Presidential polls are a hot, hot topic in the news right now as interested voters try to gauge their candidate’s success via polling — but whether Obama leads or Romney is gaining traction will depend on which polling entity is supplying your numbers.
Presidential polls are only one (very stark) example of our currently divided media, with outlets presenting a narrative based on their party of preference. Earlier on in the race, when polls showed a clear Obama lead, many conservative outlets outright rejected the polls, saying that “skewed polling” by a “liberal media” that was “in the tank for Obama” had sullied the data.
As of today (October 19), New York Times polling blog FiveThirtyEight is forecasting a still solid lead for President Obama over Mitt Romney, projecting that the incumbent candidate will earn 291.6 electoral votes to Romney’s predicted 246.4. Silver pegs Obama at a 70.4 percent chance of winning over Romney’s projected chance of 29.6 percent, in line with projections from other major polling outlets predicting an Obama win in November.
Silver, who stopped by The Daily Show the night prior to Obama to discuss his work on FiveThirtyEight for the New York Times (and wryly apologized to the President for having to follow his appearance on the show), has addressed the break Gallup has made from other polls in projecting a Romney win, saying:
“The Gallup national tracking poll now shows a very strong lead for Mitt Romney. As of Wednesday, he was ahead by six points among likely voters. Mr. Romney’s advantage grew further, to seven points, when Gallup updated its numbers on Thursday afternoon.”
Silver adds that Gallup is included in the model along with other major polls, and continues:
“However, its results are deeply inconsistent with the results that other polling firms are showing in the presidential race, and the Gallup poll has a history of performing very poorly when that is the case.”
Silver goes on to explain how presidential polls like his and Gallup make their prognostications, but he says that when an outlet like Gallup breaks from the rest, chances are good their predictions won’t bear out:
“Usually, when a poll is an outlier relative to the consensus, its results turn out badly … You do not need to look any further than Gallup’s track record over the past two election cycles to find a demonstration of this.”
“It’s much more likely that Gallup is wrong and everyone else is right than the other way around.”
What do you think about the presidential polls disparity seen in major outlets?