A Poor Attempt at a Poll

The Obama people, I am told, have been much encouraged by the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll, pretty much because it is the only major poll right now which shows Barack Obama with the lead.

A one point lead.

With seven percent undecided.

And with an admitted margin of error between 4.7 and 5.0 percent on the major questions.

Further on, the polling group, Hart/Newhouse, tries to claim that the overall margin of error is +/- 3.3%, but the fact is a poll is only as reliable as its largest margin of error. One is left to consider whether Hart/Newhouse does not understand the significance of the math involved, or whether they simply wish to look better than they have done in preparing the poll. At best, they are being sloppy.

That sloppiness continues in the fact that there is no statement of methodology, nor are any of the internal demographics provided, much less the weighting. In terms of credibility, this is a poor effort.

Before looking further, I should note as well that if one visits NBC’s site (as I did to try to find the internals for the poll), the page for “Decision 08” includes a photo of Sarah Palin and the caption “How many controversies can Sarah Palin’s candidacy survive?”. That, folks, is prima facia evidence that NBC (like MSNBC) is in the tank for Obama. This conclusion is supported by statements from the poll release, like this one from the third paragraph in the spin piece by Mark Murray; The findings from this survey … are consistent with other recent national polls showing the race to essentially be tied after the conventions and vice presidential selections.”

I have no doubt that Mister Murray would like the race to be tied in all the major polls. But he’s wrong. ABC News and the Washington Post admit McCain is up by 2 points, which is also what CBS News is saying, and Gallup’s Daily Tracking has McCain up by 5 and says he’s been up that much for four days straight. In fact, USA Today and Gallup’s regular poll says that among likely voters, McCain is up by 10 points.

What’s significant about these polls is that all of them show McCain’s campaign as much stronger than before, while Obama has lost some ground. NBC/WSJ has not released a lot of head-to-head polls between Obama and McCain, but in general they have shown support as high as most polls for Obama, while generally suppressing McCain’s numbers relative to other polls. Consequently, if the NBC poll is admitting that McCain is within striking distance, they have admitted that McCain has gained strength compared to their own previous numbers. No NBC poll this year has shown McCain within 1 point of Obama before.

So, in summary, the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll should be noted in these respects:

[] They have been consistently anti-McCain relative to other polls released at the same time

[] They have refused to release their internal data and weighting

[] They have made statements in their poll release which are factually incorrect, exhibiting either poor fact-checking or deliberate deceit.

And yet, the Obama campaign can find no better hope for its hype. That is significant, itself.

The Knucklehead of the Day award
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