Posted on | October 19, 2012 | 35 Comments
It seems so long ago, but it was only late September, when Jonathan Chait dismissed as “poll denialists” those who expressed skepticism about the validity of polls showing Barack Obama sailing to an easy victory in Ohio and elsewhere. We were, said Chait, “totally crazy” for questioning the samples of these polls.
Three weeks later, Romney having zoomed upward in the polls, now it is the turn of liberals to complain, and we find that the previously respectable Nate Silver of the New York Times is now a poll denialist, complaining that the Gallup national tracking poll that showed Romney leading by 7 points is “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.”
We’re now 18 days away from Election Day, and we’ll know soon enough whether Gallup or other polls are accurate. Is it likely that Romney will win the popular vote by a 7-point margin? I dunno. Probably not. This would be a landslide of historical proportions.
On the other hand, without going into Nate’s entire argument, I’ll say this: Polls are a lagging indicator. By the time a decisive shift begins to appear in the polls, the factors that caused the shift are usually several days or even weeks in the past. Instapundit wishes to make clear that he did not coin the term “preference cascade,” but if this is what we’ve been watching for the past three weeks . . .
Well, it is what it is. Donald Douglas says “wonder boy Nate Silver’s practically blown a gasket over the latest Gallup tracking numbers,” but the real question is, “Was Nate every really a wonder boy?” Or is it possible that, like Obama, he was overrated all along?
I’d make more fun of Nate’s newfound skepticism, except that for all I know, he’s right. This is my luxury: I’m a mere journalist, with a blog, and nobody’s paying me to be the Omniscient Expert, so I don’t have to pretend to know everything. Lucky me.