If we are to believe the most recent public opinion polls,
this has been a very bad week for the Obama/Biden ticket.
According to Gallup, the Democrats� consistent 11- to 15-point
advantage since January dropped
to three points this week. Newsweek, CNN, NBC/WSJ, and CBS all report a tie.
But should we believe the most recent public opinion polls? Today�s
�dead heat� seems inconsistent with other statistics. Among them:
- New registrations are
overwhelmingly Democratic: The
AP reported, just last week (September 7) that during the primary
season, �more than two million Democrats [were added] to voter rolls in
the 28 states that register voters according to party affiliation. The
Republicans have lost nearly 344 thousand voters in the same states.�
- The same AP article
reported that nationwide, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans, 42
million to 31 million.
- As recently as September, Gallup
reported that the Democrats had a 10 percent lead in party affiliation
among voters: 47 percent to 37 percent.
- And 80 percent of the
American public is �dissatisfied with the way things are going in the
United States.� (Gallup,
August 23, 2008).
And yet Gallup chooses to survey an even number of Democrats
and Republicans. Why? In
addition, the pollsters contact users of land-line phones and exclude cell
phone users. Presumably, younger and more liberal voters are more inclined to
use cell phones. Both factors would surely inflate the GOP numbers.
Moreover, some of the recent alleged shifts in public
opinion strain credulity. For example, Jonathan
Freedland in The Guardian notes that last week, �the ABC
News-Washington Post survey . . . found McCain ahead among white women by 53
percent to 41 percent. Two weeks ago [before the Democratic convention!], Obama
had a 15 percent lead among women.�
That�s a shift of 27 percent. And what could account for it?
We can only assume that three days of GOP bombast from Minneapolis and the
introduction of a new, pretty, face, convinced a quarter of those white women
voters to change their minds.
Sorry, but that�s more than I can swallow. Somehow
it just doesn�t add up.
So, should we believe the polls?
Frankly, I can�t offer a simple answer. But I most assuredly
have a few nagging questions.
First of all, why wouldn�t the polling organizations publish
results that are as accurate as reasonably possible? After all, their
reputations and, therefore, their profitability depends upon proven records of
accuracy. The fate of the Literary Digest poll, which predicted the
overwhelming defeat of FDR in 1936, is indelible in the institutional memory of
all polling organizations. Soon after that election, the Literary Digest ceased
But an �accurate prediction� of an election presupposes
honest elections. Thanks to �paperless� electronic voting, on machines
operating with secret software, manufactured and programmed by private firms
with Republican affiliations, U.S. elections
are �faith-based.� Are our elections honest and accurate? Unknown and
unknowable. And the corporate media, both political parties, and the Congress
are spectacularly uncurious and unperturbed about the insecurity of U.S.
Furthermore, we now know that the corporate media print and
broadcast lies (Saddam�s alleged WMD and involvement in 9/11, Al Gore�s
�invention of the Internet�) and fail to report essential truths (Bush�s AWOL
from the Texas Air National Guard, election fraud, John McCain�s involvement
with convicted fraudster Charles Keating). So why assume that the same media
publishes accurate opinion polls? And if the polls are not scrupulously
accurate, this does not necessarily mean that their numbers are simply
�made-up� on the spot. Deliberate sampling bias will suffice to yield the
So might it not just be possible that the covert function of
opinion polls is not to �track� public opinion or to predict the outcome of
elections, but rather to validate the predetermined outcome? Likewise unknown
If the major national polls are �in on� another fixed
election, it would not be their task to report actual public opinion. Rather it
would be to publish a �prediction� close enough to the outcome to make the
theft plausible. (See my The Fix is In, Again and other essays on
In the meantime, absent legal, legislative, and journalistic
diligence, it is up to individual citizens and citizen organizations such as
these (here, here, here, and here) to raise the question of election
integrity, and to cite the abundant and growing evidence -- anecdotal,
circumstantial, and statistical -- that during the past decade at least, the
�will of the people� has not always prevailed in our national elections. As
Republican Congressman Peter King carelessly blurted out on election night
2004: �It�s all over but the counting, and we do the counting.�
Contrary to these dire, and possibly paranoid, suspicions,
is this plain fact: There are numerous polling organizations, independent of
each other. Some of these are affiliated with and sponsored by the Democratic
Party. Thus, it is highly unlikely that all of them would be complicit in a
grand conspiracy to lie to the American public.
As I said at the outset, I have many questions, some
suspicions, but no definitive answers.
But these are questions that all concerned citizens should
be asking, even though the corporate media are not.
And if these questions indicate that the polling
organizations have lost some of their former credibility, along with the media
that publish them, they have only themselves to blame.
Copyright � 2008
Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of
Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy
at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He
publishes the website, The Online
Gadfly and co-edits the progressive website, The Crisis Papers. To see his
book in progress, �Conscience of a Progressive,� click here.