A few hours ago the Post put up a front page story reporting the results of the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. And said story appears to be baldly misrepresenting -- and by misrepresenting I mean lying about -- the size of Obama's post-convention bounce.
Either that, or the story's authors are too freaking incompetent to read their own polls.
The story, by long-time political reporter Dan Balz and some guy I've never heard of before named Jon Cohen, says this:
"The survey shows that the race remains close among likely voters, with Obama at 49 percent and Romney at 48 percent, virtually unchanged from a poll taken just before the convention." (Emphasis mine)
And indeed, The last Post-ABC poll, released Aug. 27 (first day of the GOP convention) had the race at Obama 46 / Romney 47 -- a statistically insignificant difference from the latest poll.
There's just one problem: The previous head-to-head results (46 / 47) were among REGISTERED VOTERS, while the new ones (49 / 48) are for LIKELY VOTERS. Apples and oranges.
In reality (i.e. apples to apples), the move towards Obama in the Post-ABC poll has been fairly substantial: from 46 / 47 in Romney's favor in the last poll (again, among REGISTERED VOTERS), to a 50 / 44 lead for Obama now, a net swing of 7 points. Which isn't quite outside the MOE, but is still highly unlikely to be just random noise.
But almost all of that bounce was swallowed up by the Post-ABC likely voter screen. Which tells us that
a.) the previous poll would have shown a hefty Romney lead among likely voters that no other polling organization on Earth saw (we can't say for sure, because the last poll didn't report likely voter results), and
b.) those same likely voter results almost certainly have also seen a big swing in Obama's favor.
It may seem like a small thing, but comparing registered voter samples to likely voter samples is one of those basic factual errors that cause me to want to grind my teeth (and grind up certain parts of the offending reporter's body).
But its awfully hard to write it off as a "honest" error, given that we're at an extremely critical point in the race, and Team Romney is beginning to take heat from the GOP establishment because of its crappy poll numbers.
Would a veteran reporter like Balz really make such a bush league (so to speak) mistake by mistake?
I don't know, but I do know that the modern Washington Post isn't the liberal "Pravda on the Potomac" of yesteryear, and now has an neoconish editorial board that is glove tight with their ideological comrades at the American Enterprise Institute, and a chairman (Donald Graham) who was a big fan of George W. Bush -- and who is, or so I've been told, a Republican of the moderate pro-business persuasion, just like a certain former Massachusetts governor who is currently running for president, and losing.
Journalistic lies and misrepresentations have been spawned from less -- as Fox News proves each and every day. (Actually, I'm not even sure if Fox News would deliberately misrepresent its own poll numbers so blatantly.)
In any case, whether pro-GOP slant or idiotic mistake, the result is that the Post -- the so-called, hasn't-been-for-twenty-years liberal Washington Post -- has weighed in with a front page story that puts it squarely in the no-bounce-for-Obama camp -- at a very critical point in the race. And their own poll shows they are wrong.
They need to be called on it.
Update 3:21 pm EST: Sigh. As I feared, the lie has spread hither and yon through the Internets, providing Team Romney with a one-day respite from polling reality (See here, and here, and here, and even -- said to say -- here.)
One point I maybe didn't hit hard enough above: Given the strength of the GOP skew in its likely voter screen, if the Post poll was showing a 1 point lead among REGISTERED voters right before the GOP convention, then it must have shown an even bigger lead among LIKELY voters -- implausibly big, in light of what all the other polling was showing at the time.
Which, if true, would mean that the narrow 2-point Obama lead among LIKELY voters shown in the new poll is also understated by that same house effect.
In other words, the Post/ABC poll appears to confirm, not contradict, what Nate Silver and others (like the latest Gallup tracker) have been saying about Obama pulling into a clear lead.
Mark Twain once said that a lie can run half way around the world before the truth can get its boots on. And that's especially true when the lie is running down a highway paved with idiots.
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