Democrats & Liberals Archives

The 2008 Polls Don't Mean Jack

My name is Woody, and I am a pollaholic. I check the Polling Report site at least a few times a week, and I’m always eager to see what is happening in the 2008 presidential election. (In case you are wondering, the latest one shows Barack Obama beating all of the Republicans. He is still behind Clinton, though.)

The more rational part of me knows that this is a waste of time. The general election polls are useless at this point, and the primary polls aren't much better.

My favorite anecdote about the unreliability of polls is the fact that Dukakis held a massive lead over Bush '41 in the late summer of 1988. I believe it got as high as 19%, and it wasn't just one poll that showed "The Duke" with a double-digit lead. At the time someone could have looked at those numbers and thought the election was over, but it was really just getting started.

That was just a couple of months before the election. At this point you would expect the polls to be even less reliable, if that is possible. This blog post by the appropriately name Dick Polman has some more examples:

1. In February 1995, Bob Dole was favored over incumbent President Clinton by 51 to 45 percent. (In November 1996, Clinton beat Dole by 49 to 41 percent.)

2. In March 1991, the senior George Bush was beating Mario Cuomo by 78 to 17 percent, and few even heard of Bill Clinton. (In November 1992, Clinton beat Bush by five points.)

3. In February 1983, Walter Mondale topped incumbent Ronald Reagan, 47 to 41 percent. (In November 1984, Reagan hammered Mondale in a landslide.)

4. In April 1975, incumbent Gerald Ford trailed Ted Kennedy by 50 to 43 percent. (Kennedy never ran, and 19 months later, Ford lost to Jimmy Carter in a squeaker.)

Ah yes, we all remember the Ted Kennedy years, don't we? Those were some good times.

So to my fellow pollaholics out there, by all means look at the 2008 election polls. It's a lot of fun. Just don't be foolish enough to use them to make a prediction this early. A coin toss works about as well.

Posted by Woody Mena at April 12, 2007 8:27 AM
Comment #216194
the appropriately name Dick Polman

LOL! Where do you get your polls, from Hustler magazine? :D

Posted by: American Pundit at April 12, 2007 11:09 AM
Comment #216199

I really enjoy the “poll reporting” that you provide for us.
The run up to the 06 elections you did were great.

I was wondering if you have any knowledge or opinions on how many Rep or Dem seats that will be close in 08? Any Indies that may have a real chance? Or if there are any “dark horses” in the Presidential race?

These are just some questions I’ve had but always forget to look for when I get home. (I work on a PC all day long and hardly touch the thing at home.)

Any info or opinions on those would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks and keep it up.

Posted by: kctim at April 12, 2007 11:26 AM
Comment #216214


The nice thing about predicting Congressional election is you don’t have to just look at polls, but can also look at things like retirements and open seats. Also in the Senate, you can look at which seats are actually at risk in a certain election cycle.

In 2008 for example, there are 33 Senate seats up for election. 22 of those are now held by Republicans, 12 by Democrats. All other things being equal, this means the Democrats have the advantage because they have fewer seats to lose
and more to gain. (In 2006, by the way, it was the other way around. The Dems had a few more seats at risk.) Other than that, the best way to predict the Senate now would be to see who is retiring. According to Cook Political Report, the only announced retirement is Wayne Allard (R). Retirements are almost always good news for the other side. You can also look at whether a party is recruiting good candidates.

From what we know now, I would be shocked if the Democrats actually lost any net Senate seats. I bet they will gain a couple.

In terms of the House, it is hard to say. You really have to dig in and look at individual districts. Chris Cizilla (sp?) at WaPo is big on this.

Posted by: Woody Mena at April 12, 2007 12:32 PM
Comment #216236

Would you object if I sort of went off topic?
I do hope not….;_ylt=AnwuKicnCT1LjBoz4AQWRPRZ.3QA

Senate panel seeks missing White House records Thu Apr 12, 11:29 AM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. congressional panel investigating the firing of federal prosecutors authorized subpoenas on Thursday for e-mails the White House has declared may be missing.

I’d like to read what folks here think of the “missing e-mails” that the Senate has now issued subpoenas to the White House.

Something about this just doesn’t seem to click right in my brain.

Seems to me we’ve had a lot of Republican Presidents who have some type of brain deficiencies.

Nixon lost a tape, Ford pardoned Nixon before he was charged with a crime, (thus dismantling any chance he had of getting elected) Reagan simply couldn’t remember the Iranian Contra Affair - come to think of it neither could Bush Sr., although he’s the one who forgot about the “I will not raise taxes” speech, and now George W. can’t seem to find his e-mails.

I’ll grant you the Democrats aren’t a whole lot better, since none of them seem to be able to keep their pants on and zipped, but at least none of their flaws seem to negatively affect the average citizen, or our nations welfare. Of course those involved in the affairs may differ.

Just something I thought might need to be pondered.

Thanks, Woody

Posted by: Linda H. at April 12, 2007 3:39 PM
Comment #216248

Thanks Woody. I’ll take a look at the CPR and WaPo dude.

Posted by: kctimm at April 12, 2007 5:33 PM
Comment #216379

Almost impossible to debate this topic but I like the title…

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at April 13, 2007 9:32 AM
Comment #216389

WaPo post about the 2008 Senate races:

Posted by: Woody Mena at April 13, 2007 11:24 AM
Comment #217896

An alternative to the usual suspects…
Draft Mark Green ‘08

Posted by: C.M. Barons at April 20, 2007 6:53 PM
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