The Silly Season – Polls and Pollsters

Posted by & filed under An Independent Viewpoint, Political Polls, Silly Season, WTF?

obama axe silly season


Welcome back to IVA’s Silly Season feature. This is our second of an ongoing series covering and exposing a few or the many instances of the “Silly Season” phenomenon, examples of which certainly aren’t hard to find throughout the mainstream American political media. 

Political polling and the resulting news coverage of every new poll released (and what it means for whom and why) is certainly an integral part of the political Silly Season. Seemingly every day from now until the election, a new poll is released with conflicting results to another recent poll from the other side of the aisle. To make matters worse, this has been even worse than usual in a race as close as the 2012 Presidential election, where much of our political media’s ‘silliness’ is focused.

There’s an explanation for all this variation. As the New York Times’ electoral math guru Nate Silver recently pointed out, even the “best” pollsters consistently show bias towards either the Democrats or the Republicans, and many pollsters still don’t include cell phone numbers in their phone polling, despite the fact that over 1/3 of Americans no longer use a landline in their home.

While we recognize that professional political polling is an inexact science at best, it’s even worse when it comes to polling self identified independent voters. Forget science - polling independents is more of a dark art crossed with a game of pin the tail on the donkey. We’re “volatile” according to The Hill, and with a much larger ideological variation in political views across the spectrum of independent voters, it’s much harder to put independents into a box. Yes or no? Black or White? That’s not quite how independent voters operate.

But of course, with every current event or decision that’s been at the forefront of the political news cycle, whether it be Health Care, Immigration, Citizens United, or Same Sex Marriage, pollsters want to know what Independents think – and this often provides some silly contradictory results:

1. Breaking news from the Washington Post: In the wake of President Obama’s recent executive order on immigration, swing voters apparently both support and are less likely to vote for the president – HUH?

2. Obamacare: Last week as the Supreme Court was ruling on Obamacare, CBS News reported 52% of independents are against the law. But wait a minute, according to a recent Reuters poll 73% of independents are against Obamacare. While that’s a 21 point discrepancy, surely nobody is polling that independents like Obamacare… Breaking News! The Public Religion Research Institute released a poll that found 47% of independents supported Obamacare, versus 33% seeking a Supreme Court overturn. And now, support among independents is increasing in the wake of the decision? – WTF?

3. Not Same Sex Marriage Too? With a few more weeks for pollsters to “work” since President Obama’s May 9th announcement, shouldn’t the data for independent support or opposition to same sex marriage in the wake of President Obama’s backing be more consistent? Nope. Opposition. Support. Opposition. Support. Pick your angle, and pick your poll to back it up. Starting to see a trend? – LOL?

Ultimately, we could cherry pick polls from around the country to continue to prove our point for another several inches of column, but as an independent voter, surely you get the Silly Season picture by now – pollsters notoriously struggle to pin down independent opinions, but the mainstream media has no problem reporting conflicting and contradictory information and using this “hard science” and “latest numbers” to back up their claims and narratives.

Political polling of independents – a hard science? Hardly. Yet our mainstream media certainly treats every influx of new poll numbers like an excited kid on Christmas morning. Yes Virginia, it is Silly Season. Take any poll that tries to tell you what independent voters think with several grains of salt.


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