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

82736134
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. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Dear Prudence
Oct. 21 2014 9:18 AM Oh, Boy Prudie counsels a letter writer whose sister dresses her 4-year-old son in pink tutus.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:25 AM The Brilliant Fake Novels of Listen Up Philip
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 8:38 AM An Implanted Wearable Gadget Isn’t as Crazy as You’d Think Products like New Deal Design’s UnderSkin may be the future.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 21 2014 7:00 AM Watch the Moon Eat the Sun: The Partial Solar Eclipse on Thursday, Oct. 23
  Sports
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.