The Polls Are Useless

What will happen on November 6? I have no idea. But here’s the point: no one else has any idea, either.

Sometimes, the choice is between polls and common sense. Or, as Groucho used to say, who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes? I go with my lying eyes every time.

So, for instance, the polls have generally shown Arizona’s Senate race between fighter pilot Martha McSally and bizarre leftist Kyrsten Simena to be close, with Simena often in the lead. This is ridiculous. Simena is not just a nut, she is an anti-Arizona nut. At least four or five videos have been released in which she describes her own state as the “meth lab of democracy” and says that Arizonans are “crazy.” Repeatedly. Over and over. And Simena has a long history as a far leftist. She denounced American soldiers and protested the Iraq war in a pink tutu. If she were running for President of Code Pink, she would be a strong candidate. As a candidate for the United States Senate, she is hopeless.

This is just one of her disqualifying, far-left ventures: organizing protests against the George W. Bush administration in which she made a series of assertions that are more or less insane. Click to enlarge:

Bad news for Ms. Sinema: George W. Bush carried Arizona by 10 points in 2004.

The latest Arizona poll, according to Real Clear Politics, shows McSally pulling away with a six-point lead. That probably understates her ultimate margin of victory, but at least it is directionally accurate. Meanwhile, many have fretted over polls that showed Simena actually winning.

Here is another example: Real Clear Politics reports NBC News/Marist polls in Minnesota, in which the Democrats–Tim Walz for governor and the faceless Tina Smith for senator–are leading their GOP opponents, Jeff Johnson and Karin Housley, by 17 points and 16 points, respectively. Those numbers are absurd. No knowledgeable person in Minnesota believes them. Other polls show Johnson and Housley both within three points and closing rapidly. I have access to private polling that does not suffer from the bias that must infect the NBC’s survey–there is no other explanation for its being so far off in favor of the Democrats–and those polls are consistent with the three-point margins that have been publicly reported. I have long predicted that Housley will win, and Johnson has a good shot, although he could fall slightly short. This is not based on poll data as much as the observations of my own lying eyes.

I think close observers in any given state have a better feel for what is happening than conventional pollsters. Another instance: my sense is that knowledgeable people on the ground in Tennessee believe that Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn is pulling away from former governor Phil Bredesen. What do the polls say? The New York Times poll has Blackburn up by 14 points, while Vanderbilt has Bredesen up by one. The Times survey may be unduly optimistic, by my standards, but I think Blackburn will win because of what I hear from people on the ground in Tennessee, not what I hear from pollsters.

All of which is to say, the polls probably will tell you whatever you want to hear. Given the experience of 2016, and the fact that pollsters have to make more and more calls to find, say, 500 voters who are willing to talk with them, their findings become less reliable all the time. The bottom line is that no one knows what will happen in November. Therefore: 1) Vote! and 2) It’s not too late to volunteer for a local campaign. The wheel is very much in spin, and many voters are still making up their minds.

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