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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Friday, May 10, 2013

Poll-ution

He's down. He's up. He's down again. The first round of polls in the US Senate special election make yo-yos seem stable. And offer once again, a solid reason for voters to ignore the media's obsession with "news."

A WBUR-Mass Inc. poll suggests Democrat Ed Markey holds a 6-point lead over Republican Gabriel Gomez in their June 25 showdown. That's an 11-point drop from the 17-point margin Markey held in a Suffolk University-Channel 7 poll released a day earlier.

But wait: Markey held just a 4-point margin over Gomez in a PPP survey a mere week ago.

So what's someone to make about the volatility of the race to replace John Kerry? Not much, at least based on the numbers so far.

Start with the the wide range. A general rule of thumb is thrown out the extremes. You can certainly look with skepticism on the Suffolk poll, despite the assurances of pollster David Paleologos:
“I’m not saying the race won’t be close or it won’t get closer, or that Markey or somebody won’t gaffe,” said David Paleologos, the Suffolk pollster who conducted the survey. “But in terms of the starting point, this isn’t a handful-of-points race.”
But if you turn the wayback machine to October, there's this little matter of presidential polling gone awry:
“I think in places like North Carolina, Virginia and Florida, we’ve already painted those red," David Paleologos, the president of Suffolk University Political Research Center told Fox host Bill O'Reilly on Tuesday. "We’re not polling any of those states again. We're focusing on the remaining states.”
When the dust settled, Mitt Romney squeaked out a narrow win in North Carolina after dropping both Virginia and Florida. I don't ever recall an explanation for that infamous failure.

The point is polls are only as good as the data that go into them. And I am not a statistician who relishes reading tabs so I can't tell you what's right or wrong. Like 99.999 percent of the electorate.

So we have two polls showing narrower leads of four and six points. Which is it?

Who cares?

The general election is slightly more than two weeks old. Reporters are just beginning to dig into the meaty stories about Markey and Gomez. More voters are focused on Red Sox numbers than Gomez's.

Markey has already hit the airwaves with commercials that seem far more impressive than the batch that ran during the primary. Whether that's a sign of prudence or "running scared" is in the eye of the beholder.

I guess we'll need to wait for the next poll to find out.

Or not.

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