telling them to care for their people.

    If our country elevates greed over fairness, we will not survive.

  20. If you want to have some fun, the next time some conservative, evangelical, republican bow-hard starts bloviating, tell them that jesus was a liberal socialist, and have a few choice biblical quotes ready to return fire.
    heres the general reaction i see- first- their brain goes blank, from system overload- their facestops, and they cant talk- sort of a “does not compute” look for a second or so. then you can see the ir mind amp up, trying to contradict everything they were taught about gog , and jesus, and religion, and squaring it with their fox news/ditto head/ glenn beck chalkboard brainwashing, to get some kind of reply.
    usually- “he was not” you’re an atheist” you dont know what youre talking about.
    now those choice Jesus red letter quotes? let ’em rip! lock and load.
    About now, their forehead veins will start to bulge, their face will flush, and they will spout some conservative bs. wait,duck and cover, then toss out a few more quotes, and just say- Sorry. I’ll pray for you. You’ve sold your sould to Karl rove, and ronald reagan.
    then Split- fats- anything they say after that wont make any sense anyway- like- gee, look at the time, or wheres the restroom- gotta “go”, or oops- need to get another drink. leave them standing, in brainlock/overload, and smile in satisfaction of de-programming another conservative/evangical/right wing nutjob . We will never be able to reason with them, but the cattle prod/shock therapy- JESUS WAS A LIBERAL SOCIAList- is well worth the fun. try it next timeyou are cornered by a Cheney/Rove/rush/Beck/ Fox news zombie…ROTFLMAO!

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