Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I don't know how reliable polls are.

During the month of September, I did not have a television, and my access to the Internet was limited. That was a good thing, since I observe an inverse relationship between time spent in front of a screen and time spent with live human beings; that ratio had gotten way out of whack in my ordinary life, and now that I'm home again, I'm trying to keep it from getting so unbalanced again.

Also, while I was away from the screen, I was not able to track political coverage as obsessively as I might want to. This was also good.

Now I have too much information, and no idea of how to sort through it all. This afternoon I watched a consultant for the McCain campaign say that the race is a statistical dead heat, while the Huffington Post says that Obama is pulling away. The average of polls show Obama six points ahead -- outside the margin of error, at least -- but is that nationwide, and what does that mean from an electoral vote perspective?

How reliable are polls, anyway? Have they caught up to modern technology yet? Are people just lying? What about the 2004 election, when early exit polls were calling the election for Kerry? Are we all just going to be fooled again?

We have six days left before Election Day, and at this rate I am not going to make it. I need to do some deep breathing and step away from the screens.

After I watch Barack Obama's speech tonight. And then the after-speech coverage.

Five Random Songs

"I Think I Love You," The Partridge Family. Ah, the Partridge Family. That's what I need. Some Partridge Family reruns ... if I iron my hair and find a vest and a tambourine, I can claim to be Laurie Partridge for Halloween.

"I Wanna Be Like You," Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. A cover of the song from "Jungle Book," fun but not as good as Louie Prima's original.

"The Man That Got Away," Rufus Wainwright. From the Rufus Does Judy album. Thisclose to being one step too far.

"Lets Go (Nothing For Me)," New Order. I love the jangly guitars on this song.

"It Was a Wonderful Time in Our Lives," Toronto Consort. Modern chamber music from The Sweet Hereafter soundtrack, spooky and beautiful and heartbreaking. I do not know the names of the instruments played here, and wish I did.


Bea said...

for all your good polling needs.

Anonymous said...

I hate to say it but I think in many states the national elections will be decided by the courts. Both sides have people on the courthouse steps to argue the outcome.

Anonymous said...

oh yeah, sorry again. the above post was from James

JIM LAMB said...

The problem with the polls this year is a lack of a historical data base. The key to political polling is to sample a group, compare the results to previous results of the same group from previous years actual votes.

This year, there are a number of completely wild factors. The first "black" candidate. The first Marxist. The first woman republican. The low popularity of almost every congressman. The incredible crash of the financial markets(see wanderingmick for more on that). The totally wacko behavior of the democrat congressional leadership. There is more, but we'll see next week if all these pollsters are worth their money.

Claire said...

Also, to be fair, the unprecedented methods/amounts of fund raising, the record-breaking numbers of newly registered voters, significant shifts in demographics from state to state, and the criminal behavior of Republicans in power over the last two years. Four years. Eight years. Six days. Whatever.

For me, the biggest unknown is how important the new voters will be, and the unpredictability of voter turnout. Obama's campaign did an amazing job of getting people registered, no question. But getting everyone to turn up at the polls? I'm terrified that that just won't happen. Non-voting habits may be hard to break.

Anonymous said...

I think the young voters will turn out in droves. You can call me a dreamer, but just looking at my girls, 18 and 20, who have already voted, makes me feel like there is a new generation stepping up to bat with determination to make a change. We live in hope.

Richard B.

Karen Olson said...

I was in Barnes and Noble yesterday looking for a book for my daughter in the YA section...and I heard two girls about 10 or so discussing Obama and how they wish they could vote for him. They were asking everyone in the store who they were voting for. It was interesting because when I was 10 I wasn't in tune with politics at all. I think it says a lot about this particular election.

Anonymous said...

I don't find that believing or not believing the polls will relieve any anxiety

Toronto consort. Do you believe you heard a sackbut or a hurdygurdy?