Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Give us a reeking break with the polls

Tuesday's TV coverage of the New Hampshire primary had the unexpected drama of a close race and a poll-defying result for the Democrats. No problem. We don't like all the attention paid to polls anyway.
Does anyone really think about the logic of so many polls? We have the votes and caucuses anyway, so the issue will be decided by the party voters, as this night proved. Why do we need to know how it's "running" beforehand? What good is it to the democracy?
The polls are something for the news channels and pundits to do while they're waiting for the actual vote. Then they're shocked! when it doesn't go as the polls said it would. It would be like all the sports shows obsessing on injury reports and point spread during the runup to a big game.
If polls help candidates refine their message or approach afterward, that's one thing. And even then, I'm not sure I want a candidate changing his or her presentation of themselves just to appeal to a certain demo. Tell us who you are and what you think about issues. And then we'll vote, no help from the pollsters thank you.
If New Hampshire voters responded to Hillary Clinton's poll deficit by coming out to prove they can't be so easily categorized, that's a little weird for them but I understand it. If the polls motivate one side to rally for the underdog, that makes a good story but it's a case of the polls influencing a vote. I don't really like that either.
"Comeback kids" for John McCain and Hillary Clinton? Only if you write off top candidates after one caucus and a bunch of polls. These are serious candidates with lots of money. As exciting as Barack Obama has been to the process, it was way too early to be portraying Clinton as a huge underdog. Again, thank you pollsters.
Now they're saying it's hard to get accurate results with an African-American candidate. What the heck does that mean? Here's a tip for the news media: Forget the stinking horse race/dramatic game of the campaign for a while and illuminate the candidates and their plans for leadership. And then report the voting results. Period.

As for coverage, CNN has that spectacular set in HD, with massive (smart) touch-screen displays and a running count superimposed under the wide-screen picture. Didn't see Fox News (no HD) but I did see MSNBC's, which seemed looser, less modern and yet more fun to watch.

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