Articles and Analysis


Wait a Week

Topics: 2008 , ABC , Barack Obama , Chuck Todd , Hillary Clinton , IVR Polls , John McCain , Mark Penn , NBC News , SurveyUSA , USAToday Gallup

Yesterday, Clinton chief strategist Mark Penn released a polling memo highlighting "some pretty big changes" in polling numbers that suggest "a strong swing in momentum in the race to Hillary." Later in the afternoon, ABC News correspondent Jake Tapper posted some analysis by Peyton Craighill of the ABC News Polling Unit:

Mark Penn’s note is full of overblown claims based on current polling. He’s cherry picking numbers from recent polls. Much of his claim of a Clinton swing is based on the latest tracking data from Gallup in which Clinton is now ahead by 7 points. If you go back two more days Obama has a 7-point lead in a separate USA Today/Gallup poll. CBS has a new poll out today that shows a close 46-43 percent Obama-Clinton race. The CBS poll also has the match ups with McCain at 48-43 percent for Obama-McCain and 46-44 percent for Clinton-McCain. We see little indication of a shift to Clinton. Of the nine polls cited in his note, five of them are not airworthy.

Tapper adds: "'Airworthy' is a term our Polling Unit uses for polls so poorly done we are discouraged from mentioning them on air." I believe Tapper left out the word "not" in that sentence. Polls considered "not airworthy" are those ABC does not mention on air, and that category includes polls conducted using an automated methodology, such as those by SurveyUSA (ABC details its standards here).

Without reopening the long debate on automated polls (a topic we've written about often), we should note that the latest round of SurveyUSA polls do generally show Obama's support worsening in general election matchups against McCain. Of course, all of those surveys were fielded last weekend (March 14-16) while the Jeremiah Wright sound-bites played endlessly on the cable news network but before Obama's speech on Tuesday. Probably the wisest advice on how to interpret poll numbers this week comes from some commentary yesterday by NBC News political director Chuck Todd:

Don't use the polls this week to judge where Obama is and what kind of damage...is it long term or is it short term. I'd wait a week and look at the polls in a week and then we'll know how badly this [hurt Obama] because there has certainly been critical mass as far as attention has been concerned on the speech and how he is trying to pivot and move on. So if there is an uptick then we will know that what we are seeing is bottom, what we are seeing today is the worst, and if today is bottom, the Obama campaign probably thinksthey can recover.



Very good stuff. It does seem like a large percentage of all polls done aren't very good. You'll see many in a local newspaper, for example, that are never picked up nationally. I can see that those of you who aggregate polls do a very good job of screening, and that's why I like pollster.com so well.

The rest of these polls? Sigh. I wish they'd just go away.

The other thing that you mention here, "Wait a Week", is the other thing that I really *hope* the press is keyed into despite little evidence of it - how these polls fluctuate. With small delays of a few days in reporting, they are a full news cycle behind the spin machines most of the time. I would hope that being mis-guided by spin from one side would make a reporter wary of that side as time goes on.

(I used the word "hope" twice in the same paragraph, which is obviously my way of saying that I doubt it's true to start with. Sigh.)



obama controversy is a scam!!! See the video for yourself. Wright was quoting someone else who had appeared on fox news earlier.




McCain spiritual guide accused government of enabling Black Genocide:

Double Standard? Where is the outrage on this?

Reverend Rod Parsley of the World Harvest Church of Columbus, Ohio -- whom Sen. John McCain hails as a spiritual adviser -- has suggested on several occasions that the U.S. government was complicit in facilitating black genocide.
See video link:



Alan Abramowitz:

1. Mark Penn is not to be believed
2. New CBS poll following Obama speech shows that Wright controversy has had no measurable impact on opinions of Obama
3. Latest Gallup tracking has Democratic race back to a dead heat, similar to other national polls.


Joseph E:

SurveyUSA "not airworthy?"
I agree that their polls over the weekend likely show changes related to the short-term news cycle, rather than any sign of where the campaign will end up in the long run.
But their record seems to be one of the best of any of the national pollsters. The fact that they use automated interviews should not in itself make their polls "not airworthy."

Certainly, Zogby and the like may not be trusted, but the better automated polls (SurveyUSA, PPP) have an even better record than some of the big live interview operations. Who else could have polled hundreds in ALL 50 STATES?! That's invaluable.



