Polling candidate support: the deaf leading the blind

My former colleague Amanda Michel confirms my suspicion that the national polling data, showing Hillary owning the Democratic primary race, are deeply misleading. Perhaps we Obama supporters live in an echo chamber, but nonetheless, I can’t square those polls with the grassroots enthusiasm out there for Obama'(and a corresponding ambivalence to Hillary). I think the problem is that our hyper-saturated electorate is once again stuck on the bugbear of “electability,” which proved disastrous in 2004.

These polls are undermining the sole purpose of early, small-state primaries. In theory, any candidate should be able to make a good showing in Iowa or New Hampshire on shoe-leather and good ideas. But no matter how independent-minded these Iowans claim to be, too many of them are keeping on eye on the national polling numbers. Which means that a large number of ignorant Americans who haven’t considered the candidates’ ideas are setting the tone for the small number of informed New Hampshire and Iowa citizens who have.

Most reporting on these polls fail to note that while maybe the mass of Democrats (or Americans in general) are leaning towards Hillary, those opinions are largely unformed and uninformed. Indeed, Amanda’s work shows that the Democratic electorate is just flat-out undecided. In such an environment, name recognition and nostalgia for the Clinton years matters a lot. And look what the same factors did for us in 2000 with the Republican nominee!

The media — whether the MSM or the blogosphere — needs to get off its poll addiction and let the candidates speak for themselves. This electability spin is not just bad for the Obama (or Edwards or McCain) campaign, but for American democracy.

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One thought on “Polling candidate support: the deaf leading the blind

  1. I am so sick of hearing the media’s coverage of the horse race, rather than learning more about the horse.

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