Political partisans who scoff at polls usually are fools

  During a TV interview the other day, Larry J. Sabato, boss man of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia and publisher of the highly regarded Crystal Ball, offered an amusing anecdote. He said hardly a day goes by when he doesn’t receive scads of  letters and emails from people who seriously expect that Donald Trump will carry 49 or 50 states in the November election. These folks seem to think that polls indicating otherwise are rigged to overstate Hillary Clinton’s popularity among voters. In a similar vein,...

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The season of poll-watching will soon hit high gear

  When the national political conventions of this week and next are finally behind us, the American public and the news media will pay increasing attention to what the presidential polls are telling us. But it’s a tricky business in almost every respect. Accurate polls are increasingly difficult to conduct, especially in this age of cell phones. And most of the media do a poor job of interpreting poll results. Consider this situation: As of this morning (Monday, July 18), the latest editions of six national polls show Hillary...

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Obama’s poll numbers have never been as low as any of the last five GOP presidents

With about seven months remaining in his presidency, Barack Obama’s job-approval rating is not exactly great, but neither is it too shabby. The latest edition of Gallup’s three-day tracking poll shows that 50.9 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama is doing, while 45.2 disapprove. That’s a far cry from his highest rating — 69 percent — which came during the early months of his presidency. But it’s a lot better than his all-time low of 38-percent approval registered about five years ago. Perhaps the most interesting aspect...

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Bernie’s upset win in Michigan is not the death knell for the polling business

  In the days just prior to Tuesday’s Democratic primary election in Michigan, virtually every major poll showed Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders by a comfortable margin. But Sanders narrowly eked out a victory when the actual votes were counted. What happened? How could all those polls be so inaccurate? It was perhaps the biggest primary-election upset since Gary Hart defeated Walter Mondale in a Democratic contest in New Hampshire in 1984, despite polls indicating that Mondale likely would win. The first thing we should do...

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No matter the ugly rhetoric aimed at him, Obama’s approval rating is not so bad

  Several months ago, I had expected that Barack Obama’s job-approval rating would suffer once the battle for the Republican presidential nomination heated up. I figured that the GOP candidates would try to out-do one another in slinging barbs at the incumbent Democratic president. And, in fact, they have. But it seems not to have had much effect on Obama’s poll numbers. At this writing, the president’s approval-versus-disapproval ratings are running on the positive side in most recent polls. It’s a dead-heat at...

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