Chuck Todd’s thoughts on polling and whether they apply to Crist vs. Scott

in Uncategorized by

The next host of “Meet the Press,” Chuck Todd, yesterday offered some very interesting thoughts on the current state of polling, specifically bad polling.

Offering an explanation as to why so many polling outfits misread the Republican primary in Georgia’s U.S. Senate race, Todd writes that, yes, David Perdue’s win contradicted the existing polls, “but they weren’t good polls — which is why, for instance, you never saw us (NBC News) make note of them.”

Todd explains, “We do try and only highlight pollsters who have good methodology and decent track records. In Georgia during this runoff campaign, that didn’t exist.”

Then Todd gets to the meat of it, “Folks, we’re living in a political age where so much of the data is coming from surveys with either questionable methodology (like not reaching those with cell phones) or with partisan manipulation. And so it’s a reminder to take them with a grain of salt, especially in a low-turnout runoff.”

You mean like the turnout we’re likely to see in Florida’s midterm gubernatorial race?

Continues Todd, “And it also means: Be very careful of these aggregation polling sites. They don’t always make the data better… there are actually polling firms out there who seem to have been created for the sole goal of influencing or balancing out these aggregation sites. To the folks who run these aggregation sites, realize that when you mix crap with sirloin, it makes the sirloin taste like &$#%, too.”

Let me repeat that, “When you mix crap with sirloin, it makes the sirloin taste like &$#%, too.

Todd’s pearl of wisdom should be kept in mind when discussing or analyzing polling of the race between Rick Scott and Charlie Crist.

Becuase this race is so interesting, there’s a lot of polling sirloin out there – Quinnipiac, Public Policy Polling, maybe even the numbers from Survey USA. But there’s also a lot of crap out there, too. Gravis, Rasmussen, Saint Leo University Polling Institute, as well as almost any internal polling leaked from Scottworld to Marc Caputo, err, I mean, the media.

What will also be crap is most of the polling from news organizations, specifically the Tampa Bay Times (remember Romney plus six? or “Slight lead for Sink over Jolly in Pinellas congressional race“), which simply do not know how to ask the right questions and are as interested in building interest in political stories as they are getting accurate results.

Because there is so much crap out there when it comes to polling Florida, it’s very easy to reach the wrong conclusions about where a race is headed.

Smart guys like myself and the Miami Herald‘s Marc Caputo can be “wrong” about the state of a race. Just yesterday, I was forced to walk back results from recent polls of two legislative races I commissioned. For his part, Caputo (who deserves a banana boat’s worth of credit for the time he dedicates to breaking down poll results) wrote a blog post about the special election in Congressional District 13 titled, “With 7 days to go, Alex Sink looks like CD13’s winner. For now.”

Of course, Caputo and I are trying to get it right and can still end up wrong, while some polling outfits are, to use Todd’s language, trying to turn the sirloin into &$#% with their crap.

Many polls, especially those in Florida with a Republican house effect or commissioned by conservative-leaning media or consultants (I’m looking at you, Cherry Communications), are using illogical, overly-Republican samples just so that their numbers skew the poll aggregators. Skew the aggregators leads to horse race journalism saying races are closer than they are.

Democrats would like to be guilty of this, but, for the most part, they do not have the money to pay for public polling, nor do they have the media outlets in Florida to push them. Public Policy Polling is decidedly left-leaning, but its polls (especially of Florida) tend to be more accurate than those on the other side of the spectrum. Quinnipiac has a whole set of issues itself, but not because it skews left. In fact, the most outspoken critic in Florida of the Q-poll is Democratic strategist Steve Schale

Few others in Florida political media spends more time writing about polls than me; heck, I am constantly commissioning St. Pete Polls to survey the political landscape. I am not an expert on polling (even if I did spend five years as the research for one of the original data-nerds, Dr. Susan MacManus), but I can tell the difference between sirloin and sh*t.

The bottom line: there ain’t a lot of sirloin out there.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.