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To me, the continued Gallup-bashing by Ruy Teixeira smacks of cocooning. I'm quite convinced that the Gallup poll really is off and that Bush really doesn't have as big a lead as Gallup suggests. Nevertheless, the issue here is that Bush is up (albeit by not as much) in pretty much all the recent polls. Focusing intently on Gallup's problems seems like a way of denying-without-denying the existence of Kerry's problems (like focusing intently on credibility problems at CBS news instead of at the White House). The reality is that after a few days of what looked to me like a comeback, the Kerry campaign has once again lost its momentum. I don't think the enterprise has been nearly as inept as a lot of talk in Democratic circles around town would have you believe, but the reality is that they need to do what they do on good days every single day from here until the election.

September 29, 2004 | Permalink


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"To me, the continued Gallup-bashing by Ruy Teixeira smacks of cocooning."

It's not cocooning. It's spinning, just like the other side does. Nothing wrong with it.

Polls aren't just about figuring out who's winning. They're also about spreading momentum memes in the broader media. We're getting close to an important election, if you haven't noticed.

Ruy is doing damn good partisan work. And he's doing it within the lines of a broader truth.

If you want your poll analysis more straight up, check out the excellent Mystery Pollster.

Posted by: Petey | Sep 29, 2004 12:50:37 AM

"Focusing intently on Gallup's problems seems like a way of denying-without-denying the existence of Kerry's problems (like focusing intently on credibility problems at CBS news instead of at the White House)."

Exactly! And what's wrong with that? Changing the focus from your campaign's problems to the media's problems is a pretty effective late campaign strategy. Note how much mileage the Republicans have gotten out of that strategy over the past generation.

And more broadly, don't forget that you can be a partisan without being a hack, Matt. The two are not synonymous. (If you slowly turn into Kaus over the next decade, I'll be more than slightly disappointed.)

Posted by: Petey | Sep 29, 2004 12:58:18 AM

I don't think it's spinning. Gallup has some serious problems.

And these problems are not just in this cycle.

I think it's more like cocooning, as Matthew says.

Kerry has an uphill battle. Pointing out Gallup's problems will not win the election.

But pointing out those legitimate problems is not spinning. There are factual and statistical issues with Gallup now, as in the past.

Still, Kerry's campaign has to do things better than merely right to win. To do otherwise is a failure of imagination.


Posted by: keef | Sep 29, 2004 1:01:14 AM

"Kerry has an uphill battle.

If you know how to read the polls, we actually have a better than 50/50 shot in November.

Pointing out Gallup's problems will not win the election.

By itself, of course. But pointing out Gallup's problems can actually make a difference in press coverage.

Over the past generation, the Republicans have amply shown the benefits of working the refs. We should learn from their successes.

Posted by: Petey | Sep 29, 2004 1:08:15 AM

Petey wrote:

"Over the past generation, the Republicans have amply shown the benefits of working the refs. We should learn from their successes."

I concur. I don't think MY's post, or my comment, speak to that at all.

I wish I could work the refs at Fox. It won't happen in the same way that they've been able to thanatize the NYT. I wish...

Petey also wrote:

"If you know how to read the polls, we actually have a better than 50/50 shot in November."

I wish that were true but I've been through enough elections where I "knew how to read the polls" and still my candidate lost.

Kerry's campaign has, unfortunately, set this one up so that Kerry has to win, not so that Bush has to lose. By all rights, it should have been the other way 'round.

And, while I hope Kerry will kick ass from here to 11/3, "hope is not a plan."

But still I work at http://acthere.com to help Kerry make that happen.


Posted by: keef | Sep 29, 2004 1:19:43 AM

You have bought into the same media meme about momentum, saying that his mo has been lost in recent days. Where is your evidence for that? Polls? Media moods? There is a simple reason John Kerry started gaining some momentum: he began speaking harshly and directly about Iraq. The last couple days he's been preparing for his debates. No public appearances and no major diatribes against Presidential malfeasance and residence in Disneyland. So no wonder it seems like Kerry has lost some momentum. But he hasn't. Kerry has successfully turned the Iraq issue against Bush - the Time poll points this out explicitly. And the debates will be the time to drive this home. Stop worrying! Bush is ahead by about 2-4 points right now. Big deal. It won't stay that way.

Posted by: Elrod | Sep 29, 2004 1:27:21 AM

Over the past generation, the Republicans have amply shown the benefits of working the refs. We should learn from their successes.

I guess we have no choice. But it sucks to have to do that shit. I really don't want to live in a world where any person or institution that strives for objectivity is immediately trashed for partisan gain. I read somewhere that in the post-debate spin, Karl Rove's planning to accuse the Commission on Presidential Debates of liberal bias in the setting of the debate rules, so he can say the establishment stacked the odds against Bush. Just add that to the news media and the professional civil service, where the job's already been done. It's pretty sad.

