News and views from inside the media bubble | by Jordan Green
The folly of polling
Divining meaning from political polls is a pursuit best left alone by amateurs. As soon as one comes out, there’s another that directly contradicts it. Study them together and you might come up with a more nuanced picture, but more likely you’ll end up with a hopeless muddle. Consider the presidential race in North Carolina. Both the New York Times and Washington Post electoral maps put the Old North State in the “leaning” category for Republican Mitt Romney. But a new poll by CNN and Time magazine decidedly place us in toss-up territory, indicating that among registered voters, Democrat Barack Obama wins 48 to 46 percent, while among likely voters Romney wins 48 to 47 percent. Surely, likely voters are the more meaningful measure, but the poll comes with a 3-percent margin of error. (High Point University also gets in the game with a poll showing 43 percent support for each candidate.) Of course, both of these polls only reach people with home telephones, possibly excluding younger voters who lean more towards Obama. Talk to Republican activists in the Triad and they’re likely to tell you that Romney’s got North Carolina in the bag; check in with Democratic analysts, and you’re likely to hear that Romney is fumbling so badly the state is Obama’s to lose. Better to just say there’s only one poll that matters, and it will be conducted on Nov. 6.