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Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Chat with Cook

I've been meaning to post something about last week's Washington Post online chat with astute political observer Charles Cook. Here's a few excerpts that relate to recent blog posts of mine, but Cook has sharp comments on almost every poll topic that's come up this year.

Fooling Ourselves
"My advice to people is to not pay too much attention to any one poll, there is a temptation to cherry pick, to focus on the one or two polls that tell you what you want to see happen the most, and ignore all others as methodologically flawed. I would look at the averages of polls that are published in various places, an average of many polls is most likely to give you a truer picture than any one."

The Best National Polls Trump the State Polls
"Given that a quarter of [state-level] polls are complete garbage and another quarter fairly suspect, I think that [counting electoral votes] is very problematic. Unless someone happens to be privy to the much more sophisticated (and expensive) polling that is being conducted for the two parties, the chances of anyone accurately calling all of the 11 states that we are calling toss ups (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin) are pretty slim. If the margin in this race is more than one percentage point, the Electoral College vote won't matter, if it is inside of one percent, then there are too many states that are too close and the state level polling, even the good ones, won't be of much use, much less these three-dollar state polls that are flying over the internet....

"...stick to polls that are done over the telephone (NOT internet) and conducted by real live people, not "push #1 for Bush, #2 for Kerry...) like Rasmussen or Survey USA. They have no idea of they are interviewing nine years old or not."
I think Cook's argument for ignoring the state polls is very compelling: if the national margin is over one percent, the electoral votes will follow. If the national margin is closer than that, the state polls will also be too close to tell you anything.

Still, I can't restrain myself from checking electoral-vote.com every day.


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