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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Skewed

Wasn't it just a week ago that conservatives were becoming unhinged over polls showing Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren pulling away? Now they are loving the same polls, while the agita is on the left.

Can't we all just get a grip? And remember that public opinion surveys are simply snapshots in time -- and that daily tracking polls have always been known mainly for their volatility.

As polls have multiplied so too has the likelihood that partisans will cry foul when one survey or another tilts against their candidate.

Monday will be recalled as a classic in poll angst. Several -- Gallup and Rasmussen -- showed Mitt Romney's debate bounce fading. But a Pew Research poll upended Conventional Wisdom several hours later by declaring a major Romney surge.

In a similar vein, a WBUR poll defied the recent trend line and put Scott Brown ahead of Elizabeth Warren in the state's US Senate race.

At times like these we should turn to the Times, or at least Nate Silver, who attempts to put it all in perspective using math instead of emotion. And the bottom line, while Romney's chances of winning the Electoral College have doubled in recent days, the road is a long one and:
... the gains that he made on Monday in particular were all because of a single poll.
Pew has a better reputation than Rasmussen, which helped fuel the overblown response. But I personally wonder about all outlier polls -- like the New Hampshire survey that gave Obama a 15-point edge.

The poll mania highlights a problem I've long railed about: the tendency of the media to focus o the fluff at the expense of a serious look at issues and candidates. The counter-argument goes the nature of news requires freshness, and that once you've covered a candidate's positions you can't go back.

That attitude has helped entrenched campaign coverage that focuses on polls and gaffes -- and helped create an environment where the nation's fiscal future is on the edge of a cliff because of a lack of a serious, extended examination of how tax cuts did not fuel the surge predicted by supply side economists 30 years ago.

Oh that's right, we can rely on the candidate's television ads to tell us the truth.

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