Political polls are landing on our heads faster than the summer rain is coming down in Tampa.
We’re flooded with numbers. This candidate is up, that candidate is down. Some candidates are both up and down.
Donald Trump and a medical marijuana initiative are surging. Marco Rubio and a solar power amendment are fading.
“Cross-tabs,” “margins of error,” “sample sizes.” Every guest on Fox and Friends sounds as if they have a master’s degree in political research.
It’s 15 months from Election Day, 2016, and we are, especially in Florida, inundated with survey data.
But does any of it matter?
Below are results from six of the most recent polls. Putting aside the results themselves, I’ll evaluate if these polls matter.
The most recent poll is a national survey from NBC News/WSJ showing that “Donald Trump is surging.”
Trump leads the field with 19 percent followed by Scott Walker — 15 percent … Jeb Bush — 14 percent … Ben Carson — 10 percent … Ted Cruz — 9 percent … Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul — 6 percent … Marco Rubio — 5 percent … Chris Christie, Rick Perry, John Kasich — 3 percent.
This poll matters because the top 10 candidates in an averaged five yet-to-be-determined national polls will make it onto Thursday night’s stage in Cleveland as part of the GOP’s first primary debate. It’s likely this poll will be one of the surveys used by debate organizers to set the field.
This poll also matters to Floridians because it is the latest survey to indicate how far Rubio has fallen since launching his presidential campaign.
One caveat: It’s a national survey with less than 300 respondents. That’s a dangerously small sample.
Poll No. 2 is a St. Pete Polls survey showing Hillary Clinton at 55 percent support in Florida and Bernie Sanders at 29 percent.
This poll sorta matters because it reveals that there is a sizable minority — one in three Democratic voters — not sold on Hillary as nominee. That’s in line with several other surveys in other states showing support for #FeelTheBern.
A poll that turned heads last week was also from St. Pete Polls showing Trump leading Bush by 6 points in Florida.
This poll only sorta matters because it’s still not clear whether the survey is an outlier. Moreover, its e-mail based methodology is still in doubt. Sure, the poll made headlines, but it remains to be seen whether Bush’s Florida firewall is in danger.
Speaking of questionable methodologies, a Mason-Dixon poll first reported on by Marc Caputo of POLITICO indicates that there is no front-runner in either primary in Florida’s U.S. Senate race. According to Caputo, the Democratic primary is essentially a tie, with U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson pulling 33 percent support to U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy’s 32 percent, according to the Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey.
The Republican race has more candidates and a far more-undecided electorate: U.S. Rep. David Jolly pulls 16 percent support, followed by Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, with 10 percent; U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis and Jeff Miller, with 9 percent and 8 percent, respectively; and Todd Wilcox, with 2 percent.
This poll doesn’t matter because of its highly questionable methodology. Despite being a poll of Democratic and Republican primaries, M-D polled registered voters. That’s like asking people who don’t listen to music to name their favorite song.
A Mason-Dixon poll that did matter was the one showing that a majority of Floridians would vote against solar industry-backed amendment. Just 30 percent of voters support this proposal, compared with 45 percent who oppose it, according to Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times. Poll numbers like that could kill the initiative before it even has a chance to get on the ballot. They certainly will affect the willingness of donors and volunteers to support the amendment.
A ballot initiative that never seems to want for support is one that would bring medical marijuana to Florida. According to Kyle Munzeinrieder of the Miami New Times, a recent survey shows that 68 percent of Floridians say that “if the new medical marijuana initiative makes it on to the ballot this year [they would] vote for it.”
This poll doesn’t really matter because that level of support is really no different than a dozen previous surveys showing sky-high support for medical marijuana. For pot advocates, the devil is in the details. Support for the generic idea of med-marijuana is one thing; voting for a specific ballot initiative is quite another.