The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Should We Trust Internal Polls? Use Your Gut, I Say.


Charlie Melancon, Democrat of Louisiana, and Elaine Marshall, Democrat of North Carolina, offer polls indicating they have enjoyed surges in their Senate races against, respectively, Sen. David Vitter and Sen. Richard Burr. Melancon’s internal poll has him within 1; Marshall’s has her ahead by 2.

I myself will be waiting to see what other pollsters find; both Vitter and Burr have led consistently by modest to large margins, often double digits. I’ve said in the past, take as many grains of salt as you feel necessary when reading about a poll conducted for a campaign. Some consultants tell me that they never want their internal polls to presume anything too optimistically; they insist they want to be prepared for the worst-case scenarios.

Still, if a campaign’s poll gets released publicly, it usually is designed to demonstrate the candidate’s strength. (Then again, sometimes you’re Blanche Lincoln and you release internal polls showing yourself down 9 because things are so bad, you think 36 percent is a good number for a three-term incumbent. It’s sad, really.)

When I see a campaign’s internal poll showing them performing a few points better than non-campaign polls, I generally think, “Okay, that could happen, if they’ve got some really good get-out-the-vote programs in the works.” When the gap between the campaign polls and other polls is closer to double digits . . . come on, pal. Give us some results from this plane of existence.

Tags: Charlie Melancon , David Vitter , Elaine Marshall , Richard Burr


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