Just took Cliff May’s advice, spending half an hour on “The Horserace Blog.” Ladies and gentlemen, I feel much better.
Jay Cost, the author, writes engagingly. More to the point, he possesses a thorough knowledge of statistics and polling techniques. Those Zogby polls that have had Florida, Ohio and other battleground states swapping back and forth between Bush and Kerry these past ten days? Cost argues that we may all very merrily forget about them—Forget about Zogby? Bliss!—and he explains exactly why. Those tracking polls that suggest a sudden Kerry surge this past Friday and Saturday? We may very merrily forget about them, too, Cost argues:
[Tracking polls]…use the same method every day, and this is quite unwise. You must adjust your method to correspond with the day of the week as well as the time of day. This is why national, non-tracking polls that are regularly released are regularly released on the same day of the week. Gallup always comes out on Monday or late Sunday. Ditto for Time. Newsweek always comes out on Saturday. Battleground comes out on Friday….These tracking polls, however, apply the same methodology every day of the week. This can produce the sort of wild swings we have seen this weekend….
My guess [at the reason the tracking polls showed a Kerry surge]: football. The high school football season is wrapping up. Thus, southern and midwestern men were out on Friday night, rooting their teams to the playoffs. Where I come from, Western Pennsylvania, Friday night football is a big deal throughout the region, especially in the northern suburbs. North Allegheny, North Hills, Seneca Valley, Butler — all of these school districts love their football. All of these school districts are, to varying degrees, pro-Bush. There is an even greater love of high school football in rural Ohio (heavily GOP) and Texas. The same is probably true Saturday, as men were at their local college game (e.g. Penn State’s stadium holds more than 50,000 people, basically sapping Centre County and the surrounding counties of men for the whole afternoon). In other words, Fox [one of the organizations that published a tracking poll that showing a Kerry surge this weekend] ate some bad sampling pie.
For a good night’s sleep, Mr. Cost, I thank you.