Sunday, September 19, 2004

A Word on Polls

I ran into a reporter/columnist for the SunTimes and she recommended that I look up the "bad news" on the front page of the New York Times.

She said this in reference to the latest CBS/NYT Poll which found that Dubya "has an eight-point lead among registered voters".

As usual for a reporter/columnist for the SunTimes, her viewpoint lacked any context. Indeed, I hear a lot of people -- many supporting Kerry -- who look at these polls and are positively freaked out. This may not be such a bad reaction in the long run -- if it encourages Kerry supporters to do more to help the candidate.

On the other hand, I think: well, what did people expect? Did people expect that Kerry would maintain a comfortable lead all the way from Boston to the general election in November? When have things gone that way in recent history?

This was going to be close. We all knew that. What does 'close' mean? It means Bush may very well appear to be leading for much of the way. This was the case in 2000. Almost every poll indicated that Bush was more popular than Gore. Yet it turns out, as we all know, that Gore actually won the popular vote.

So much for polls. To make matters worse, there's the filter the Media applies to our candidate which is rarely favorable.

What they report -- including these polls -- is chronically slanted to the current incumbent. When Bush leads by 5 percent, it's "Bush Widens Lead"; When Kerry leads by 5 percent, it's "Election Still Too Close to Call".

So what else is new? We're got a challenging environment where we nonetheless have to push our candidate over the top. The polls overestimate the number of Republicans who are going to vote and underestimate the number of Democrats. For a great analysis of this bias see Donkey Rising or MyDD.

Far more than polls, what we need is a little perspective. We don't need many more people than what we had in 2000. So what do we have? People who went for Gore in 2000 aren't likely to go for Bush in 2004 -- based on Bush's spectacular record of failure in the past 4 years. So we've got those. Then, based again on this record, when we look around, we've got those and then some. It's only natural. And that's all the difference.


Post a Comment

<< Home