Dishonest polls, dishonest victory?

Like a lot of people, I've been wondering about those polls.

If McCain were to pull ahead of Obama (as he has four or five times before), wouldn't the Obama campaign be so scared that they would want the results either changed, statistically skewed, or somehow not reported?

I realize they don't have the kind of influence to skew the polls, but I was thinking about what Jim Geraghty's mentor said earlier:

"Believe me, there is someone in the Obama campaign who is deathly afraid of the 'McCain pulls even or goes ahead' poll." (And in Gallup, it was within 2 percent.) "That Obama strategist knows how much depends on the whole Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emanuel approach with the media to demoralize conservatives, and keep the perception of a juggernaut going. But a day or two of a few bad polls, and that strategy backfires. The conservatives know they've still got a shot at this."
(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Well I for one am glad these are all reputable pollsters who would never skew their results in the juggernaut's favor.

Because if they were skewing the results to make it look as if Obama was ahead when actually McCain was ahead, then a McCain victory would come as a huge and terrible shock -- a gut-wrenching one that would be bad for the country, because people would think that either McCain "stole the election" or else the voters were a bunch of dishonest "racists" who "lied" to pollsters (the so-called "Bradley effect" -- which actually involves not hiding racism, but fear of being accused of racism.)

That wouldn't be fair at all. Because the more dishonest the polls were, the more they'd help convince voters that an Obama victory was inevitable (thus helping Obama), and more dishonest any McCain victory would appear to be (thus inflicting maximum damage on McCain if he managed to win).

I'm glad they're not doing that.

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post, and a warm welcome to all. Comments always appreciated, whether you agree or disagree.

I notice that some commenters are interpreting this post as an insinuation that the polls are dishonest. Actually, I wrote it as a "what if" because I really don't know. However, the post Glenn links by D.J. Drummond does more than speculate about a "what if" scenario. People who think I'm being mealy-mouthed should by all means check it out.

Also, check out this from Mickey Kaus:

while Zogby's national telephone tracking poll shows Obama opening up an 8 point lead, his online state by state polls are not following suit. They have McCain moving ahead in Nevada 51.5% to 44%, behind in Colorado by only three-tenths of a percent, close in Virginia, New Hampshire, and Florida. I assume this is more a commentary on the accuracy of online polls than on the state of the race. Interesting either way!
I'm not insinuating; just linking.

UPDATE: The polls keep coming in.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The presidential race tightened after the final debate, with John McCain gaining among whites and people earning less than $50,000, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll that shows McCain and Barack Obama essentially running even among likely voters in the election homestretch.

The poll, which found Obama at 44 percent and McCain at 43 percent, supports what some Republicans and Democrats privately have said in recent days: that the race narrowed after the third debate as GOP-leaning voters drifted home to their party and McCain's "Joe the plumber" analogy struck a chord.

Three weeks ago, an AP-GfK survey found that Obama had surged to a seven-point lead over McCain, lifted by voters who thought the Democrat was better suited to lead the nation through its sudden economic crisis.

The contest is still volatile, and the split among voters is apparent less than two weeks before Election Day.

So is the split among pollsters, it appears....

posted by Eric on 10.21.08 at 03:36 PM


Eric've got no evidence that suggests polls are being skewed in Obama's favor, but you go ahead and insinuate in the most mealy-mouthed fashion possible that it is happening.

"McCain/Palin 2008! Because insinuation is all we've got!"

Dr. Nobel Dynamite   ·  October 21, 2008 3:58 PM

Eh, I don't think he was trying to imply that it WAS happening. More of a what-if scenario. Which is worth thinking about.

Jillian   ·  October 21, 2008 5:00 PM


Eric knows very well what he was insinuating.

Posts like this good examples of the bankruptcy of campaign against Obama at this point in the election: It doesn't matter if you have evidence. It doesn't matter if you can provide any substantiation. It doesn't matter if the facts don't support you.

The only thing that matters is if your insinuation can muddy the waters and generate a little fear.

