Well, THIS explains what all those McCarthy-ites--oops, McSame-ers -- oops, Fair and Balanced Supporters of the Republican Candidate, John McCain are blathering on and on about.
Have you noticed the fact that you can't swing a dead cat these days [ouch! I just got a claw embedded in my ankle!] without hitting some republican who's quoting this poll or that one?
So, I went looking for some polling data all on my own to see if I could make sense of it all and found this commentary on summer polls. This guy doesn't seem to have an ax to grind about one candidate or another. He's just reporting on polling in the summertime. Period.
Now I'm being repeatedly nipped on the toes. [Jake! Stop it, already!]
So, you read this article while I go make nice with Jake who took offense at my reference to deceased felines for some reason. Sheesh!
[[ Jake! Even candidates for president mis-speak, sometimes! I didn't mean it that way! Honest!]]
This from Chron.com:
What's wrong with these summertime presidential polls? -- by Richard Dunham
You could get whiplash just trying to read the most recent presidential campaign polls. In the past week, we've seen one poll (Gallup) declaring that John McCain is leading the race by 4 percentage points. But if you were watching CNN, you'd learn that its poll has Barack Obama ahead by 7 percentage points.
In between, we have a 1-point Obama lead (Fox/Opinion Dynamics), 2 points (Rasmussen Reports) and 5 points (Pew Research Center).
Polling in seven key swing states by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute finds Obama's lead shrinking. But CNN is showing the Illinois Democrat's lead growing.
What in the name of President Kerry is going on here?
Here are our five top factors that are giving American pollsters midsummer fits:
1. Summertime polls are notoriously unreliable. People go on vacation, so the samples used by pollsters are sometimes not representative of the population. Fewer young people are at home in the summer. And many voters are thinking of the beach -- or paying for that next tank of gas -- rather than making a final decision on their local congressional race (or even the presidential contest).
"It's just not a good time to poll," said Clay Richards, associate director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
2. More people use cell phones in the summer. Pollsters have been bedeviled in recent years by the increasing number of Americans, particularly younger adults, who use mobile units as their primary -- or sometimes only -- telephones.
Some pollsters rely entirely on land lines, some have a formula for taking into account people without old-fashioned service. This alone can skew the results. Add to that the fact that more people are away from their home phones (where most pollsters call) and you have a recipe for disaster.
3. Pollsters are surveying different audiences. Some summertime polls measure all adults, some measure registered voters, some try to guess who is a likely voter in November. After Labor Day, just about every poll focuses on likely voters, so it's more valid to compare one poll to another. If you do that in the summertime, you're asking for trouble.
4. Nobody knows who's going to vote in November. Even the polls that claim to measure likely voters aren't the same. All use a formula called a "screen" based on answers to several questions. Some polls base their likely-voter screen on whether a person has voted in recent elections. Others base it on the person's enthusiasm level about the current election. Some Democrats argue that current screens undercount young voters, first-time voters and charged-up anti-Bush voters. As independent pollster John Zogby says, all polling mixes art and science. There's no scientific formula that can perfectly predict who will show up to vote.
5. Blame it on cable. The insatiable appetite of 24/7 cable news, the Internet and the blogosphere have accelerated the trend toward covering new poll results like a new inning in a baseball game.
Yesterday, Obama, 51-42. Today, McCain, 49-45. Tomorrow ... stay tuned!
Trouble is, we're really mixing apples and oranges here. It's fine to compare trends in the same poll over time. If several polls reflect the same trend, it's probably true. But the cable talking heads breathlessly read the latest polls as if they are reality TV.
Sorry, folks. They are just snapshots in time -- imperfect snapshots, as we've explained above. All polls are not the same. We should not mix and match polls at will.
What's more, treating poll results like a nonstop sporting event is not only bad journalism, it's just plain dumb.
That having been said, we'll be back next week with more poll numbers and analysis for you. Some of us just can't break our addiction to polls.
OK, I got to the bottom of the problem. My reference to a dead cat wasn't it. At least, that wasn't ALL he was offended by:
First, he was upset at my calling rethugs 'Fair and Balanced.' [So I explained the finer nuances of sarcasm.]
Second, he was upset by the 'dead cat' remark. [And I explained idiomatic speech.]
And, then, he took offense at his second billing in the title.
But, he was at least somewhat mollified when I explained that this is a POLITICAL blog and promised to give him top billing whenever he is mentioned at Scattershot Thoughts [after I signed a document to that effect with the blood from my ankle.]
So, we're all OK over here, now. For the moment, at least.