What Landslide?For all the talk about how far ahead Barack Obama is supposed to be in the polls, now comes the first significant poll since the last presidential debate from the Associated Press. What does it tell us, Obama in a landslide? Hardly:
The contest is still volatile, and the split among voters is apparent less than two weeks before Election Day."I trust McCain more, and I do feel that he has more experience in government than Obama. I don't think Obama has been around long enough," said Angela Decker, 44, of La Porte, Ind.
McCain has posted big gains among likely voters earning under $50,000 a year; he now trails Obama by just 4 percentage points compared with 26 earlier. He has surged among rural voters; he has an 18-point advantage, up from 4.
When rural and suburban America vote in unity, we've shown in 2000 and 2004 that we can effectively veto the large Democratic turnout in big, high-tax, welfare state cities. If John McCain continues to gain among rural voters and those earning under $50,000, what you end up with is a very close election-one that John McCain becomes increasingly likely to win. If McCain does end up pulling off what could be the biggest upset in American electoral history, he will have the Republican base to thank for it. Rural and small-town America will have turned out in droves for the Republican ticket.
In addition to new polls showing the race is within the margin of error, Michael Barone in The Wall Street Journal questions whether such a wide and varied assortment of polls can be trusted in the first place.
To start with, political polling is inherently imperfect. Academic pollsters say that to get a really random sample, you should go back to a designated respondent in a specific household time and again until you get a response. But political pollsters who must report results overnight have to take the respondents they can reach. So they weight the results of respondents in different groups to get a sample that approximates the whole population they're sampling.
Another problem is the increasing number of cell phone-only households. Gallup and Pew have polled such households, and found their candidate preferences aren't much different from those with landlines; and some pollsters have included cell-phone numbers in their samples. A third problem is that an increasing number of Americans refuse to be polled. We can't know for sure if they're different in some pertinent respects from those who are willing to answer questions.
Yet there was a curious anomaly: In most primaries Mr. Obama tended to receive higher percentages in exit polls than he did from the voters. What accounts for this discrepancy?
For the record, Michael Barone still believes that Barack Obama has a slight advantage, as do I. However, as in 1948, opinion can change in the final week of the campaign, and as we saw in 2004, exit polls are no longer an accurate barometer because an increasing number of people do not wish to share their voting preferences with pollsters no matter what those happen to be.
Those of you in the party opposite who were hoping for a quick election night victory may be in for another very long evening.
Labels: Presidential Election