Dr. Nobel Dynamite   ·  October 21, 2008 5:12 PM

And besides, it would be not just possible but easy to be much mealier-mouthed. Mr. Scheie can be more mealy-mouthed than the Quaker Oats Quaker when he wants to be. It's one of the many talents of his that I admire.

I believe his point is that you can't trust the media when they talk about Obama. Hard to see that as controversial.

ebt   ·  October 21, 2008 5:13 PM

It's ok. There isn't a problem. NPR told me this morning that Obama is ahead ten points in the polls (of registered voters, and all registered voters are likely voters, else why would they register?), so your worst case scenario will never come to pass.

SSFC   ·  October 21, 2008 6:21 PM

Lets see, how accurate were the polls for Kerry and Gore,......not very, depending on the poll they were from 5% to 10% against Bush. The problem is that some voters will register to vote in primaries of the opposition party in the open primary states and that can skew the sampling. Also you'll have people that will register for the primaries and because their guys didn't win, decide to set out the vote. Then you have the cell phone only registered voter that you can't poll. It is not easy seperating likely voters from registered voters but unless you compute that factor you'll be way off.
When you look at polls you need to look at the polls not what the campaign organizations and the media say about them. What questions did they ask, how did they ask them, what methods, how large the sample, and etc.
Right now the broadcast networks are sweating bullets about their exit polls, they can't afford another pear shaped operation.

toad   ·  October 21, 2008 6:54 PM

The polls are inaccurate.

The polls are being "weighted," and based on what? The pollsters are just guessing. The pollsters are all in deeply blue territory and they think there is a revolutionary trend going on in voting patterns. (I think it is because of ACORN's fabulous claims tht they are rgistering so many "new voters." But it is possible that ACORN is just re-registering the same voters over and over. SEE YouTube: )

The pollsters are trying to capture the revolution in their poll results. But they are manipulating the data to get their results. No one knows if they are caturing a trend, or producing garbage results.

Go to DJ Drummond's blog, Stolen Thunder. (SEE links below)

I have a lot of sympathy with the idealist people who want to vote for Senator Obama. The ones I know are some of THE nicest people I know. They want a better world.

But Senator Obama is not being honest about himself, his true loyalties, his intentions, his friends and associates or his plans for the country. A University of Chicago professor who knows Senator Obama says Senator Obama is the closest thing to a true Marxist who has ever run for president.

Senator Obama is not giving these wonderful people a fair deal. He is not telling the truth.

Senator Obama fully intends to punish the wage earner and take money from the one who earned it and give it to someone else. He thinks that will make things better. But he is wrong. His methods have been tried in Russia and China and Venezula, and many other countries. His methods result in poverty and a shrinking economy and a loss of liberty.

Senator Obama is a WOLF in SHEEPLE'S clothing.

The sheeple of the MSM protect him. They only report on him what they absolutely must, to quell the sheeples' curiosity and keep them quiet.

If you are not a sheeple, you can find out what you need to know. This is a free country. Good luck!

God Bless you! All the Best!

Here are links to Stolen Thunder blog: October 15th post is excellent and highly recommended: AND here is a link for today's post:

summer day   ·  October 21, 2008 9:46 PM


summer day   ·  October 21, 2008 9:48 PM


summer day   ·  October 21, 2008 9:48 PM

hellllo eric-
first - love your blog -

second - there is spozed to be a post, with several links, which I disappeared once while writing it, and had to re-write once already, and the VENEZUELA! post, above, which is incomprehensible alone, although it is making me laugh, which is nice -- but I digress -- I sent the VENEZUELA post to correct a mis-spelling in the original post.

I thought that original post went through... yes? Will it magically appear?

Thank you and LOVE your blog.

summer day   ·  October 21, 2008 10:25 PM

SD, your comment was held up because of html limitations in the spam blocker. Thanks for the kind words.

Doc, I never know what I might be insinuating when I write these posts. I have to rely on you, the insinuatees, to tell me!

Eric Scheie   ·  October 21, 2008 10:31 PM

Stolen Thunder says the polls are biased:

Don't believe him!

