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Are the Polls Wrong?

Michael Abramowitz Post wrote a story I have been wanting to read for some weeks when he asked in his first paragrah, "Could the polls be wrong?" in their predictions that Democrat Barack Obama holds a strong lead over Republican John McCain a week before the presidential election.

The article refers of course to the famous 1948 Gallup poll prediction that Republican Thomas Dewey would defeat President Harry Truman, a prediction memorialized in the famous photograph of winner Truman holding up an early edition of the Chicago Tribune with the banner headline: Dewey Defeats Truman. Oops.

The McCain campaign wants us to believe that the polls are wrong. As Abramowitz reports, some pollsters worry too, primarily because of the wide variation in the Obama lead reported by different polls.

Our Readers Who Comment also have opinions and distrust. Not surprisingly, most of those who support McCain question the polls; most of those who support Obama are cheered with the poll results but worried. They urge their fellows to take nothing for granted and get out the vote.

And, of course, there are a few shots at the mainstream liberal media for having favored Obama from the beginning and rigging their polls to reflect that bias.

We'll start with HistoryBuff1, who wrote, "I worked for the Mondale campaign. We printed up the Dewey Beats Truman headlines and used the same tactic so many years ago to bamboozle the media when we knew we had lost...Truman might have beat Dewey, but McCain's chances are the same as Mondale's were."

el_barto said "The main reason for the 'Dewey defeats Truman' headline was that the Gallop poll was relying on telephone calls to poll people... people with telephones in 1948 tended to be more affluent and urban... those people preferred Dewey. But the large rural majority that supported Truman didn't have as many phones for Gallup to call...If anything polls are under representing support for Obama..."

But TonySidaway wrote, "I think it may well be close. To borrow a term from the 1992 British General Election, there could be a lot of "Shy Conservatives" who will not be so shy when it comes to turning out and pulling the levers."

shinestx said, "The mainstream "lying liberal" media are disgraceful!! They have been using the polls to try to influence the election. Having done everything but declared Obama our new president..., they have demonstrated their bias and corruption (Yes!). Furthermore, they have eroded the little bit of trust the public still gave to them."

And clarice2 asked, "Why not check your reports a week before the Bush-Kerry election? And then there were the exit polls. We'll see when the votes are counted. In the meantime, I remain a sceptic."

thebobbob said, "The polls vary wildly because they're based on different assumptions. How do you define likely voter? How do you contact young voters with only cell phones? How do you balance D's vs R's when there's unprecedented changes in the balance? fivethirtyeight dot com has the most transparent analysis of all the different polls..."

gmdim warned that "There is also the very real possibility of Chicago-style shenanigans. What ACORN can do in voter registration, low-level employees can do in the polls... The left is inventive and unscrupulous."

Gypsy1 wrote, "Of Course McCain/Palin could win. As real voting time nears, more & more folks will realize how stupid it would be to move toward a Welfare State as Obama proposes... You want welfare? vote Obama. You want to "earn your own way" vote for McCain. What are your values??"

And Tom22 predicted that "McCain is going to win in a Landslide! The Dems will have a huge majority in Congress and have a filibuster proof Senate! Finally, change is coming!"

wunderwood said, "We cannot afford another 4 years of right wing policy. McCain will not live out his term and Sarah Palin is not fit to be president. If you know of ANYONE that is not voting because this is a "slam dunk" demand that they go and cast their vote... We MUST close this deal..."

kranman wrote, "The best indicator of the accuracy of the polls is what has transpired in Michigan. What did the polls say; significant Obama lead and what did McCain/Palin do; they pulled out of the state. If the polls were suspect would they have done that?..."

goaway4 said, "...I want to hear more detail on reasons polls could be wrong. I'm an Arizona native and I find it very unlikely that the recent polls showing Obama closing the gap are accurate... Don't get me wrong, I think the "Obama is considerably ahead" trend is almost certainly accurate. It's just that there are certain details that strike me as questionable..."

Batgeek wrote, "I for one hope that Obama does pull it off if the American people want change they will have it with him. It may not be a good kind of change seeing that he's a socialist nutcase, but it'll be change..."

SDWalters said, "For once, the McCain campaign is right about something. This race may be closer than expected. The chances of an unexpected result are due primarily to the emphasis in the media on the national polls, which mean very little in a system where the President is chosen by an Electoral College. Only by looking carefully at the separate polls in the swing states can a sense of the race be obtained, and those state polls are generally too close to call..."

