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Opinion: Presidential Poll Trolling

The Right Politics

There are more polls than one mind can handle on a daily basis during the national election season, which means that taking any one poll to heart is risky if one is looking for any truth regarding which candidate is ahead at any given moment as an election nears. That’s not to say that a person can’t find one poll that they like to follow for sport, however.

Of all the polls out there, I enjoy following Rasmussen Reports Daily Tracking Poll, not only because I have read and heard that they are quite dependable with their data but also because I like the “immediacy” of the daily tracking poll they do. It can logically be assumed that many other polls’ results may have changed by the time it is released to the public. As the daily tracking polls indicate, poll results can change a great deal overnight – depending on what a candidate does or says at any given moment.

Usually, when I stray from Rasmussen Reports Daily Tracking Poll, I quickly jump to the last paragraph of any polling article I’m reading which is usually a very small paragraph. That’s where, most often, the reader is told when the poll was taken. If it says the poll was taking several days ago or more, I don’t even bother reading the dated information. Again, as the polls administered by pollster Scott Rasmussen proves, polling results can change overnight. Also, I skim that last paragraph for the number of people who were polled and how they were polled. It’s frustrating to get all positively excited or negatively worked up about a poll and then to finally read at the end of the poll’s summary that the number of people polled was only a couple hundred – or even less.

Besides following the Rasmussen Presidential Tracking Poll at Rasmussen Reports, Real Clear Politics is one I often read. They have a method of averaging many polls together and giving readers the average results. It seems like one gets more poll result-information “bang” for their time-consuming reading “buck” by reading an average of many polls rather than reading singular poll results which can be extremely time consuming.

Finally, I admit to responding to the “star power” of Gallup. One day, Gallup may very well replace the word “poll” entirely, much like Kleenex has replaced tissue and “Google it” has replaced the more detailed phrase of “searching on the Internet”. But in addition to Gallup’s popularity and wide-spread familiarity, I like that they also have a daily poll as well as topical poll questions which are often of interest. The poll responses to questions on so many topics gives one a sense of what Americans are thinking – outside of one’s own world.

Furthermore, about political polls which ask people who they support in an election, many people love ‘em while others hate ‘em to death. Therefore, remember that some people hate polls so much that they live for the moment they’re polled so they can lie to the pollster and muddy their credibility. There is no lie-detector test required when someone asks who you are going to vote for. With a convincing voice and straight face, anyone could say they are supporting Barack Obama when they know very well that they plan to vote for Mitt Romney – or vice versa.

Though the polls give political junkies a rush – and can put them on a natural high for a time or sink them into the bowels of depression – they mean absolutely nothing on Election Day. The poll taken on Election Day at the nation’s polling booths is obviously the only one that counts.

About Scott Paulson

Scott Paulson writes political commentary for and teaches English at a community college in the Chicago area. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.


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