DishonestPollster   ·  October 21, 2008 10:38 PM

Every four years the polls put the dems up about 6 or 7 points. And they do their victory march to the polls, and then ... OH NO!
They must find something cathartic in the whole experience, otherwise they'd be better at avoiding it.

Cincinnatus   ·  October 22, 2008 3:02 AM

Remember the 1988, 2000, and 2004 elections? In each one, the media had the Demo ahead by 5-10% on the eve of the election. Put not your trust in tendentious pollsters. Their polls are prescriptive, not descriptive.

David Govett   ·  October 22, 2008 3:45 AM

I think there may be a few polls that deliberately adjust toward one candidate or another. After all there are a lot of pollsters.

Most polls are, I believe, honest. But political polling is hard to get right. Some people will deliberately give false answers. And I suspect that happens more in a close and bitter race than when little seems at stake.

Try asking young men how many women they have slept with. Lots of luck!

And adjustments must be made. And every adjustment factor is a subject to error. Should you poll adults, or registered voters, or only those who say they will definitely vote?

Some of those polled don't even know what they will do. They may think McCain before noon and Obama after. There are a lot of fuzzy thoughts out there.

It would be silly to try and list all the ways polls may be mistaken.

It is not the polls that distort. It is the media. They can select which poll results to report, overstate what they like and discount what they do not like.

If the public does not hear of a poll or is misled about its meaning the poll may as well not exist.

K   ·  October 22, 2008 5:24 AM

The purpose of the Obama-heavy polls is to condition the public to expect and accept an Obama victory, which will have been achieved through massive voter fraud and ballot box stuffing.

Al   ·  October 22, 2008 5:36 AM

I will add to my previous comment.

Although I think most pollsters intend to get it right that does not mean I believe all are applying accepted methods or repeatable methods.

About five years ago I read a long interview with James? Zogby of the Zogby Poll.

In that interview I was amazed to learn that he personally adjusts important polls using a secret method kept from his associates. In other words he was confident that he knew just how to tune the numbers.

I don't question his belief in his methods. But I must wonder whether they have merit. Maybe he looks at a crystal ball. If he doesn't tell then I sure can't tell.

A CNN/AP/Zogby POll just announced Obama is leading by 10 points. Those numbers would indicate a landslide is coming. Something like Johnson over Goldwater and Nixon over McGovern.

I find a ten percent lead unlikely, but don't bet the farm on my guess.

K   ·  October 22, 2008 6:12 AM

Yesterday I went on two market research websites and "voted". I have long believed that on-line polls are completely untrustworthy and proved it to myself, again, yesterday.

By the way, I've been a market researcher for over 20 years. Been, seen, tee-shirt is holey now.

carol   ·  October 22, 2008 6:35 AM

We all know that Kerry won all three debates (and even John Edwards "trounced" Dick Cheney in their debate), and according to this amalgamated poll Kerry held a commanding lead the day before the election.
So why aren't we the laughingstock punching bag of Muslim dictators who surrendered to the "inevitable" civil war in Iraq, with the minority agitating for change from the failed Kerry Presidency?
Because the polls are full-of-shit, wishful thinking, by liberal democrat-ass-sniffing media.

papertiger   ·  October 22, 2008 6:41 AM

The polls are nothing without the media to prop them up. The media doesn't understand what it is getting itself into. Now the media is totally committed to maintaining the illusion it's created of The One, The Messiah, The Great Healer. It can't last forever, and there will be massive collateral damage when it collapses.

The Obama bandwagon depends entirely on the press to maintain the illusion of inevitability. Some of the polls are honest and some are intentionally skewed. The media then skews them even further in the reporting.

Alice Finkel   ·  October 22, 2008 7:40 AM

"..of registered voters, and all registered voters are likely voters, else why would they register"

In my state, when you renew your auto registration (yearly) you are also regestrating to vote. So no, they are not likely voters.

wilky   ·  October 22, 2008 8:03 AM

Recommended reading that fits in with this discussion:

There is a lot of "Normative Conformity" going on now, as explained in the linked essay. That essay also explains the true nature of the Bradley Effect, which is not the racism that the media claims.

