Fun with Polls: Obama Trails Romney by Three Points, Unless He’s Beating Him by Seven Points

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
May 17 2012 4:21 PM

Fun with Polls: Obama Trails Romney by Three Points, Unless He’s Beating Him by Seven Points

The latest poll from Fox News reveals that President Obama leads Governor Romney by seven points among voters.

Photo by TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

Numbers don’t lie, but sometimes they talk out of both sides of their mouth. The latest CBS News/New York Times poll has presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney leading Obama by three points. The hair-breadth gap, which falls within the margin for error, doesn’t seem inconsistent with a tight presidential race—yet the poll presents one finding that, if there’s justice in the world, absolutely cannot be right. Forty-six percent of women voters support Romney, while only forty-four endorse the incumbent.  If these numbers hold true, then the pro-life, equal pay-ambivalent, anti-contraception GOP can actually stake a claim to the title “party of women,” as Michelle Bachmann and 13 other Congresswomen argued in Politico on Wednesday.

 Of course, yesterday Fox News unveiled a poll of its own. These results painted a different picture, with Obama racing ahead of the Massachusetts governor by seven points, 46 to 39. (There was no mention of where women were more likely to cast their ballots, however). Like the CBS/New York Times survey, Fox’s census relied on phone interviews with randomized adults across the country. It drew from a pool of 913 people, to CBS/NYT’s 615. It also, somewhat surprisingly, contained a flicker of optimism about Obama’s economic performance, revealing that approval ratings for the POTUS’s financial policies have jumped nine points since August 2011. Meanwhile, though the CBS poll didn’t ask participants explicitly about Obama and the economy, it established that most Americans think the marketplace is in bad shape. That’s good news for the Republicans.

What’s so strange about these twinned polls, in fact, is that the one sponsored by two liberal news sources is chock full of good news for the Republicans. (It even registers widespread skepticism about Obama’s sincerity in embracing gay marriage). Meanwhile, the one conducted by conservative Fox News bears glad tidings for the Democrats. Shouldn’t we expect the opposite from our spin-drenched media?

As my colleague William Saletan observes, perhaps the takeaway here is that most polling error stems from chance, not bias.       

Katy Waldman is a Slate staff writer. 


The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

How Movies Like Contagion and Outbreak Distort Our Response to Real Epidemics

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers


Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.


The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
Lexicon Valley
Oct. 23 2014 10:30 AM Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 8:51 AM The Male-Dominated Culture of Business in Tech Is Not Great for Women
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 9:00 AM Exclusive Premiere: Key & Peele Imagines the Dark Side of the Make-A-Wish Program
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.