The Spectacle Blog

Poll dance

By on 1.9.08 | 9:13PM

Quin, I disagree with you on McCain's weaknesses vs. Hillary, but I entirely agree about polling. I find it absolutely fascinating that some nationally known experts on American politics are completely baffled by Clinton's New Hampshire comeback solely because the polls said she was going to lose.

Forget her stellar organization, forget her last-day surge, forget that New Hampshire Democratic voters are savvy enough to demand more from a candidate than "fired up, ready to lead!" and forget that New Hampshire voters famously don't make up their minds until the last minute. It's the election results that must be wrong because THE POLLS told us what was going to happen!

We assume that because the polls say something, it must be so. But polls truly are only a snapshot in time. And they often are wrong. A respected reporter I know joked with me at a campaign event last year, "the biggest lie we tell is that the margin of error is four percent." He's right. A "scientific" poll is scientific, but it is not an exact science.

Just before the primary, the polls had Obama anywhere from 12 points ahead to only one point ahead. That should have been a sign that something wasn't right in pollster land.

I'm tired of the assumption that the polls are the reality and that a different result on Election Day must be explained in terms of why the voters didn't behave correctly. Voters are allowed to change their minds. And of course even to think that they are changing their minds is to assume that the polls correctly recorded their opinions in the first place.

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