Rob   ·  October 22, 2008 8:15 AM

All the the major pollsters this year are using historically inaccurate party weightings. They are all assuming a 10 - 12 or even higher Democratic advantage when history shows no more than a 4% edge in 1996, 2000, 2004, 2006. This is simply a wild as* guess on their part and it changes their results drastically. We are being lied too.

Jeff   ·  October 22, 2008 8:27 AM

AS Dale Earnhardt said... you only have to be leading on the last lap to win the race.
So, whatever percentage the polls have the inexperienced one at, really does not matter. The only poll that matters takes place a few days into November.

pookie   ·  October 22, 2008 8:32 AM

Posts like this good examples of the bankruptcy of campaign against Obama

And as the Obamabots say - you must be punished.

bandit   ·  October 22, 2008 8:45 AM

Dr. Dynamite:

If Obama's winning, why are you so angry?

Jim Treacher   ·  October 22, 2008 10:08 AM

I agree with Rob who talked about the unhistorical weighting of dems this year.
Is Obama ahead, probably a little. Does that mean he's going to win. Nope!

There are many factors that pollster are not accounting for. One big one is the utter hatred we on the right have for the media. Another in the Palin factor. She's got the base pretty damn fired up.

We'll know shortly!

Jim   ·  October 22, 2008 10:14 AM


your right hand column is lousy design

nick   ·  October 22, 2008 11:36 AM

However the elction turns out, a major opinion-related industry is going to radicall and maybe fatally lose credibility, it's only real asset.

1. If McCain wins, it will be a decade if not a generation before anyone again takes the published polls seriously.

2. If Obama wins, by 3Q 2009 many people, maybe 30%+ of the electorate, will be asking "How come no one told us what this guy was gonna do (to us)?" and the MSM will lose their remaining shreds of credibility.

Either way, schadenfreude!

Marty   ·  October 22, 2008 11:39 AM

However the elction turns out, a major opinion-related industry is going to radicall and maybe fatally lose credibility, it's only real asset.

1. If McCain wins, it will be a decade if not a generation before anyone again takes the published polls seriously.

2. If Obama wins, by 3Q 2009 many people, maybe 30%+ of the electorate, will be asking "How come no one told us what this guy was gonna do (to us)?" and the MSM will lose their remaining shreds of credibility.

Either way, schadenfreude!

Marty   ·  October 22, 2008 11:39 AM

However the election turns out, a major opinion-related industry is going to radically and maybe fatally lose credibility, it's only real asset.

1. If McCain wins, it will be a decade if not a generation before anyone again takes the published polls seriously.

2. If Obama wins, by 3Q 2009 many people, maybe 30%+ of the electorate, will be asking "How come no one told us what this guy was gonna do (to us)?" and the MSM will lose their remaining shreds of credibility.

Either way, schadenfreude!

Marty   ·  October 22, 2008 11:40 AM

I'll believe the polls when they figure out how to weight for fraud. Dead people and Mickey Mouse are hard to reach by phone or in person, and college students voting two or more times (in person on campus and absentee at their parents' addresses) only count as one vote in a poll.

Someone will vote for Obama in Cook County IL using my name and the address on my birth certificate (I moved out in 1977). But anyone who calls me only knows what I tell them about my legal vote in Wisconsin.

Heather   ·  October 22, 2008 11:44 AM

is bad polling (intentional or not) a contributing vector to a perfect storm - when combined with MSM psy-ops/information warfare and large scale voter registration & fraud - even if McCain squeaks a winner - there will be enough "evidence" to dispute his victory and make Florida 2000 look like a sunny sunday picnic - and even if McCain is ultimately victorious, will all this be used as an excuse for civil disobedience by radicals elements involved who given an Obama victory or not hate the country enough to avail themselves the opportunity for destruction? That is my paranoid thought before coffee brings me back to my senses.

