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Some Polls Are Better Suited For Lining Your Birdcage

Republican Presidential Candidates Participate In Second Florida Debate
(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

So today on the Rise and Shine Show I talked about a weekend poll from USA Today/Gallup that polled folks in 12 states on who they would go for in a given match up; Obama v. Romney, Gingrich, Paul or Santorum.  If the election were held right now, Romney beats Obama-by one percentage point.  The other three Republican’s come close, but no cigar.

There’s also a comparison between the two Republican front-runners, Romney and Gingrich, and Romney is viewed by those polled as more sincere and authentic.  Seriously?  But if you’ve followed much of what I’ve written on the subject of politics, you know that I believe the polls are best taken with a grain of salt.  With this poll, you need a about a pound of the stuff.

You have to read the fine print.  I don’t care if you’re buying  a house, a car, a boat, adopting a kid, whatever, you MUST read the fine print to know exactly what you’re getting into.  Polls are no different.  One would think that a poll that covered a dozen states would have a sample of 10,000 or perhaps 5,000 voters?  How about 1,000 voters?  Nope.   After reading the poll results I stumbled around and found out that this massive poll of  registered voters from 12 states captured a whopping 737 voters’ opinions.  That’s right, 737 voters in 12 states.  That’s about 61 voters per state.

The folks at Gallup must have been tired or short staffed or maybe they ran out of minutes on their cell phone.  I don’t know.  And frankly, I don’t have the time today it takes to nail down precisely how many registered Republicans, Democrats, Independents, or communists there are in each of these so-called swing states, but let’s have some fun anyway, shall we?  Let’s say you have an average of 50,000 registered voters of any political party in each of those states.  Among the 12 states in question, that’s 6 million voters.  Forget about margin of error.  You already know I’m pulling that number out of my–well, you know.   Polling 737 voters, they captured the opinion of a whopping  .012 percent of the crowd.  Woohoo!

I’m no mathematician, but that cannot be anywhere close to a reasonable sample.  I could’ve polled more people than that at the Kiwanis Pancake Festival last Saturday.  The issue I have with it is that so many people will read that nonsense and take some assumed factoid of it to heart.  But it is truly nonsense.  Yes, I know, consider the source.  But still, it’s a little insulting to the intelligence to have such a weak attempt at polling thrown at you as though it is something earth shattering, when it barely amounts to a spit in the river.  This election is far from in the bag for anyone, even President Obama.  And while it does look like a two man race in the Republican camp, don’t count anyone, from any direction, out just yet.  It’s a long way to Tipperary, boys and girls.

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