Pulling the Chord on Polls

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The media has consistently used polls to create news and forward its liberal agenda. The trend has only continued throughout the 2008 election. In 2004, only one pollster got the numbers right on Election Day: John Zogby, who has called for the sensationalism to stop.
Throughout the primaries, the media used polls for its sundry machinations. Polls of moderates propped up McCain, pro-Obama polls shot down Hillary and with so many candidates, everything wound up being spread chaotically across the board. With so many polls and so much data, one would think it would be easy to call, but voters are fickle. Of the front-running candidates, each party selected the underdog, despite the enormity of public opinion only weeks earlier suggesting Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton were shoe-ins.
Polling has turned into its own subdivision of the media, so much so that every outlet, major and minor, conducts polls on any topic imaginable, from politics to pedicures. They are an easy way to create news and to skew elections by depressing the losing end.
So-called “scientific” polls hardly live up to their moniker. They fail to account for the thousands of variables that can skew a poll. Also, various pollsters have a vested interest in seeing to it that their polls reflect a particular opinion.
Verbal nuances (“likely voters” versus “registered voters”) can throw results wildly out of whack, as much as 10 points in some cases. Of course, there are always malicious pollsters, either from partisan outlets or the media (is there a difference?). For instance, a poll question could pose the following: “John McCain once sang about bombing Iran. Barack Obama has promised to bring voters the change they can believe in. Now that you know each candidate’s platform, who are you more likely to vote for?”
Since the two presidential debates, McCain has lost ground slightly, after riding a boost from Sarah Palin for weeks. With the miserable economy (thanks liberals, including Republicans, particularly that socialist, what’s-his-face—George W. Bush), it’s astounding that McCain hasn’t been blown out by 10 points or more. Yet, when he was winning, suddenly polls weren’t as fun anymore.
Then comes Obama with a whopping 2 percent lead (a statistical tie), even after the market’s record losses and all of a sudden it’s time to call the landslide for Barry! Throughout last week’s abysmal losses, the best Obama could scrape up in the Zogby poll was a three-point lead (factoring in the margin of error) with McCain holding him to a statistical tie for most of the week.
Not that Zogby is necessarily any more reliable than other pollsters (he is with Reuters after all), but his numbers did accurately contradict the tsunami of conventional wisdom during Bush vs. Kerry, when exit polls had it in the bag for the windsurfer with a “hunting license.” Despite his own numbers showing an Obama lead, Zogby warned the media that calling a landslide is crazy.
Of course it is. McCain isn’t exactly sitting pretty; the economy could easily (and wrongly) be attributed to conservatism and he could get wiped out. On the other hand, judging from the burning defeat of the first bailout bill, people seem to understand, at least partially, the nature of this crisis: corporations sought welfare and the government used them as back door social programs. In that case, McCain might not take the brunt of the blow, especially since Democrats from Barney Frank to Franklin Raines presided over the avalanche.
The point is that the polls are inherently skewed toward Obama. They are so abjectly unscientific that they become political tools wielded by a predominantly liberal media establishment, as the monolithically incorrect 2004 data demonstrated. The celebrations of an impending landslide are merely to depress the highly-energized Republican base. They really should be fretting over such a small lead, but the fact that it’s getting so much attention is revealing.
Everything can change on a dime, so I’m not going to call it for either of them. I hope it backfires. Maybe the media will lose polls as a political weapon and free publicity if this sensationalism turns out to be as fraudulent as the 2004 hubbub.

Patrick Ross is a fifth-year English and history double-major. He can be reached at pross@uci.edu.

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