The National Polls: Horse Race or Horse Dung?
It seems that all of the corporate media is gushing over Romney’s “win” in the first “debate” with Obama, and at its transformative effect in the polls, especially the national ones. Pew Research, for example, had Obama up by 9 points just last month, and now has him down by 4. Wow!, the M$M gushes and parrots, Romney’s made a Comeback! It’s a horse race now! And, of course, “Watch this network for new developments in the race!”
I was suspicious. I was glad to have my suspicions confirmed by “the Votemaster(real name Andrew S. Tanenbaum)” over at www.electoral-vote.com. He may live in Amsterdam, but his analysis of the state by state polls was incredibly accurate in 2008. He only missed one state, Indiana. That’s not bad. Anyway, presumably Tanenbaum made this observation about the Pew poll:
However, a close look at the internals of the poll turns up something odd. In the October sample, 31% of the respondents self identified as Democrats (vs. 39% in September). Similar, there were 36% Republicans in October (vs. 29% in September). While many people believe Romney “won” the debate, it is extremely unlikely that 21% of the nation’s Democrats changed parties as a result of one debate. So there is a fair chance that the Pew poll is an outlier that undersampled Democrats and oversampled Republicans.
Here’s the link: http://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2012/Pres/Maps/Oct09.html#item-1
Exactly. Now why would the M$M media do this? I like to follow two axioms when thinking about questions like this. First, Ockham’s Razor, or “The simplest explanation is probably the correct one.” Second, my dad’s advice on politics: “Whenever you want to find out why something in politics happened, follow the money and most of the time you’ll find your answer.”
Both of these axioms point to the M$M having a monetary interest in making the presidential election get close. The networks are often closely tied to the polling organizations. It’s also easy to do: just oversample the party loyalists of the candidate you want see rise in the polls, and undersample the party loyalists of the other candidate. That’s easy to do, too; there’s lots of pretty accurate data on which counties and districts tend to vote which way. So if you want to favor the Republican, make more calls in Republican-dominated districts.
The networks don’t want their ratings to drop or to discourage say, Republican donors from throwing money at Romney because they think Willard is a lost cause. The more money Mitt has to spend, the more advertising revenue they will get from him. This also has the profitable effect of making Obama counter with more of his money for the airwaves. Yee-hah!
Therefore I question the accuracy of some of these polls, especially the national ones where it’s even easier to poll in Red States rather than Blue States or vice-versa than it is in state polls.
Another, more sinister IMO, consequence, is that friends, relatives, acquaintances and certain internet sites will use Romney’s sudden “surge” in the polls to scare left-leaning former Democrats back into the veal pen in order to stand united against The Evil Republican. I am not saying this was some sort of coordinated evil plan–I have no evidence–only that it’s possible. Even if no such plan exists, hired Democratic strategists will try to capitalize on many voters’ fears of what an unknown Romney Administration might do. I call it the Better-the-Devil-You-Know argument.
So I’ll answer my own question. This week’s national polls are horse dung.