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Morning Jay: Politics and the Gallup Poll

6:00 AM, Oct 11, 2012 • By JAY COST
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It is even more problematic to make the shift but not spell out in detail the political effect of it. One utility of the Gallup tracker was that it enabled comparisons across time. Those are now difficult to accomplish because we have to assume what effect these methodological shifts have had. My guess is that it has moved the needle toward Obama by maybe 3 points on job approval, but we cannot know for sure. We also have no idea the extent to which this changes the Romney-Obama head-to-head among registered or likely voters.

What Gallup should have done is similar to what the Bureau of Labor Statistics does when it adjusts the unemployment rate to account for new Census data: Give the number as it is now calculated and as it would have been calculated absent the change, so everybody can know exactly what effect the changes in assumptions have had. Newport fails even to acknowledge whether and how this methodological change helped one side over the other, let alone its extent.

Final point: We absolutely, positively must remember polling in 2012 is politicized as never before, and it is incumbent upon the consumers of political polls not to accept the data naïvely, but to perform due diligence to see what goes into the product.

Jay Cost is a staff writer for THE WEEKLY STANDARD and the author of Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic, available now wherever books are sold.

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