« Chile's Miners Belie "Survival of Fittest" Law | Main | Truth Emerging About Economic Meltdown »

The Futility of Polls

In Washington, DC today, I find the place awash with polls. All show Republican gains in the Congressional and state elections three weeks off, but the polling range is from a few points in the Democrats' direction nationally--based on registered voters--to a Republican blowout, with gains of 60 or so House seats, based on likely voters and a relatively low turnout. Faced with such data, the political prognosticators descend into complicated matrices of analysis.

Nonetheless, the trend is Republican. However, when Bloomberg News' poll asked voters for their opinion of the Republican Party, 49 percent expressed an unfavorable view. Democrats have a 46 percent unfavorable rating.
So, what does that tell us? Well, to start with, it would be a real surprise if voters ever expressed a strong positive feeling for either party. In our ironic age, one doesn't want to sound credulous--not when the TV is ablaze with negative ads about both parties. In other words, the poll question itself is suspect. People tell you what party they like by telling you about the party they don't like.

But as for the present national trend, one pollster I met today provided the curious, possibly telling (but "anecdotal") information that he was having trouble finding an adequate Democratic sample for his polls. For example, in a state with two to one Democrat registration, he lately has had trouble getting two out of three people to even identify themselves as Democrats. That alone say something about the condition of the brand right now.

On the ground interviews with voters, door to door, in the style of the late Sam Lubell, would be most instructive at this juncture in a national campaign, but I don't know of anyone doing such shoe leather research these days.

Relying mainly on polls is like an intelligence agency resting its judgment mainly on data intercepts rather than "Humint", the human intelligence gathered by old fashioned spies. We don't need spies in politics, but some old fashioned, on the ground interviews would give the current picture more vividness, more clarity.

You can email brucechapman@discovery.org

Top Discovery Articles


First Things

First Things

Weekly Standard

Center for Bioethics and Culture

Featured Video

The Magician's Twin

The Magician's Twin

edited by John G. West