McCain Pollsters Trash Public Surveys
By Michael D. Shear
Sen. John McCain is fighting the perception that he is quickly falling far behind Democratic Sen. Barack Obama as polls show a widening gap between the two nominees.
The Los Angeles Times released a survey this morning showing McCain trailing Obama by a 15-point margin, the same chasm that a recent Newsweek poll showed. Other polls have shown a more narrow, single-digit lead for Obama, and Gallup's daily tracking poll shows the two candidates tied.
Nonetheless, in a memo to the public from his pollsters, McCain trashed the LA Times poll and practically pleaded for people to take the myriad surveys with a large grain of salt.
"It is important that both the campaign, as well as reporters covering the campaign, not over-react to every single survey that is released," said the memo from Bill McInturff, Liz Harrington and David Kanevsky at Public Opinion Strategies.
The memo blasts the LA Times survey, saying that its underlying data shows that it is skewed toward an outcome favorable to Obama. They point to the fact that the survey reported that its respondents were 22 percent Republican, 39 percent Democratic and 27 percent independent, with another 12 percent unaccounted for.
"Having double digits don't know or refused on party ID is a quite unusual finding," they argue. "Furthermore, since the LA Times does not release other demographics like age and ethnicity, it becomes very difficult for an independent observer to verify whether a survey is methodologically flawed or simply an outlier in public opinion trends."
They further argue that the LA Times poll, the Newsweek survey and other polls are "getting heavy coverage in the press, even though they clearly showed unusual results on party identification, as well as other demographics like age, in the case of the Newsweek survey."
The pushback could be critical for McCain, who can't afford to be seen as a distant challenger, which would make fundraising more difficult and could establish a narrative among the press corps and the pundits that becomes difficult to change.
Of course, McCain previously has proven himself to be more aggressive, more nimble and more energized when he's running as a long shot.
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