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ROBINSON: Deluded by 'skewed' polls

Eugene Robinson

Eugene Robinson

WASHINGTON -- Conservative activist circles are abuzz with a new conspiracy theory: Polls showing President Obama with a growing lead over Mitt Romney are deliberately being skewed by the Liberal Mainstream Media so that Republicans will be disheartened and stay home on Election Day.

This is denial and self-delusion, but not of the harmless kind. It's a false narrative that encourages the Republican Party to take the wrong lessons from this election, no matter the outcome.

The whole atmosphere surrounding the presidential race is different since the party conventions. The Obama campaign has begun warning supporters about the perils of overconfidence. Romney, meanwhile, wages a daily battle to keep the words "beleaguered" and "embattled" from latching onto his candidacy.

The reason for the change is that polls indicate Obama's once-slim lead has grown beyond the margin of error. A Pew Research Center national poll last week showed Obama up by eight points. The most recent National Journal poll showed the president with a seven-point lead. On Wednesday, even the Gallup daily tracking poll -- which has consistently measured the race as extremely close -- had Obama up by six.

The Rasmussen daily tracking poll, however, saw the race as still tied. Why the anomaly? Because the Rasmussen firm weights its sample to achieve what it believes to be a representative balance of Democrats and Republicans. While other pollsters also ask about party affiliation, most of them weight their samples to reflect the nation's demographic profile and do not seek a specific balance between R's and D's.

That's the discrepancy that gives rise to the conspiracy theories. The polls that show Obama with a substantial lead also show an electorate comprising substantially more Democrats than Republicans. It stands to reason, say the theorists, that these surveys would overestimate the vote for Obama and underestimate the vote for Romney; only if you adjust the results to more equally balance party affiliation can you get an accurate picture.

Those dastardly liberals in the media -- and, apparently, in most of the major polling organizations -- must have decided to give this false picture of the race in order to discourage conservatives and make them resigned to an Obama victory.

"They're trying to wrap this up before the debates even start because I think they're worried about the debates," radio host Rush Limbaugh told his audience. "I think they're trying to get this election finished and in the can by suppressing your vote and depressing you so that you just don't think there's any reason to vote, that it's hopeless. They want you making other plans."

An anti-Obama website called unskewedpolls.com has reweighted a number of recent polls and concluded that Romney actually has a lead of nearly eight points.

So why is Romney acting like a man who's behind rather than comfortably ahead? Because he's smart enough to know the conspiracy theory is nuts.

The problem is that party affiliation can be weak and changeable. Voters who describe themselves as Democrats one month can call themselves Republicans or independents the next. In this sense, it's not something polls can assume as a precondition. It's something polls discover.

That's why the conspiracy theory is so dangerous for the GOP. If pollsters look at a demographically representative sample of registered or likely voters and find fewer Republicans than might be expected, it could be that voters who once might have called themselves Republicans no longer feel comfortable with the label.

There is ample polling data to suggest why this might be the case. Whoever wins in November, it is clear that while the past four years have been rough on the president's image, the impact on the Republican brand has been nothing less than brutal.

Voters blame the GOP more than they blame Obama and the Democrats for the gridlock and brinkmanship that have characterized much of the president's first term. The Republican Party has taken stands on issues such as abortion and immigration that big segments of the electorate find extreme and unacceptable. Moderate Republicans, as a political species, are all but extinct.

If a polling sample shows Democrats outnumbering Republicans by, say, 32 percent to 24 percent (with most of the rest calling themselves independents), GOP partisans shouldn't worry about a conspiracy. They should worry that this is a snapshot of how Americans feel about the two major parties.

It's not the polls, it's the policies. Now that's a reason for Republicans to be depressed.

Eugene Robinson is an associate editor and columnist for The Washington Post. Email him at eugenerobinson@washpost.com. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/eugenerobinson.

Comments

kevin 1 year, 6 months ago

Mr. Robinson must live on Mars. People have already made up their minds. Mitt is the man and no poll is going to change a single thing. We all know the "left" has nothing to brag about from the past 4 yrs so all they do is continue to lie to the public with a straight face. I haven't heard one thing of fact that Obama has done positive for this country or the rest of the world. We are voting on an ideology for this country and our Constitution. It has nothing to do with a Donkey or Elephant. Free people want less government and more private enterprise jobs. It is that simple Mr. Robinson.

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Jan 1 year, 6 months ago

Even Neal Bortz agrees with Mr. Robinson: http://www.boortz.com/weblogs/nealz-nuze/2012/sep/27/polls/ For any that want an excellent single source for polls and links to the actual poll questions and full data: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/latest_polls/president/ This link is to the latest polls for presidential race. The site also has interactive color coded maps showing electoral polls as well as other races.

