Long before blogger Nate Silver shot to fame for his 2012 election predictions, there was Raghavan Mayur.
President Barack Obama’s second victory was merely the third in a line of presidential elections in which the forecast from Mayur’s polling firm, TIPP, came closer than anyone to the actual results.
TIPP expected Obama to beat Mitt Romney in the national popular vote by 50.3 percent to 48.7 percent; the actual result was 51.1 percent to 47.2 percent.
So, in this age of Big Data, what are TIPP and Mayur doing right? It turns out that they stick to tried-and-true methods.
“We have used our same model in all three previous general elections, with very minimal tweaking,” said the New Jersey-based Mayur, president of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, which owns TIPP. “This is because, from my experience, the broad underlying dynamics have not changed in the past three election cycles. The accuracy of our results over time has validated our model.”
Mayur, 55, has dubbed TIPP’s approach the Quality Data Quality Model — a fancy way of saying that he’s devised a proprietary methodology that finds just the right proportion of likely voters. Unlike many latter-day firms that rely on online or automated phone polling, TIPP pollsters interview live respondents — an old-school way that appears to pay off.
“The secret is achieving a balance that will most accurately reflect the actual electorate, and thus yield the most accurate results,” he said.
That balance was controversial at times last year. TIPP, which conducts presidential polling for Investor’s Business Daily, predicted a 7-percentage-point edge for Democratic turnout over Republicans at a time when most competitors believed the GOP had narrowed that gap considerably. In the end, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 6 percentage points.
Like Silver, Mayur has little use for pundits who predict election outcomes based on gut feelings or an analysis of anecdotes. To his mind, Obama “had the election won all along” — except for in the days after his disastrous first debate performance when he suffered a perilous polling dip. But even then, Mayur said, “it would be hard for any candidate to counter the 7 percent registration advantage that Obama and the Democrats had.”
He added, “As a rule, we don’t argue with the data.”
With his reputation burnished by the 2012 afterglow, Mayur said his company has added Ferrari and Maserati to the market research side of his firm and is working with Mike Collins Public Relations on surveys “that will identify Americans’ perceptions of waste in government and the specific programs they feel can be cut or eliminated at the federal and state level.”
Beyond that, he’s tight-lipped about future polling partners except to say that he is “currently exploring potential new partnerships with elite news brands.”