Pundits in traditional media are breathlessly declaring the results of a New York Times-CBS-Quinnipiac poll showing President Barack Obama leading presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney in several swing states. Florida, my home state, is among them.
According to the poll, Obama’s ahead in Florida, 51-45 percent. As soon as I saw that, I wanted to know more about the actual makeup of the population answering the survey. What I found didn’t surprise me.
Most media appear to have taken the data directly from a summary or news release, and as far as could be determined before this column was published, no media have prefaced these breathless announcements with background information on the poll.
Polls played a key role in Obama’s 2008 victory. It was only after the election that one influential Democrat blogger alleged the polls he had relied on were fraudulent. Traditional media didn’t make much of what should have been an explosive revelation that came two years after the polls possibly influenced public opinion.
Polls should always be taken cautiously.
Those three swing states where Obama is allegedly ahead should come as no surprise.
This poll contained responses from a majority of voters who chose Obama in 2008.
Asked whether they voted for Barack Obama, John McCain or someone else in 2008, likely voters responded as follows:
- In Florida, 53 percent voted for Obama; 40 percent voted for McCain.
- In Ohio, 53 percent voted for Obama; 38 percent voted for McCain.
- In Pennsylvania, 54 percent voted for Obama; 40 percent voted for McCain.
When forming an opinion about a candidate’s success, we’re better informed if we look at context.
I don’t buy that Obama has a sizable edge in Florida or in the other two states either.
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/August 1, 2012)
~~Read archived articles about polls at The US Report.