I put Middle Earth Journal in hiatus in May of 2008 and moved to Newshoggers.
I temporarily reopened Middle Earth Journal when Newshoggers shut it's doors but I was invited to Participate at The Moderate Voice so Middle Earth Journal is once again in hiatus.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Poll Vaulting

For some reason we seem to keep paying attention to poll results. Ron and I are guilty of it too. I suppose, as pundits, we're addicted to it like a crackhead who simply can't wean themselves off the junk. The day before the Michigan primary I find myself looking over the news and wondering anew why we even bother reading this tripe.

Let's see... how is it going in Michigan? Who's going to win? Oh, here it is. McCain leads Romney in Michigan. Oh dear... that's bad news for Mitt, eh? I mean, he really needed to win that one if wanted to... oh! Wait! What's this? Romney leads McCain in Michigan. But.. but.. that other guy just said... I'm so confused! These "results" were posted within 24 hours of each other.

How about those projections for the general election? Surely we can find some good guidance on that important subject. Ok, here we go. Ed Morrisey reports that, according to Rassmussen, "McCain beats Hillary like a drum," leading her by double digits. Oh dear! And for a while there it sounded like the Democrats had a very good chance this November. This will surely come as disappointing news to... STOP THE PRESSES! What do we have here? This CNN / Opinion Research poll from only one day earlier shows McCain being in a statistical tie, though still trailing both leading Democratic candidates, losing 50-48 to Clinton and losing 49-48 to Obama.

What conclusions do we draw from that? There seem to be only two choices. Either:
1. Hillary's national popularity plummeted more than 12% in 24 hours
2. These people are basically just pulling numbers out of their butts at this point.

Personally, I think it will be quite a while before we start seeing any polls with real value to them. After Michael Medved used one of those polls to conclude that Romney was the weakest, most unelectable candidate in the GOP field, I found myself pretty much agreeing with Dan Riehl.
The fact is, these national polls have no real meaning at all. Two weeks ago McCain, Obama or whomever was dirt, this week they might be the cat's meow. Attempting to take a measurement of a head-to-head presidential election eight months before it even begins is simply the media looking for a project for its pollsters, one that generates a little buzz. Most every intelligent political pundit knows this as a matter of course. Heck, sometimes candidates shift or alter their presentation and positions from subtly to seemingly entirely as they move from primary to general election mode, assuming they win the former. They often include people who are barely paying attention and just giving their impression from the latest newscast they saw or heard.

Whoever wins the primaries on both sides typically introduces his or her self to the public in this context beginning after the conventions. Only then do such polls begin to matter. Unless of course you have some hidden agenda, or are simply trying to score some points in a game we can all probably do without.

It's not that I don't believe Romney is a weak candidate. In my opinion, he clearly is. But at this point, we'll be lucky to be able to trust the vote counts after the primaries, say nothing of trying to calculate what will happen before the voting even begins.