On the Uselessness of Polls 19 Months Before An Election

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 20 2011 11:06 AM

On the Uselessness of Polls 19 Months Before An Election

Whenever I see analysis of polls that gauge Barack Obama's electability in 2012, I remember that America has gone through other presidential elections. There was an election in 1984, for example. On March 23, 1983, the New York Times ran an item about how Ronald Reagan looked for re-election.

If the 1984 Presidential election were being held today, either former Vice President Walter F. Mondale or Senator John Glenn would defeat any of the leading Republicans, according to the Gallup Poll.

Both hold modest margins over President Reagan and comfortable leads over Vice President Bush and the Senate majority leader, Howard H. Baker Jr., the two Republicans with the most current support in their party if Mr. Reagan was not to run. 

When 1,156 registered voters were asked last month whom they would prefer, Mr. Mondale led Mr. Reagan by 47 percent to 41 percent, with the rest undecided. Mr. Glenn led the President by 45 percent to 40 percent.

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Fun historical fact: Mondale didn't end up beating Reagan.

This has been another edition in the ongoing series "Barack Obama will win re-election if the economy improves, and he won't if it doesn't."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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