However, davidscott1 wrote, "Looking at the state by state races, it is very hard to see how McCain gets to 270 [electoral college votes needed to win.]. And his people know it. He's still in PA for a simple reason: he has no choice."

cdierd1944 said, "Of course McCain is going to say the polls are wrong. This is classic neocon strategy. Deny, deny, deny, until enough people start toe believe what you say is true... Obama may not win by 7 percent but he doesn't have to. A nice 3-4 percent victory would be just fine."

We'll close with jhough1, who wrote, "...The Obama organization has been grossly underreported this year. It is awesome. In Arlington, there are so many volunteers that you cannot volunteer to drive voters to the poll unless you agree to come in, work the phone banks, and find yourself someone to bring to the polls.
McCain has no organization at all. It is astonishing, all the more so since Rove had a first class organization."

All comments on this article are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  October 29, 2008; 8:30 AM ET
Categories:  McCain , Obama , Polling , Presidential Politics  | Tags: McCain, Obama, Polls  
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Next: The Barack Obama Show

Comments

We strongly advise all of you AMERICANS :

IT IS TIME TO COME BACK TO THE BASIC & FUNDAMENTAL OF LIFE, TO SUPPORT FOR THOSE POLITICTIANS WHO ARE AGAINST ABORTION, AGAINST TERRORIST ; WHO STAY WITH A TRADITIONAL FAMILY VALUES : A MALE FATHER & A FEMALE MOTHER .

YOUR CHOICE TO VOTE FOR THESE TRUE VALUES WILL DETERMINE OUR COUNTRY & THE WORLD FUTURE TO COME ...

Posted by: sothatlove | October 30, 2008 10:11 AM | Report abuse

We strongly advise all of you AMERICANS :

IT IS TIME TO COME BACK TO THE BASIC & FUNDAMENTAL OF LIFE, TO SUPPORT FOR THOSE POLITICTIANS WHO ARE AGAINST ABORTION, AGAINST TERRORIST ; WHO STAY WITH A TRADITIONAL FAMILY VALUES : A MALE FATHER & A FEMALE MOTHER .

YOUR CHOICE TO VOTE FOR THESE TRUE VALUES WILL DETERMINE OUR COUNTRY & THE WORLD FUTURE TO COME ...

Posted by: sothatlove | October 30, 2008 10:09 AM | Report abuse

I'm surprised, I really expected the McCain campaign to say with a week to go. "Nah, no way we can win this one. Just call the race, we give up." A campaign insisting it can win is really quite unprecedented.

Posted by: theamazingjex | October 29, 2008 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I certainly hope Obama supporters think the race is still close so they will vote early or make sure to go on Nov. 4.

So keep up the drum-beat. Despite the polls, the race is close and YOUR VOTE IS CRITICAL.

Posted by: RealCalGal | October 29, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Suppose the polls are wrong. Suppose McCain-Palin win. We would have an administration that a signifigant number of the electorate believes to be unfit for office. Not because they were told that by Obama but because McCain and Palin demonstrated they were unfit by the campaign they have run.

Posted by: rj2z | October 29, 2008 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Regarding polling methodology, the results are highly variable as a function of intial assumptions, many having to do with defining "likely voters."

The biggest black hole in polling is that 40% - 50% of those contacted who decline to participate. A correct methodology would persist until these folks respond. However, that would be exceptionally obnoxious and so the pollsters don't. If there is some kind of common inclination or bias among this group, it will be missed and the polls will be fundamentally flawed at least in the dimension of misconstruing intensity of support for breadth support.

The silent majority lives.

Posted by: quietpatriot1776 | October 29, 2008 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Look. McCain must have some trust in these polls because he is concentrating all of his efforts now in red states that Bush won in 2004, save one: Pennsylvania. If he loses Pennsylvania he has no chance at all. He knows that. If, as he said, he saw these polls closing in all of the states, he would be hightailing it into Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico.

All of those are former red states that Obama is leading in significantly. Yet McCain has all but conceded them in this feverish last minute rush into Pennsylvania. That activity tells you far more about where they think this race is.

Posted by: jaxas | October 29, 2008 11:10 AM | Report abuse

If America recovers it's leadership in he free world then the splurge and diet political crisscross will continue with the two current parties.

If the economy fails completely - the republican party will disappear and the democratic party will split into two factions - each with its own agenda and both agendas significantly different than that of either party that exists today.

Posted by: agapn9 | October 29, 2008 11:00 AM | Report abuse

If America recovers it's leadership in he free world then the splurge and diet political crisscross will continue with the two current parties.

If the economy fails completely - the republican party will disappear and the democratic party will split into two factions - each with its own agenda and both agendas significantly different than that of either party that exists today.

Posted by: agapn9 | October 29, 2008 11:00 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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