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notblind 1 year, 6 months ago

MEDIA BIAS ?!?!? WHAT MEDIA BIAS ??!??!? THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO MEDIA BIAS IN THIS COUNTRY !!!!!!!!!!!!

Does ANYBODY believe the above ? Opps, does ANYBODY WITH A FUNCTIONAL BRAIN believe the above ??? The mainstream media is nothing but a mouthpiece, cheerleader and protector for the Obama administration. It's disgusting the depth that much of the media has sunk to.

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JV 1 year, 6 months ago

From Gallup Poll Friday September 21, 2012

Americans' distrust in the media hit a new high this year, with 60% saying they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly. Distrust is up from the past few years, when Americans were already more negative about the media than they had been in years prior to 2004.

The record distrust in the media, based on a survey conducted Sept. 6-9, 2012, also means that negativity toward the media is at an all-time high for a presidential election year. This reflects the continuation of a pattern in which negativity increases every election year compared with the year prior. The current gap between negative and positive views -- 20 percentage points -- is by far the highest Gallup has recorded since it began regularly asking the question in the 1990s.

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news2me 1 year, 6 months ago

This is how Obama got elected last time. He is excellent at running for President, but actually being President is where he fails. Unfortunally the voters see what they want to see. Obama's best offense is to put Romney on the defense, because that is all that Obama has in reality. If Obama wins, it will be a hollow victory and the start of downfall of the US will start. The first 4 years of Obama will be an appetizer compared to the main course we are about to be fed. Voting for Obama is putting him a position that our enemies are just waiting for.

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notblind 1 year, 6 months ago

Just saw the latest example of MSNBC's blatant bias in the doctoring of another video clip. When you really think about Eugene's column above is just another attempt to falsely demoralize conservative voters. He makes the statement "Voters blame the GOP more than they blame Obama...." Where does he get the data to make this statement ????

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Jan 1 year, 6 months ago

I noticed that you were careful not to give any relevant information about the "doctored video" so we could analyze the truth of your statement. We have significant proof of FOX news and Romney parsing statements from Obama to totally twist the meaning. I have watched clips from MSNBC and from FOX and have noted that MSNBC usually plays longer clips so the context is clear while FOX frequently cuts to a single sentence and then tries to apply it to something different than the context demonstrates. For example, the 14 year old video of Obama, FOX news plays a sectioning where Obama states "I actually believe in redistribution" while the full sentence was "I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution – because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot." Further, this was in context of his work as a state senator in Illinois considering limited moves to help economically depressed areas, something both parties attempt to do from time to time. As for the data, numerous polls are taken for job approval ratings and the Republican House has very low ratings in all that I found, double digits below the president. If you did a little research, you might learn something, but then you are a Romney supporter so lack any interest in facts or what they mean for America as a whole.

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notblind 1 year, 6 months ago

Here you go. What they did was dramatically lower the volume of the crowd chanting " ROMNEY ROMNEY ROMNEY...." and then increase the volume when Romney pointed out that he isn't the only name on the ticket [ i.e. giving credit to Ryan and sharing the spotlight, something Obama would never do ]. Also watch the reaction of the MSNBC "news people" after they show the doctored clip. Covering their eyes, feigning surprise and derision. It even looked well rehearsed. This is what passes for journalism in the [D] mind.

http://www.westernjournalism.com/busted-msnbc-doctored-clip-from-romneyryan-rally/

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Jan 1 year, 6 months ago

You must be blind and deaf. I listened to the video in your link, which played on Morning Joe (the republican, Joe Scarborough). Each time I heard "Ryan, Ryan, Ryan" coming from the crowd. Why on earth would you take the word of an anonymous caller on a right wing talk show? Why on earth would we care what the crowd was chanting? I don't base my opinions on random crowds. Do you? The only possible thing in the video that could affect voters choice would be how Romney felt the need to prompt the crowd and how awkward he was doing it, regardless of what the crowd said.

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JV 1 year, 6 months ago

So you are saying he believes in redistribution. Thanks, I didn't know that.

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Jan 1 year, 6 months ago

So do Republicans that voted in the huge redistribution in the form of Medicare Drug Plan. Every special interest tax cut for the wealthy is also a redistribution of the wealth, including the capital gains tax.

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jack 1 year, 6 months ago

There is only one poll that has any meaning; the one taken November 6.

If you are not informed on the issues presented on the ballot, don't vote.

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