Uncle Conspiracy   ·  October 22, 2008 11:53 AM

Rush just said the Drive-Bys are setting us up for riots in the cities post-election no matter who wins -- that the Drive-Bys believe blacks riot just because - win or lose. I'm telling you, racism runs rampant on the left, in the MSM, etc.

I would agree that the polls are setting up the left for worse insanity than 2000 if Obama loses, and I believe it's on purpose, whether to shape the election now by demoralizing Republicans or to try to render the McCain administration illegitimate if he wins. This is the modern Dem party: anyone but them governing is illegitimate. I think a backlash is coming, all right; just not the one they think.

Peg C.   ·  October 22, 2008 1:17 PM

I'm worried that if Obama wins, we'll still see riots. After all in several cities, including Chi-Town, and Boston, folks riot if their sports team wins a major game or series or playoff.

O man is the biggest favorite team of them all. If he wins, we'll probably see riots of happiness; and if he loses, we'll see riots of despair.

Plus the various radicals, left and right who are already threatening riots and violence no matter who wins.

Diogenes   ·  October 22, 2008 2:58 PM

Obama supporters act as if the polls are a true reflection of what's going to happen on November 4th. When you don't have an actual record to run on ... and all you can do is point out problems, and blame others, as Obama has, you have to rely on gimmicks that have nothing to do with your actual ability to lead ... like accusations of racism ad nauseam ... like early voting ...busing and indoctrinating homeless people on the way to the polls ... photo ops with big crowds ... spending 4 to 1 on advertising ... having the media in the tank ... having Hollywood in the tank, having Acorn in the tank ... and, having 98% of all black voters in the tank. But, all of these things are nothing more than a fabricated perception. They have nothing to do with a person's experience, or ability to lead. They just reveal a candidate who will say, or do anything to get elected. That's why the Obamabots are so worried. That's why Obama is telling his disciples not to get over confident. That's why the Obama campaign tries real hard to make it look like Obama has already won ... just like they did in the run against Hillary in the primaries. I happen to believe there are legions of people who are going to vote for McCain on November 4th ... unlike the 'in your face' Obama supporters, November 4th is when the McCain supporters will express themselves. Keep America safe and strong, elect McCain/Palin on November 4th.

Howard Cossman   ·  October 22, 2008 3:33 PM

A very interesting "what-if," considering Obama is strongly rumored to have told the Kenyan president that if he loses his election, he should claim the election was rigged and declare himself the winner anyway.

Cinderella   ·  October 22, 2008 5:03 PM


I'm certainly optimistic about Obama's chances in the election, but with fools like Cinderella saying things like "Obama is strongly rumored to have told the Kenyan president that if he loses his election, he should claim the election was rigged and declare himself the winner anyway," I'm somewhat pessimistic about a small percentage of the electorate.

Dr. Nobel Dynamite   ·  October 22, 2008 6:03 PM

I apologise. It was the Prime Minister of Kenya. This is the source:

Cinderella   ·  October 22, 2008 6:47 PM

I'm sorry, but I don't see anything in that "source" that provides any sort of evidence to support your rumor mongering. Perhaps you could point it out for my benefit.


Dr. Nobel Dynamite   ·  October 22, 2008 6:56 PM

Well there's some facts there for you Dr. Dynomie.
Fact one - the Kenyan PM in question (who claims to be Obama's cousin, and benefitted by Obama travelling to Kenya on the gov. dime to electioneer for him) has said that Obama contacted him by phone to give advice regarding the campaign. That's not in dispute because Obama has confirmed this fact.

Fact two - when the Kenyan in question lost the election he claimed that he won anyway, and his supporters went on a rampage, burning homes, displacing hundreds of thousands, and killing hundreds of Christians, some burned alive while they were locked inside of a church. That's not in dispute either - Reuters reported it.

Facts one and two lend credence to Cindy's suppostion.

What evidence do you have of things your way?

papertiger   ·  October 23, 2008 4:03 PM

I will be so glad when all of this bull$**t is over with, and god help us.

bulldog   ·  October 23, 2008 7:43 PM

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