I stated this earlier this week on a previous posting on Pollster.com ... in order for us to fully understand whether this has hurt Obama or not is to wait until at least this Sunday (for the 3 and 4 day tracking polls to be past the 3 speeches Obama gave this week). Also, now that Obama has earned the endorsement of Governor Richardson - It's probably best to see what Tuesday's and Wednesday's polls look like next week to fully understand which way the winds are blowing.



I don't get the Survey USA "not airworthy" thing. Seems awfully strange after the press got so excited about their 50 State release. Did ABC not cover it?

Per Penn - ach, Obama has some real special people working for him, too. Cherry picking numbers... wow, I've never heard of a campaign doing that before.

Tapper always reads like he's got a cricket in his britches. Chuck Todd, on the other hand - now there's a mensch.



i think mark's memo reveals a tendency disguised though he tried to debunk favorable clinton polls and put more muscle behind pro obama ones. i would caution pollsters that their performance in new hampshire and elsewhere drove inaccurate polls such that i for one, find them merely curious and in some cases ludicrous.

i think the greater point being debated on this site no matter what the polls are - is that of the seething anger splitting the party and ultimately the nation.

that anger is merely a symptom of a larger trend, a growing pain as it were, that is simply not being addressed realistically or in a timely enough fashion because it is getting overshadowed by the aches and pains and not being diagnosed for the illness it is:

since we have all gone digital and know full well the possibility of one man one vote, we are chaffing at the bit to move our democratic principles into a virtual process NOW.

we cannot tolerate media squeezes, shut out primaries, super delegates or delegates at all. and we know full well that things are coming to a head in this matter as every election now encounters inadequacies, rebuffs, anomalies and
incredible offenses to the principles upon which the nation was founded.

i would like to start a PAC site to ask that every democrat donate up to five dollars to pay for the revote in michigan and florida. and that if this is not done, to CANCEL the convention until it is.

frankly - the democratic party should be the trail blazer for iconic one man one voting and it had better happen right now --- or depend on
utter chaos come next november, thus making three debacles in three major elections in a row. a rotten record for a republic of lofty dreams and principles, i'd say.




Ummm.... Much of that comment was written not by Jake Tapper, but by Peyton Craighill of the ABC News Polling Unit.
Tapper himself states:

[QUOTE]Myself, when it comes to polls, I think of what a wise woman, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, said in January:

"One thing I think everybody should've learned after New Hampshire is let's not pay so much attention to polls....I didn't pay attention to polls before New Hampshire and I'm not going to start paying attention to it after New Hampshire."[END QUOTE]

Guess Senator Clinton's Chief Strategist thinks otherwise!



RS: Nah, I know the quote was Craighill. Tapper's style generally - very annoying.

I think the quote is misinterpreted. She's wasn't saying don't pay attention to polls per se. She was saying "Remember NH? Great job guys. Screw all y'all - come back when you've learned to count."




Isn't that the same as saying, "I don't believe in polls"?

Great... typical politicianese - "I said it, but I didn't mean what I said!"

Anyhoo, if she'd teared up two days earlier, I'm sure the polls would have caught it ;-)



Ismakc: Who's this "we" you speak of? It doesn't include me or most folks I know or whose posts I've read here or elsewhere.

I know the big shoe-drop we're waiting for is supposed to be the fallout from Obama's speech (I believe the Wright thing will end up being the beginning of his beginning). But we've also got Clinton's white house schedules, reverse-NAFTA-gate, passports, Richardson, deeper probes into polls, reporters actually researching what the campaigns tell them, Clinton's empty bank account, the abandonment of re-votes in MI and FL...any of which could go for or against either candidate (remember last time Clinton looked broke and got a small flood of donations?)

I decided sometime yesterday to just chill at least until the weekend before worrying about which bomb, if any, is going to explode. Too much has happened recently, and too many news outlets have found themselves on the wrong side of a story. Everyone's just holding their breath until the dust starts to settle.



[ .... grrrrrrrr... ]



RS - see comment above.


Post a comment

Please be patient while your comment posts - sometimes it takes a minute or two. To check your comment, please wait 60 seconds and click your browser's refresh button. Note that comments with three or more hyperlinks will be held for approval.