We’ve had a bone to pick with the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Minnesota Poll for many years. In 2002 I wrote a column exploring the trouble with the Minnesota Poll. It was a poll that seemed regularly to understate Republican strength or overstate Democratic strength. Rob Daves was the Star Tribune employee responsible for the Minnesota Poll results I was writing about. In 2002 I offered to bet Daves dinner for two at a restaurant of the winner’s choice that Norm Coleman would do at least five points better than Daves’s final pre-election Minnesota Poll would show. Daves wisely declined the bet; Coleman did 9 points better than Daves’s final pre-election poll results.
Daves no longer works for the Star Tribune. The Minnesota Poll is now conducted “under the direction” (whatever that means) of Princeton Survey Research Associates, the outfit that performs widely derided polls for Newsweek. Newsweek was judged to have come in dead last in accuracy in an assessment of 23 2008 presidential polling organizations published by Fordham University. Apparently that was just the ticket for the Stat Tribune. (Rasmussen and Pew tied for first in the 2008 assessment.)
This campaign season the Star Tribune published Minnesota Polls showing Democrat Mark Dayton with wide leads over Republican Tom Emmer. We noted the bizarre partisan breakdown of the late September poll sample showing Republicans at 28 percent, lower even than the 2008 exit survey that showed Republicans in Minnesota at 36 percent. Even an amateur could see Republicans were going to do better than that this year.
While the Minnesota Poll showed Dayton with a strong lead, Rasmussen and SurveyUSA/KSTP showed the race to be neck and neck. The race in fact ended in a photo finish, with Dayton leading by fewer than 9,000 votes and the result subject to a mandatory recount. (Ed.: Not again!) I conclude that the Minnesota Poll is up to its old tricks.
Yesterday I called the Star Tribune to ask a political editor if the paper would be revisiting the poll in light of its poor performance measured against the other public polls and the actual electoral results. I was directed to Star Tribune editors Nancy Barnes and Rene Sanchez. I wrote them the following message:
Ms. Barnes and Mr. Sanchez: I think in retrospect that the Star Tribune’s Minnesota Poll on the gubernatorial race did the same poor job this year through an independent pollster that it did in years past in-house under Rob Daves, and for similar reasons, especially while other pollsters such as Rasmussen and SurveyUSA were reliably reporting that the race was neck and neck. I wonder if you noted the Rasmussen and SurveyUSA polls and will be reviewing the performance of the pollster you used this year, or if you have any thoughts that you would be willing to share with Power Line readers on this subject.
I would appreciate any response to this message you might have today. Thank you, as always, for your consideration.
I haven’t heard back from Barnes or Sanchez. I will update this post if I do, but I’m not holding my breath.
Here I would like to reiterate a point I made eight years ago. If I were the editor or publisher of the Star Tribune, I would be seriously concerned about, if not mightily embarrassed by, the quality of my product. If the Star Tribune’s poll product were edible instead of legible, it would long ago have been recalled as dangerous to human health, or it would have killed off its customers. We can only hope that some day the Star Tribune cares as much about the quality of its news product as McDonald’s does about the quality of its hamburgers.