Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Polling pollsters about polls, or why I have a stomach ache

Let's see, we're ahead 3 points, 6 points, 11 points. Make up your goddam mind--You may have noticed I have added a thingy to the blog, the Pollster.com electoral college map. It will change as Pollster.com changes, and it just changed yesterday to reflect new state polls.

(State polls lag behind the national tracking polls because there are a lot fewer of them. Just remember, it is the states that vote for president, not a popularity contest. Anyone remember President Gore?)

The poll numbers remain all over the place. They only thing they agree on is that Barack Obama is ahead in the national poll and if the election were held today, in the electoral college. The numbers vary, from Zogby's 3 points (they poll for Reuters) to Daily Kos' 11. Both polls are, to me, outliers. One is too low and not notoriously accurate, the other is for a liberal website. That doesn't mean it is slanted or dishonest but it is an outlier, the most optimistic if you are an Obama person. I tend to discount them both, leaving us with a bunch of polls having him 6-8 points up. Historically, it is very difficult for a candidate with John McCain's numbers to come back in 28 days, but this race is unpredictable.

[The Hotline poll has them down to 2 points this morning, a peculiar tightening] I find that odd, since that poll has been peculiarly conservative and hardly moved at all for a week or two.]

The McCain faction has launched the most egregiously dishonorable campaign in my memory, now subtly playing the race card. The good news to me is that the Obama people, having learned their lessons from the Kerry campaign, are fighting back instantly. They obviously had an ad on McCain's participation in the Keating Five scandal sitting in the closet just waiting for the opportunity to turn it loose. So much for the high-minded campaign we were promised.

Okay, where do you go for accurate, non-partisan polling and political information. We've already discussed often my affection for Mark Blumenthal's Pollster.com.
It's his map to the right. He also writes for the National Journal. A commenter (not the spam guy) has mentioned fivethirtyeight.com and I agree completely. (The number comes from the total of electoral college votes).

For balanced political coverage, I recommend two sites, Politico.com and Realclearpolitics.com. Politico.com is interesting for another reason. It is not your normal guy sitting around in his underwear blog (like this one), but has grown into a respected journalism outlet, one of the largest and best on the Internet. It is the new wave in journalism and worth monitoring.

Now, for the best biased--to the left, of course--sources of information. My favorite remains the Huffington Post. Slightly more centered is Josh Marshall's talkingpointsmemo.com. It was Marshall's site that uncovered the firing of the nine U.S. prosecutors, forcing the mainstream media to follow. It is the only website to win a Polk Award, I believe.

For right wing sites, you are on your own. My stomach won't bear it.

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