Posted by: JP | Sep 29, 2004 1:28:34 AM


You are trying to sound like a wise old man. You're not. Kerry has to swim against the current of an overtly hostile press, but make no mistake he will win and he will win comfortably, dragging in a Democratic Senate. If you want to see a parallel look at the recent Spanish election, A. Q. had nothing to do with it, when people are fed up, they let you know, it doesn't matter what the media spoon feeds them. Buck up.

Posted by: S Brennan | Sep 29, 2004 1:41:13 AM

"I guess we have no choice. But it sucks to have to do that shit."

Politics ain't beanbag. Or to put it another way, if good people find it too distasteful to fight, bad people will rule the world.

Posted by: Petey | Sep 29, 2004 1:45:01 AM

Spinning or not spinning, we still need to debunk these polls one way or another. Time to start playing hard.

Posted by: Rob W | Sep 29, 2004 1:48:49 AM

Yes, if we claim that polls showing Kerry behind are wrong based on the faultiness of one (or a few, though certainly not all) polls as a way to build Kerry's momentum, then surely Allawi and Bush's strategy of claiming everything in Iraq is fine is wisdom, because by vigorously asserting it and denying evidence to the contrary, they're going to MAKE it fine.

There's an old Russian joke: Stalin, Kruschev, and Brezhnev are all in seperate trains when they break down and stop running. Stalin has the train's engineer shot, Kruschev rearranges all of the cars, and Brezhnev closes all of the blinds and makes choo-choo noises.

Posted by: Julian Elson | Sep 29, 2004 2:14:04 AM

"then surely Allawi and Bush's strategy of claiming everything in Iraq is fine is wisdom, because..."

Spin has a much more rational place in elections than it does in warfare.

Posted by: Petey | Sep 29, 2004 2:18:31 AM

"they need to do what they do on good days every single day from here until the election."

Actually, WE need to do Good Things every single day from her until the election. College student voter registrations are way up compared to 2000. Most will vote for Kerry. Most are not polled (25% have no land lines--only cell phones). Six of my students registered today. (I'm a volunteer registrar.)

On a dog walk two days ago, asked two neighbors with KE bumper stickers if they'd like a yard sign. They were thrilled by the offer. I dropped the signs off later and another dog walk tonight reveals both signs proudly displayed.

Sign tally within dog-walking distance tonight: Two Bush-Cheney, eight Kerry-Edwards. (In a very middle middle class neighborhood.)

We can't control the polls, but signs and bumper stickers also create momentum. OTOH, Bush ahead in the polls may cause queasy Republicans to stay home on voting day.

Posted by: Texas | Sep 29, 2004 2:34:46 AM

With respect, Matt, one big problem with Gallup is that it's CNN's pollster. Which means that the latest Gallup poll generates lots of coverage... on CNN.

So we get Wolf Blitzer and Judy Woodruff, aided by the totally unbiased Bill Schneider, talking endlessly about numbers that are way off by comparison with other pollsters, and turning it into extended critiques of Kerry's supposedly failing campaign.

What's even worse is that CNN has been cherrypicking its numbers, flipping from headlining the likely voter number one week to emphasising the registered voter number the next, depending upon which gives Bush the bigger lead. Not unlike the way that the Bush administration cherrypicks the employment report to focus on the household or payroll survey, depending upon which has the most favorable number.

Posted by: ahem | Sep 29, 2004 3:12:06 AM

Matt, there is a huge difference in storyline between "Bush leading in all polls" and "Bush has double-digit lead, and it is growing". One shows a race, one shows a runaway.

But I suspect this will be self-correcting. One it is being talked about, two it is going to run into the reality of state-based polls, often sponsored by in-state newspapers. A poll that reports Bush leading by 21 points in the West (as I believe this does) is going to cause some head scratching by folks in California and Washington, which show a solid Kerry lead, and even by some in Oregon, where most have it close

Posted by: Bruce Webb | Sep 29, 2004 7:13:06 AM

Look, people need to stop using the term "momentum" to refer to political contests (and football games). The concept doesn't describe the movement of public opinion. For one thing, events can move the polls rapidly. For another, a candidate's upward movement often looks like a sine wave, creeping upward but not in a constant path.

Kerry has chipped away at Bush's lead since the convention. Bush's lead is real, but actually quite small for an incumbant, so Kerry may be able to overtake the president without ever moving distinctly ahead.

Also, between now and November, a series of events (e.g. the debates) will occur, potentially reframing the race and creating large shifts in favor of one side or another. The most important thing is that Kerry get the best of these occurances. Remember, Carter led Reagan before the debates.

Posted by: AWC | Sep 29, 2004 7:32:15 AM

I disagree with M.Y.

It is important that these bogus polls get torn up, because

1. Disheartened voters are less likely to vote.

2. Undecides like to vote for a winner.

Gallup is doing Rove's work.

Posted by: MattB | Sep 29, 2004 8:27:26 AM

I still can't shake the fact that all of these same polls had Gore doing just as badly at this point in the election. We all know how that one tied up.

