A team of researchers at University College London made a fascinating discovery regarding how we as humans retain news: that we remember good news, and we disregard bad news. By using magnets to stimulate the brain differently, they gradually got test subjects to incorporate more bad news into their recall and slowly got their subjects’ optimism to wane.
Nowhere is this “remember the good and disregard the bad” better exemplified than political polling. Right now, national polls like the Washington Post’s put Obama ahead of Romney, sometimes in the double digits in states like California, New York, and Romney’s home state of Massachusetts, and Romney’s other home state of Michigan. They show Mitt Romney ahead in double digits in states like Utah, Texas, and Oklahoma. While all of these polls are within the margin of error, the general consensus seems to be that Obama, while still close to Romney, is gaining ground.
But this is bad news for the GOP, and they weren’t going to incorporate that into their beliefs. So instead, they created UnSkewed Polls.
Conservative blogger Dean Chambers has started a new polling website that he claims takes the slant out of liberal mainstream media polls. He has decided that the current polls in the field sampled more Democrats than Republicans, and that those polls give a distorted view of the election and where candidates stand. He decided to take the national polls – Gallup, American Research Group, Washington Post, and others – and adjust them to reflect the Ramussen Reports partisan trends.
The result? Now Romney is leading Obama by 7.8 points.
With the polls “unskewed,” Romney leads Obama by 10 points on the American Research Group poll, by 7 points on the Washington Post/ABC News poll, and up by 10 on the Reuters poll.
See? All better, right?
The issue here is obvious. You can’t arbitrarily mess with it to suit your own needs. Even Scott Ramussen, of Ramussen Reports, thinks the “unskewing” of polls is ridiculous, saying:
“[Y]ou cannot compare partisan weighting from one polling firm to another.”
But Romney’s campaign has made it pretty clear they don’t believe in polling, or fact checking, or things that are true, so it’s not out of character that the campaign is changing polls to keep up morale.
Now naturally, the sample makes a difference in who people approve of and who they don’t. And I agree that polls should try their best to get an even sample of responses to a poll. But you can only make conclusions from the data you can gather – and sometimes, people don’t answer their phone or take a web survey.
Furthermore, people don’t always vote down party lines. I know a good number of disillusioned Democrats who will not vote for Obama this election. I also know a good number of progressive Republicans who are. So while equalizing a sample for a level playing field is a natural thing to do, this equalization won’t necessarily create the results that Chambers claims it would create.
In my mind, this disregard of fact and this acceptance of lies is the most emblematic trait of this election cycle. If it weren’t for the 2012 elections, I wouldn’t know that my body could shut down unwanted rape sperm. I wouldn’t know that Obama encouraged those on welfare to stay unemployed and reliant on the government dole. I wouldn’t know that Paul Ryan was a marathon man. I wouldn’t know that voter fraud is so rampant that purging voter rolls of hundreds of thousands of minority voters was the only way to remedy that problem.
And I wouldn’t know a lot of other things that are completely false.
If the conservatives were willing to take off their rose-tinted (and probably opaque) glasses and actually accept bad news, they would admit that the polls just aren’t in their favor. But rather than changing the data, they would serve the voters that elected them and do something to boost their polling numbers organically. And rather than pointing fingers and doing voodoo math, they would take action and do something to be approved of and praised for.