DO THE POLLS LIE? [Updated Friday]
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WHICH POLLS CAN WE TRUST? WHY DO THEY DIFFER SO MUCH? WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?
Contrary to other polls, some of which show Obama ahead by double digits, the IBD/TIPP Poll shows a sudden tightening of Obama's lead to 3.7 from 6.0.
And as of Friday, the margin has tightened to 1.1% per the same poll. LINK: http://www.ibdeditorials.com/Polls.aspx?id=309635713550536 .
“McCain has picked up 3 points in the West and with independents, married women and those with some college. He¹s also gaining momentum in the suburbs, where he's gone from dead even a week ago to a 20-point lead. Obama padded gains in urban areas and with lower-class households, but he slipped 4 points with parents...”
AND see Michel Barone’s piece – “Are the Polls Accurate?” by following this LINK: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122463210033356561.html?mod=djemEditorialPage .
EXPLAINING THE INEXPLICABLE
So, how do we explain the huge spread in the current polls?
Selection of the interview sample is more like a culinary recipe than hard science. Interviews are done via land line phones in an era where many potential voters don’t even have a land line, and most of us hate to be polled at all.
I suspect that the Rasmussen poll (showing a 5% spread for the last two weeks) actually hides volatility because some weeks ago the “leaners” were included as a vote.
And I think that the polls that cover all registered voters also exaggerate volatility. A recent Zogby poll that showed a narrowing race was limited to likely voters.
One thing is clear enough: Turnout will be a huge factor. It can be depressed by a sense of futility, and it can be energized by a sense of apocalypse. This is where Palin becomes a strong asset for McCain, and the demonization of “evil republicans” works to the advantage of the democrats.
HOW DID WE GET TO THIS PLACE?
What I find most perplexing, however, is the cranky ambivalence among some republicans about John McCain. For authentic conservatives, McCain is a perfect Trifecta - he's pro-life, a deficit hawk and an anti-jihad hawk.
And in a different election, the selection of a very liberal junior senator from a north-eastern state would have been a non-starter. For “blue dog” democrats to reject Hillary in favor of someone whose liberalism makes Carter and Dukakis looks positively Reaganesque is improbable on the face of it.
But the hunger for victory and Bush hatred among democrats, who otherwise might be more divided than currently appears to be the case, is really not that surprising
Nevertheless, I think that all these developments demonstrate the failure of the primary system -- in the sense that it allows at least one party to become captive of a tiny ideological minority and the early leaders in the race to build a commanding lead before thorough vetting.
I still believe that both democrats and republicans would have done better with those old smoky backroom conventions, where the pros concentrated on the task of actually winning the general election from the very first. This old system virtually guaranteed a focus on the center of the political spectrum. In such a decision making process, it is unlikely that Obama would have gotten the nod, given his inexperience. Hillary would have been the nominee.
It is unclear what the republicans would have done this time, but the winning candidate would be fresh (instead of burned out from a 14 month campaign), privately vetted and selected with winning the general election as the primary goal.
None of these considerations will be taken seriously if Obama wins. Later, if Obama fails in office, you will hear everything I have talked about here repeated and more.
THE END GAME
If the race tightens further, say to a 2.5% spread before Halloween, expect a panic response from "The One" campaign. If the spread is less than 1.5% on Halloween, Obama will lose.
I don't think there is a classic "Bradley effect" in the sense that racists will lie to pollsters, but I do think that there is social pressure that inhibits someone inclined to vote against Obama from saying so because of fear of being thought of as a racist.
And I suspect that the "Obama effect" is about 2% in many voting areas. So a down trend for Obama on the last weekend and a spread lower than 2% would be terrible news for "The One".
This is why so much attention is being given by democrats the advance voters right now.