It seems like so many of you are worried because john kerry isn't outright winning. But the same dynamic that keeps Bush from walking away with this was always going to prevent a Kerry landslide. Theres a reason everyone thought this was going to come down to turn-out, and it probably still is. Stop dreaming about knock-out debate performances, stop screaming that Kerry needs to be ahead by 5 points or we're doomed. Bush isn't ahead by 5 points. Bush certainly isn't ahead by 8. Gore wasn't ahead, he didn't even pull even until the week of the election and that was WITH his poor debate performances.

Posted by: Soul | Sep 29, 2004 8:46:14 AM

I recall the same type of argument Matt sets out after the RNC convention, when the Time/Newsweek polls showed a whopping Bush lead. Well, even if there are problems in methodology, Kerry is still behind in all the polls, so we shouldn't harp on these errors. Er, not quite. The fact is that polls which accurately weigh party ID have shown the race to be a statistical dead heat for months. Hope may not be a plan, but neither is wholly unwarranted pessimism.
Also, I second what Elrod mentioned above; Kerry hasn't once again lost his momentum, he's been tucked away in the bucolic fields of rural Wisconsin prepping for the debates. Even more importantly, the Bush administration's Iraq strategy has been in utter disarray since Kerry's speech at NYU, as today's WaPo article makes clear.
Honestly, Matt, if Karl Rove (and Frank Newport, for that matter) were reading your blog, they'd be high-fiving themselves right now.

Posted by: Yuval Rubinstein | Sep 29, 2004 8:47:28 AM

I can't pass up the opportunity to pile on . . .

Come on Matt, you're a philosophy major, for Aristotle's sake! Political reality is popular perception, not the noumenous. Sure Ruy may be doing a little spinning, but at least the core of what's being spun is true -- that Gallup's polls are biased. A little exaggeration should be tolerated in light of the Up-is-Down, 99% BS that Rove and the Wurlitzer have fed the public nearly every day for the last four years.

Posted by: Bragan | Sep 29, 2004 9:35:53 AM

The Angry Bear and Pudentilla strongly disagree with you. Your looking into Sauron's palantir, Matt. Remember what happened to Denethor.

Posted by: Pudentilla | Sep 29, 2004 9:49:00 AM

Folks, what if this poll thing is not about creating campaign momentum for Bush? What if it is about creating the conditions to steal the election?

We will believe the final result, whatever it is, if it lines up with the polls.

Anyone who knows anything about Diebold and electronic voting machines has to realize that, conspiracy theory or not, this is a real possibility.

The "Right Turn" that Viguerie wrote about in his book is a crock. Only corporations and the media they own turned right. Americans want universal health care, they want the environment protected, and they want our food supply kept safe. They want money spent on inpecting shipping containers that come from overseas.

These policies cut profits, however, so corporations spend a lot of money to demonize politicians who would give us these things.

Call me cynical, and hand me a tin foil hat, but with trillions of dollars at stake (not to mention sheer power over peoples' lives), I'm not confident in the altruistic motives of the people who are willing to use the name of Christ in vain in order to get elected so they can kill thousands of innocent people in the name of their own safety.

Debates and turnout are important, but if we let them, they will just rig the machines and steal it.

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott | Sep 29, 2004 9:52:33 AM

A site that I look at nearly every day is


It averages polls in individual states and then gives the projected electoral college result. At the moment it has Kerry at 241 and Bush at 273 (and some states tied). Not much of a lead for Bush.

The polls fluctuate, but looking at them over the last few months has convinced me that if Kerry runs a reasonably good campaign the rest of the way, the the election will come down to whether he can win in Florida and/or Ohio. I think if Kerry wins in either of those states, then he wins the election.

Posted by: Levi | Sep 29, 2004 10:02:37 AM

JP: "I guess we have no choice. But it sucks to have to do that shit. I really don't want to live in a world where any person or institution that strives for objectivity is immediately trashed for partisan gain."

Some people are just too pure to live. And the point here is such a tiny one at worst, because there is actual evidence that Gallup really is slanting things. Nothing in the media can be taken at face value.

I FREQUENTLY hear "I'd rather not win than win that way". People make it seem as if the Presidency is a meaningless honorific of some sort that we should disdain if we fear compromising ourselves. There's really a lot at stake here.

What an amazing thread. All the right-wing trolls must be at a planning meeting. (We left-wing trolls meet informally at the dumpster where we get our food).

Posted by: zizka | Sep 29, 2004 10:53:41 AM

Here you go -- Kerry's pulled even:

General News

Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Bush And Kerry Are Deadlocked Again Heading Into First Debate On Thursday



The race for the White House once again appears to be a dead heat, with Americans evenly split between those who would re-elect President Bush and those who want Sen. John Kerry.

The latest IBD/TIPP poll, conducted Sept. 22 to 27, shows Bush and Kerry each with 45% in a three-way race among likely voters. Independent Ralph Nader gets just 2%.

Removing Nader from the mix, Kerry leads 46%-45%. Among registered voters, both get 44%.

An earlier IBD/TIPP poll, conducted Sept. 14-18, showed Bush with a 3-point lead over Kerry in a three-way race or head to head.

Posted by: Doofus | Sep 29, 2004 11:05:52 AM

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