But then we read the second; "Race, Age Could Be Issues For Voters." Bummer.
Here's the fun part; they're both about the same damned poll! The first headline is from ABC's Chicago affiliate, the second from ABC Evening News. Go ahead and bang your head against your keyboard, I'll wait.
So which one's right? Here's a clue; which one's a definitive statement and which one hedges with "could?" ABC Evening News leaves out a snippet of information that would make their "Big trouble ahead!" headline problematic. The Chicago affiliate includes it:
The ABC News, Washington Post poll shows Democrat Barack Obama leading Republican John McCain 48 to 42 percent among adults expecting to vote.
McCain, however, leads Obama 51 percent to 39 among white voters, but analysts say, those numbers are not an indication of any racial motivations among white voters surveyed.
"The net effect, when you size them and put them together, is essentially nil. Obama's support among white voters, at the end of the day, is about the same as average for Democratic presidential candidates over the last eight elections," said ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer.
That's right, the Evening News story leaves out analysis by their own polling director. That's the problem with that TV machine -- most of the time, the stuff on it is designed to get you to watch the TV machine. They're going to give us a "tight race," even if they have to make one up.
People are always saying you can get a poll to say anything you want. Sure, you can ask people if they'd rather vote for John McCain or Osama bin Laden, tally up the results, and write a headline that reads, "Vast majority prefers McCain." But no one does that, because you can't get away with it any more. Modern polling data is factual data. What you can do is get an analyst or pundit to draw inapt comparisons and throw doubt on the findings. CNN, home of the statistical monstrosity they call their "poll of polls," is expert at this.
In "analyzing" a new LA Times/Bloomberg poll, CNN's polling director warns us not to get too excited about Barack Obama's 12-point national lead over John McCain.
CNN Polling Director Keating Holland notes a substantial lead in June does not always lead to a decisive victory the following November.
“Historically speaking, when June polls show a tight race, the race usually remains tight all the way through November. But when June polls have shown a big lead for one candidate, that lead has often melted," Holland said.
"Bill Clinton was leading Bob Dole by up to 19 points in June, 1996; Clinton won by eight. Michael Dukakis had a 14-point lead over George Bush the elder in June, 1988; Bush won by seven. Jimmy Carter was up nearly 20 points in June, 1976 but in November eked out a two-point win. And Richard Nixon managed an even smaller victory in 1968 even though he had a 16-point margin that June," Holland noted.
See what he did there? Out of the four historical examples he gives us, only one actually lost. These are better examples of why Barack Obama will get the confetti drop in November. Winning -- without the help of the Supreme Court -- is pretty damned decisive.
Of course, not all BS comes out of your teevee. Media Matters points us to a blog post by Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Salena Zito which asserts that a Newsweek poll showing Obama with a 15-point lead means Obama's going to lose. She takes Holland's reasoning to an absurd extreme -- Dukakis had a big lead, Obama has a big lead, therefore Obama will lose.
This isn't so much drawing a historical parallel as it is engaging in crazy electoral superstition. I can do the same thing and come to entirely different conclusions -- it's common electoral folk wisdom that the tallest candidate wins (some pundit always brings this one up). Lanky 6'1" Barack is, therefore, a shoo-in over 5'6" Johnny. Of course, Bush won over taller candidate Kerry. In addition, this reasoning would demand that we'd be talking about Stretch Obama vs. Legs Romney right now. But never mind logic, we've got history.
In fact, the tall candidate superstition has more weight than the Dukakis parallel, because the taller candidate's won more than once. All this new "big lead" superstition has going for it is one occurrence. At least, one that's being cited. This shouldn't strike anyone as an extremely convincing argument. In fact, I can go back to find a fairly big lead that stayed big the whole damned way through.
In July of 1984, Reagan led Mondale by 7 points. It just got bigger, until Reagan took 49 of 50 states in the election. Holland would've said the early lead was bad news for Reagan, while Zito would've argued the Gipper was doomed. And no, I'm not going to waste time trying to find out who was taller.
So it's not the polling that's bad, it's the analysis. Especially when that analysis is motivated by right wing ideology -- as it is in Zito's case -- or as a way to increase ratings by pushing a "tight race" narrative -- as it is for Holland and CNN.
The facts are what the facts are. Barack Obama enjoys a big national lead in most polls and all that means is that Barack Obama enjoys a big national lead in most polls. Don't beware the polls, beware the analysis.
Technorati tags: politics; John McCain; elections; 2008; bullshit; poll; The media tells us Barack Obama will lose -- because the moon is full and he broke a mirror once