OUR VIEW: Election polls
by Daily Mountain Eagle
Sep 30, 2012 | 1116 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With 37 days until the election, America's political media have slipped into an area quite comfortable to them — incessant coverage of polls.

And despite pitiful economic progress and the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, President Obama remains ahead in practically every poll.

Democrats would say that's thanks to gems from Romney like his “47 percent” remarks or his tone-deaf response to the murder of the three embassy workers. Many conservatives, however, feel the issue is not with public perception, but with purposefully skewed polling data.

Many liberal pundits and Democratic strategists were saying the same thing nearing the presidential election of 2004. Despite almost universal disapproval of Bush, Kerry had similar results as Romney does now.

There are, however, legitimate criticisms of how polls are conducted and perceived nowadays. Some pollsters focus on political sentiments nationwide, when it’s voters in the swing states who will make the real difference. Some simply ask respondents if they PLAN on voting, rather than asking about previous voting habits.

The biggest problem with polls is the horserace coverage that they encourage. When the media focuses solely on the numbers, a candidate falls a few points and then the press starts to frame him as the loser. Then the polls — regardless of their validity — become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There is something both the news media and voters can do to stop this phenomenon: STOP PAYING SO MUCH ATTENTION TO POLLS!

Many people work hard to produce political surveys, and the data is important if viewed in the right context. But as any pollster will tell you again and again, election questionnaires are a snapshot. They give you a picture of public sentiment, but only for a very specific time and place. That picture may be similar on election day, or vastly different.

The presidential debates will take place on Oct. 3, Oct. 16 and Oct. 22, and the vice presidential debate will take place on Oct. 11. Those are what the press and the voters should pour over.

- Daily Mountain Eagle