Anyone following the presidential campaign through the prism of media polls is doing themselves a serious disservice. Virtually every one uses a polling sample that is so heavily-skewed towards Democrats that it distorts the actual state of the campaign. Of course, that is a feature, not a bug of the polls. The polls are specifically designed to drive a narrative that Obama is surging and Romney is struggling. Increasingly, though, the polls are having to go to ridiculous efforts to support this meme. Friday’s CBS/New York Times poll, for example, uses a D+13 sample of registered voters. This is absurd.
In 2008, an historic election wave for Democrats, the electorate was D+7. In 2004, when George W. Bush won reelection, the electorate was evenly split. In other words, D+0. Repeat after me; the Democrat share of the electorate is not going to double this year. Given the well-noted enthusiasm edge for Republicans this year, the electorate is going to be far closer to the 2004 model than 2008. Any poll trying to replicate the 2008 is going to artificially inflate Obama’s support.
CBS does apply a Likely Voter screen to the head-to-head match up. The LV sample is D+6, similar to the make up of the 08 election. In that, Obama leads Romney by just 3 points, 49-46. In the RV sample, which more than doubles the proportion of Democrats to D+13, Obama leads by 8 points, 51-43. See the simple relationship there?
Let’s try a simple thought experiment. Imagine if, for a week, all media polls decided to use a sample that replicated the 2004 electorate–a D+0 model. Given the GOP’s enthusiasm edge–even the CBS poll found Republicans voters with a double-digit lead on enthusiasm for the election–the electorate is going to look a lot more like 2004 than 2008. Imagine how the narrative of the campaign would change. The CBS poll found Romney beating Obama among Independents by 11 points. With a balanced partisan sample, Romney would likely post consistent leads against Obama.
A week of this and Politico would run out of fuel for its daily “Romney is struggling” theme. Which is why the media will never adjust its samples. This election, it isn’t so much about polling as propaganda. The polls are simply a tool being used by the media to try to depress GOP turnout and give a powerful lift to Obama’s obviously lackluster campaign.
The polls confirm that the media aren’t really biased. Rather, they are active players for the other team.
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