Slatest PM: The Pollsters-Strike-Back Edition

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 27 2012 5:43 PM

Slatest PM: The Pollsters-Strike-Back Edition

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***NOTE: We've revamped our afternoon Slatest newsletter to deliver a text-heavy recap of the day's top stories to our subscribers' inboxes. Thursday's edition is below. You can sign up here to receive the Slatest PM in your inbox daily before it is published online.***

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

ABOUT THOSE "UNSKEWED" POLLS: As we mentioned yesterday, some conservatives are becoming increasingly vocal regarding their doubts about recent polls that show President Obama pulling ahead both nationally and in key battleground states like Florida and Ohio. In short, they contend that pretty much everyone but the conservative pollsters over at Rasmussen are relying on turnout models that unfairly favor Democrats. If the turnout models were tweaked appropriately, they say, Romney would have a substantial lead coming down the home stretch.

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POLLSTERS RESPOND: Frank Newport, the editor-in-chief over at Gallup, penned a forceful response to the polling critics today, explaining that their main beef with the numbers—what the doubters say is an oversampling of Democrats in the survey—actually is just further proof that the president is out in front at the moment.

On Party ID: "It is designed to vary. This is distinct from demographic variables such as age, gender, race/ethnicity, and education, which are, generally speaking, stable indicators measured by the U.S. Census Bureau. ... Party identification changes as political tides change. ... Generally, if there is a political tide toward either of the two major parties, all questions we ask that are of a political nature will move in that direction."

Which Means: "So, it would not be surprising to find that if Barack Obama is enjoying a surge in popularity in any given state, that surge will show up on the ballot question, on his job approval measure, and on the measure of party identification. So, data showing that Obama is ahead on the ballot in a specific state poll and that Democrats have a higher-than-expected representation on the party identification question, are basically just reflecting two measures of the same underlying phenomenon." Newport's full post here.

SLIVERS OF TRUTH? New York magazine's Jonathan Chaitmeanwhile, argues that while denying the polls is "silly," and that the media conspiracy theory at the foundation of such denial is "deranged," ultimately there is at least a few drops of truth there.

On the Science: "[P]olling is a very hard science, and it seems to be getting harder. Response rates have dropped, and larger numbers of Americans use only cell phones. If the difficulties of polling overwhelm the pollsters’ ability to get it right, we’ll know only after it happens. It’s conceivable that somehow the polls are systematically over-counting Democratic voters. (Of course, it’s just as possible they’re systematically over-counting Republicans.)"

And the Big Picture: "The broader fear behind poll denialism is also one that ought to be treated with sympathy. Conservatives rage that the media are deliberately fostering the impression that Obama is winning, to discourage Republicans from voting. ... The conspiracy may be crazy, but it is surely true that rampant horse race coverage affects the outcome of the race." Chait's full post here.

Happy Thursday and welcome to the Slatest PM, where if we squint, we can see the weekend from here. And, as always, it looks glorious. Follow the entire @slatest team and @JoshVoorhees on Twitter, or fill your host's inbox with whatever is on your mind at josh.voorhees@slate.com.

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME (PROPERLY-REFEREED) FOOTBALL? The NFL and the referee's union have hammered out a deal that will end the lockout that enraged players, fans and—after Monday night's debacle in Seattle—pretty much the entire Internet. "We're sorry to have to put fans through that," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters this afternoon, before quickly undercutting his apology by adding: "Sometimes you have to go through something like that in the short term for the right agreement for the long term."

'WAKE THE F*CK UP': The liberal super PAC that got everyone's attention with a viral video that had Sarah Silverman offering to "scissor" billionaire Sheldon Adelson earlier this year did themselves one better today with a new video featuring Samuel L. Jackson reading a children's story to Obama supporters. There was, of course, plenty of profanity. Watch it here.

PROP ALERT: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the U.N. General Assembly today about the need to draw "red lines" on Iran's nuclear weapons program. It's a pitch he's made before. What was different this time? He brought along a picture of a giant cartoon bomb to help make his point. Video and photo here.

SORRY, BILL: During an appearance on CNN this week, Bill Clinton showed what appeared to be a remarkable—but not necessarily surprising—command of the topic What Other Countries Could Bill Clinton Be President Of. At the top of that list: Ireland and France. The only problem? The 42nd president of the United States was wrong on both counts.

JUST HOW FACTUALLY CHALLENGED WAS BACHMANN DURING THE PRIMARIES? Well, for starters, the AP found so many problems that they had to pretty much just give up.

CHECKING THE TRAPS—

NYT: "The Spanish government on Thursday presented a draft budget for 2013 with a package of tax increases and spending cuts that, while unpopular with the public, it said would guarantee the country could meet deficit-cutting targets agreed to with the rest of the euro zone."

WSJ: "One of China's top forensic experts cast doubt on official findings that British businessman Neil Heywood died of cyanide poisoning, a highly unusual contradiction of Beijing's carefully scripted version of the events that unleashed China's biggest political scandal in decades."

AP: "Cellphones in Syria rang, buzzed and chirped Thursday with an ominous text message from the military to members of the armed rebellion: "Game over." The rebels provided their own response to the regime's warning to surrender and disarm by saying they had launched new attacks to drive government troops out of the largest city of Aleppo."

Reuters: "The Vatican has certainly seen more sensational trials in its long history. The Inquisition ordered Galileo to recant his theory that the earth revolves around the sun, and philosopher Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for heresy. But even those cases, both in the 17th century, did not involve a breach of trust by a papal aide—the issue at the core of this Saturday's trial of papal butler Paolo Gabriele for stealing and leaking the pontiff's personal papers."

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See you back here tomorrow. Until then, tell your friends to subscribe here or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.

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