Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 26, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

LATEST POLLS....Since I posted about the latest Gallup tracking poll yesterday, I guess it's worth noting that the latest CBS/New York Times poll provides wildly different results. Gallup's national poll shows Obama and Clinton virtually tied (Obama is ahead 47%-45%), while the NYT poll gives Obama a huge lead, 54%-38%. I don't know if this is related to differing methodologies or what, but maybe the race isn't quite as tied as I thought it was.

UPDATE: Via Steve Benen, USA Today has Obama ahead 51%-39% while AP/Ipsos has him ahead by only 46%-43%. So it's all over the map. I guess there's no telling what's really going on.

Kevin Drum 12:37 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (19)

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I think the likely voter scenarios are so wildly unpredictable this year that the polls are not as useful as usual.

Posted by: jnfr on February 26, 2008 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Some of these national polls may also take into account votes that have already been cast in previous (most) primaries/caucuses.

A national poll seems silly when more than half the nation has already voted.

Posted by: phil on February 26, 2008 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

There is the common denominator that Obama is now ahead in every national Democratic poll (somewhere between 2 and 16 percent ahead) and, to date, he polls better against McCain. The significance is that unless Senator Clinton does extremely well in Ohio and Texas we will start to see the so-called "superdelegates" begin to break en-masse to Obama, eliminating the any scenario of a brokered convention. Most people don't pay attention to polls -- but politicians do.

Posted by: Scott on February 26, 2008 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Polling a presidential contest before voting day is a bit like testing the density of plaster before it sets. The electorate is going through a process of decisionmaking. and it's going to end up at a certain place, but that place may or may not have any relationship to where they are right now.

Carter polled ahead of Reagan most of the way up to election day, and then lost in an electoral landslide. Looking back, though, it seems absurd to think Carter was ever going to beat Reagan in that campaign, no matter what the interim polling said.

Posted by: jimBOB on February 26, 2008 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

"So it's all over the map. I guess there's no telling what's really going on."

I had to re-read the rest of your post to see if there was a poll with Hillary ahead. There wasn't, so I'm not sure why you think these results are "all over the map" - the only uncertainty seems to be the size of Obama's lead.

Posted by: on February 26, 2008 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I don't remember if you had discussed the recent progressive call to abstain from answering pollers' queries, such as at the Huff Post. If not, I would be curious to know how you think polling methods would be affected or altered to accommodate increased unwillingness from specific groups and/or across the political specturm. Is it perhaps a non-issue, since polls are already reliable to within a ship's berth?

Posted by: DSM on February 26, 2008 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Gallup keeps asking if we want an unpatriotic Muslim with a terrorist-sounding name that rhymes with Osama or someone named Clinton as president.

Posted by: AJ on February 26, 2008 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

4 polls, two show Obama with a big lead, two show
Obama with a small lead. But more importantly,
the recent polls from Texas show Obama tied or
ahead, and the primary/caucus system there is
probably good for him. So the smart money says
that HRC's firewall is toast, and Obama is probably
going to keep or even extend his delegate lead
on March 4th. Which really makes any national
poll about HRC irrelevant: she isn't likely to be
in any national election this cycle.

Posted by: Richard Cownie on February 26, 2008 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

The value of national polls now is that it shows Hillary is losing ground in the large states she won earlier. It shows that the national Democratic party is rallying around Obama.

Posted by: tomeck on February 26, 2008 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, a few days ago you had a post about pollsters and Survey USA was by far the most accurate. They say 51% to 39%, so that's the best estimate.

Posted by: Dilbert on February 26, 2008 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

One thing is for sure.

All those polls include states that don't count.

Posted by: david in norcal on February 26, 2008 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I don't know about polls, but the Iowa Electronic Markets trend has been clear for more than a week. Obama is now up to $.80 a share, and Clinton is down to $.18. (The other $.02 is "other.") That is about as clear a trend as you will find, and of course the IEM has a great track record of accuracy.

Posted by: peter A on February 26, 2008 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin - Come on, it isn't hard at all to tell what is going on. Hillary is behind and weakening - Obama is ahead and getting stronger. Pick a poll, any poll - look at the trend lines. They are ALL the same thing. So, to say "there's no telling what is going on" - is not credible. We all know what's going on.

Posted by: C.B. Todd on February 26, 2008 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is way ahead in Gallup's National Poll. He's closer in their DAILY TRACKING POLL. The two are DIFFERENT POLLS.

Posted by: bob on February 26, 2008 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

I think there's a lot of people like me, who are still sorting things out regarding where we stand at this particular moment in the nominating process. I'm not jumping on the Obama bandwagon yet, but I am reconciling myself with the collective majority decision of my fellow Democrats, and will be there after Tuesday, I reckon.

It will be time for everyone to start pulling together, remember what happened the last two times out, and close the deal this time around. Failure is not an option.

And one more thing: If our prospective nominee has anything further to publicly disclose regarding his professional life that might be even remotely be considered controversial, i.e. his relationships with Tony Rezko and other Chicago Democrats, which he hasn't seen fit to fully discuss so far -- well, now's the time to do it.

I never like surprises in election years -- especially when they come from my own side.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on February 26, 2008 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Obama, a youngish, dynamic, happening guy, is running against 2 stiffs at this point.

The aged John McCain, the straight-talking but forked-tongue lobbyist Senator from the retirement center of the world, Arizona and–

Hillary Clinton: carping, boring,aging before our eyes…

These two sour pusses are no longer in the demographic.

As the heroic Milton said, “Tomorrow to pastures new and fields of green.”

er… that would be Obama.

PS. I’ll eat my hat if he isn’t our next president.

Posted by: Fran the Upper East-Side Limousine Liberal on February 26, 2008 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Fran the Upper East Side Limousine Liberal: "Obama, a youngish, dynamic, happening guy ..."

That what Tony Rezko and his associates apparently thought, too.

Better get ready, gang. Much closer scrutiny is forthcoming:

"The name of Democratic presidential front-runner Barack Obama is likely to brush up against the impending federal corruption trial of Antoin 'Tony' Rezko as the result of a judge's ruling Monday.

"U.S. District Court Judge Amy St. Eve, who is presiding over Rezko's trial, told prosecutors they could introduce evidence to support allegations that Rezko used straw men to make political contributions on his behalf.

"Prosecutors have alleged that the money came from fees Rezko illegally siphoned from a state pension board.

"In her ruling, St. Eve said the government contends that Rezko directed business associates Joseph Aramanda and Elie Maloof to make contributions to an unnamed political candidate in late 2003 and 2004 because Rezko had already contributed the maximum legal amount.

"The only candidate Maloof and Aramanda contributed to during that time frame was Obama, then running for the U.S. Senate in Illinois. Maloof and Aramanda each gave $10,000 to Obama's campaign."

(Emphasis added.)

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on February 26, 2008 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

Actually Donald from Hawaii, John McCain has now taught us should best come out immediately after you secure the nomination. Still, that was a nice, subtle effort to smear Obama.

Posted by: Merle on February 26, 2008 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is that pollsters FACTOR IN what they think will be the turn-outs according to gender, race and age among other factors.

For example, I saw a poll in Texas that had 24% of the voters that were polled as black, 25% hispanics and 50-52% white. The problem is that if you check the geographical composition of the population in that specific state it is not near the % that the pollsters "FACTOR IN".

Texas is about 52% W, 35% H, 13% B. The pollster should keep within these geographical numbers and stop trying to "guess" which group will turnout to vote the most. They should stick to polling the voters and stop guessing who is going to vote.

Posted by: Yosef Ortiz on February 27, 2008 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK
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