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September 21, 2010

Polls and Momentum

In politics and sports, commentators like nothing more than to talk about momentum. Who has it. Who lost it. And how much it's going to affect the only poll that really matters on Election Day. So I always take note how momentum gets framed.

Take the West Virginia PPP poll just released.

PPP cautions that because this is their first poll in the West Virginia race and the first of any poll to show Raese over Manchin it shouldn't be interpreted to say anything about momentum.

Bullhockey. The Robert Byrd Memorial Senate Seat was widely thought to be a long shot for a GOP pick up. All the analysts categorize the seat "Leans Dem." So a poll showing the the Republican candidate over the de facto Democratic incumbent absolutely demonstrates that the electorate is going places. PPP's cautionary statement just shows that the electorate is going places PPP isn't exactly comfortable with.

We've been watching Gallup's notoriously unreliable polling on the generic ballot for the same reason. One week they've got the Republican at +10. The next week, it's tied. Then the generic Republican +5. Now, again, it's statistically tied. So, how does Gallup spin this: "Republicans losing strength in September compared with August." The point being that Republicans are losing momentum. Oh, the horror, they peaked too soon.

Again, BULLHOCKEY. A series of unreliable polls does not indicate momentum or lack thereof. In fact, this series of polls doesn't indicate anything at all except that Gallup has waited too long compared to its competitors to start polling likely voters. Gallup's poll is based on surveys of registered voters, which in a mid-term election year are only slightly more accurate than surveys of the squirrels in my yard.

Gallup cautions that things may change when it finally starts polling likely voters in October. No. Shit. Republicans are much more enthusiastic than Democrats about voting this year. Ya think that might affect the outcome? Oh, but that's not Gallup's goal right now. Right now it wants to talk about momentum. And that means pretending that the Democrats have got it.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 11:51 AM

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