Don’t listen to the polls | AspenTimes.com

Don’t listen to the polls

If the results of the recent presidential polls told us anything, it’s that they badly misfired.

Look no further than last Tuesday’s Democratic primary in New Hampshire, where Sen. Hillary Clinton collected 39 percent of the vote, as opposed to Barack Obama’s 36 percent.

Did anyone see that coming? Not the pollsters, some of whom predicted the Illinois senator, fueled by his victory in Iowa a week earlier, would defeat Clinton by a double-digit margin. That didn’t happen, and previous reports of Clinton’s demise, to paraphrase Mark Twain, were greatly exaggerated.

The polls appeared to be more accurate in the Republican race, as John McCain won as expected.

What we can deduce from this is that national public opinion surveys just don’t have much clout this early in the race. Perhaps people aren’t paying as much attention to the presidential race as they will be in September or October. Or, it’s possible the press is in too much of a hurry to give us the winner before the votes have been tallied.

Even broadcast journalists Chris Matthews and Tom Brokaw had a slight spat about it Tuesday on MSNBC. Matthews, reacting to Clinton’s upset, wondered aloud if an investigation should be launched into how these polls were conducted.

Brokaw replied, “You know what I think we’re going to have to go back and do?

Wait for the voters to make their judgment.”

Questionable polling techniques, and their inaccuracies, aren’t just confined to this stage of the campaign.

Flashback to the 2004 presidential race on Election Day. Exit polls on the Internet, as well as CNN, had Sen. John Kerry defeating President Bush in the swing states of Ohio and Florida. Turns out they were wrong, and the rest is history.

It’s no secret that polls can be misleading, but they wield a lot of influence and power. They can change a voter’s decision about whom to vote for, or cause him or her to not vote at all.

The lesson we should all learn is to take these presidential polls with a grain of salt, and to vote for your favorite candidate, according to your conscience ” not with what the polls might suggest.


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