The Topline: GOP debate day after, City Council maps, and MBTA survey fail

Editor’s note: with election season ramping up, the Topline will be your digest of our polling and data analysis for WBUR, NHPR, CommonWealth Magazine and othersGain November.

GOP Debate Recap: It’s the morning after yet another Republican presidential debate night. It’s too early to know whether anyone’s performance is going to result in a meaningful change in the polls. Remember: those online snap polls are like psychic hotlines: for entertainment purposes only. Especially when they start taking responses before the debate is even over.

The debates can move poll numbers, so keep an eye out for the real polls later in the week and early next week. Our last poll of the Republican primary in New Hampshire, taken after the last Republican debate, saw Marco Rubio and Chris Christie gaining significantly. On the other side, Hillary Clinton gained significantly after her first matchup with the Democratic field.

The early reaction is the Rubio and Ted Cruz had good nights again; that Ben Carson was better than he had been; and that Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul made their marks. Jeb Bush, while improved, wasn’t improved enough to break through. And John Kasich’s aggressive attempts to insert himself from stage left likely backfired.

But that’s all punditry. Wait for the polls to see what voters thought.

EVENT ALERT - WBUR On Tap - The 2016 Presidential Election: Join MPG’s Steve Koczela, NPR political report Asma Khalid, and WBUR’s Anthony Brooks for a free discussion of the 2016 campaign. Details and registration here.

Mapping the City Council At Large Election: In our latest piece for WBUR’s Politicker, we went deep on the results of Boston’s City Council At Large race, where 5 candidates were vying for 4 seats. See who won where, how top vote getters Ayanna Pressley and Michelle Wu fared, and how newcomer Annissa Essaibi George bested longtime councillor Steve Murphy.

Young Professionals Heart the MBTA: That’s the big finding of a new survey we conducted for the Urban Land Institute Boston/New England. The online survey, which spawned stories on WBUR, Boston Magazine, and elsewhere, found that not only do young professionals prefer to take the T to work, access to transit is also a top consideration in their work satisfaction and their choice of neighborhoods. View the slides from the ULI event about the survey and check what Redditors are saying.

Are Polls Bad for Democracy? That’s the question at the heart of Jill Lepore’s 6,300-word New Yorker piece on the past and present of political polling, which was also the subjection of a WBUR Radio Boston interview. The written piece is full of misleading jumbles of insinuations about polling, and the radio piece is no better. Lepore went on almost as long as her story, but Steve Koczela got a few minutes to offer an abbreviated rebuttal. Listen here.

This week in #MBTAfail: The T held an online survey to pick the color schemes for its new subway cars, which will be arriving… someday. But what started as a feel-good customer engagement story turned into another debacle for the agency, when a closer look at the survey results showed signs of digital ballot-stuffing. MPG’s Steve Koczela, who is an expert on detecting fabrication in survey, weighed in for the The Boston Globe.


Politico asked Republican and Democratic insiders who won (Rubio) and lost (Kasich, Bush) last night’s debate.

Contrary to Rubio’s debate claim, philosophy majors make a lot more than welders.

One year out from the 2016 election: Fivethirtyeight’s Harry Enten has a helpful reminder: general election polls aren't very predictive right now.

Huffpollster dissects the latest polling missing, in Kentucky, where Republican Matt Bevin won easily despite polls showing his Democratic opponent ahead.

Americans are becoming less religious, according to the latest Pew survey on the topic.

Gallup surveyed veterans about their experience at college and found that those who served before enrolling were less likely to think their schools understood their needs.

NBC has offered GOP presidential candidates 12 minutes and 5 seconds of free air time, equal to the amount of time Donald Trump was on the air hosting Saturday Night Live. For those who watched, it felt more like 12 hours.

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The closest race of last week’s City Council election turned out to be between District 2 Councillor and current City Council President Bill Linehan and no one at all. Linehan, running unopposed, was voted for on only 53 percent of the ballots cast in his district; 40 percent were blank and the rest wrote-in another candidate. In fact, in some precincts there were more blanks and write-ins than votes for Linehan, as the map below shows:

As Boston Magazine’s Garrett Quinn noted, Linehan’s district has a history of producing a high number of blanked ballots. All the more reason, perhaps, for a challenger to give some thought to mounting a run in 2017.  

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