Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bulletin: McCain Leading Nationwide

McCain and Obama are neck and neck, but some polls haven't figured that out.

Two mornings ago you probably heard that the Los Angeles Times poll showed Barack Obama with a national lead over John McCain of 49% to 37%. Time to panic?

Perhaps -- until you heard Carl Cameron of FOX (one newsman who has a brain) say that the Gallup (Daily) Tracking Poll shows McCain and Obama in a (drum-roll) "statistical dead heat," with both men polling 45%. Gallup, despite a few bumps in its long road, is in fact "the gold standard" of polls.

The LA Times survey is more a political statement than a scientific poll. When it comes to the Times, liberals seem always to "poll" very well. There's only one California survey with a record for accuracy: the Field Poll.

But as the Times has disovered, releasing a cockamamie poll is a good way to sell papers.Should you instead depend on a newsman like the esteemed Chris Wallace? Today, Wallace was speaking about Pennsylvania, where I live, and he said, "Hillary Clinton won it by 20-30%.

Oh really? Mrs. Clinton won Pennsylvania by 9.2%. Chris Wallace was off by roughtly 11-21 percentage points. Isn't political coverage supposed to be his strong suit? He may have been confusing PA with WV, where Mrs. Clinton won by 41%. (I guess WV must have a 5,000 truckoads of "bitter" people.)

Chris Wallace also repeated the rumor (it's not much more than that) that Obama is ahead by 12% in the critical state of Pennsylvania. I wondered if the LA Times had conducted a survey here (without my knowledge).

Like all states, we have our versions of Mom n Pop polls, which are always wrong.Trust me, McCain is doing well in Pennsylvania, and he will win this state. As Mrs. Clinton demonstrated in the Primary, Obama is not well-liked here. Our state's animosity toward him mirrors his hostility to us. We're much too busy clinging to our guns and our Bibles to embrace an unarmed man who has Rev. Wright and Fr. Pfleger confused with Christians.

More about polls in later columns later. I love them, but I don't trust them -- except for Gallup, especially when it's in line with my wishes.

By the way, McCain being even with Obama, if Gallup is correct, means he almost certainly well ahead in electoral votes. Obama is over-performing in three large states (NY, IL, and CA), and that skews the polls.

One other fact to keep in mind: Obama has a history of showing up better in polls than he does with real ballots. For whatever reason, he does about 5% better with pollsters than with real, live voters.

There, didn't I make you feel better about things political?

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