Polling the polls and what it tell us about the pols

There’s a great diary post by DemFromCT at dailyKos today about how to read (and not read) political polling and what political polling about the presidential race does and doesn’t tell you. Yes, dailyKos is an admittedly and proud progressive blog, but even if your politics lean elsewhere you’ll find this overview is well done. It points to FiveThirtyEight.com which also offers some good information.

The Democratic and Republican conventions will soon be upon us and once the news cycle rolls past Labor Day, the election and its attendant polling will start to be ever present. This blog entry and its advice is good to keep in mind:

1. Polls are a snapshot in time

2. Polls depend on good technique, good interpretation, and a representative sample.

3. State polling is much more difficult and less reliable than national polling.

4. Understand the difference between adults, registered voters and likely voters.

5. Get help – Compared to 2004, there are many more polling resources available on the Internet…

6. Media polls drive narrative, and often the narrative excludes other polls.

Remember that any numbers showing how one candidate leads another nationally are irrelevant because of the electoral college. I think it’s time to abolish the electoral college and encourage you to explore the idea as well. (See National Popular Vote or click on the icon in the right side bar.)

Red state and blue state maps are only relevant to the electoral college. There is a Green Party (Cynthia McKinney the likely nominee) for one thing, as well as a Libertarian Party (Bob Barr), Constitution Party (Chuck Baldwin) and others (Ralph Nader, a major independent) running for president (see Project Vote Smart). As symbols for liberal and conservative, red and blue don’t do justice to representing states because all states are actually purple. Following the 2004 election this graphic from Boing Boing demonstrated just how ridiculous the red and blue map actually is.

The recently released Pew Forum report on the U.S. Religious Landscape noted that there is a decided correlation between faith and people’s political expression. The Pew Forum’s Religion & Politics ’08 is worth tracking. It’s currently noting that McCain’s lead among white Evangelicals is smaller this year than Bush’s was four years ago.

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