Polls, Dead Fish, And A Crazy Electorate

Rand Poll Trends

Are the polls making you as nutty as they're making me? They're defying all of my gut instincts right now, with this crazy up and down, back and forth, counterintuitive crazymaking.

I told you I'm not a poll truther and I'm not, which is why I offer you today's Rand poll image to soothe your ruffly feathers. Or mine. Or something.

I like the Rand tracker because they poll the same group over and over again, so that shifts actually feel like real shifts rather than these "by the seat of your pants" type of polls, and you can see where the trend line is going now. The debates are over, we're in the home stretch, early voting has started in a lot of states, and turnout is exceeding 2008 levels.

Yet. These crazy polls have the race at dead even, which makes no sense to me just based on the early voting numbers. Fortunately, I'm convinced they just don't have to. I liked this Kos diarist's "dead fish" analogy, where he relates the story of tracking a marlin's movements for hours as the marlin moves randomly east, west, north and south in no apparent pattern or in response to anything. Only later do they discover the fish died shortly after the tracking device was attached, and was just drifting on the bottom according to where the currents pushed it.

Are we tracking a dead fish? Perhaps. Perhaps we should give them the weight they deserve, which is just a constant reminder that this election won't be won or lost by anything other than getting out the vote. This shows up in the likely voter versus registered voter poll results too. Gallup and others assume Republicans will turn out in greater numbers because Republicans are typically the more reliable vote.

But this is not an ordinary election year. It is not a sweeping, broad hope/change theme-based election. It is a bruising battle for the direction of the country. Though I can't understand exactly why any woman would want to vote for a Republican, I guess some habits die hard. I think about Wisconsin and Ohio and Virginia, all states where Republican governors have worked with Republican legislators to squash the rights of the poor, and women, and unions, and just about everything we hold dear and wonder how this can be.

Yet it is. So whether you follow 538, or Intrade, or Polltracker or Daily Kos, the moral of the story is to give minimum attention to the trend and get out the vote. We win if we vote.

Right now the dead fish is trending in our direction. Let's keep it that way, and let the Republicans just enjoy the stink we leave in its wake.

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