Presidential Polls 2012: Snap Polls Are Not the Way to Win the Presidency


Do you need proof that polling is reactive and that Twitter is not an analytical tool? They have an app on FOX Sports now, called Social Dugout, which asks viewers to “predict” the next play in a game. It’s baseball, idiots … just because you think the pitcher will strike out the next batter and text A to the number on the screen, doesn’t mean his pitches will find the target, or that the opposing manager won’t pinch hit, or that there won’t be a stolen base, or play at the plate, or any number of other things that can happen in a baseball game.

The self-selected, non-random sample and reactive nature of this sort of “poll” is what “snap” polls are all about immediately after big political events, such as debates. Thus, polls are reactive and not predictive. They report upon whatever muddy and poorly formed opinions surface among whatever sample (self-selected, obviously, if one is reporting from the Twitterverse) is drawn. The only results one receives from this kind of “poll” is reflective of one’s previously formed opinion; i.e. if you are an Obama supporter, you think he won the debate. If you’re a Romney supporter, you think he won.

It has disturbed me (but not surprised me) that our younger pundits were bored by the presidential debates. Full disclosure: I didn’t watch every clash of #3 and I missed the famous bayonet jab. I clicked back and forth among football, baseball, and debates and kept track of all the combatants’ progress.

Presidential debates are not about scoring points or “winning.” They are not about “looking presidential” although that is an important aspect of the process. They are about values and expressing them so that the American electorate – which most probably has been too lazy to read party platforms – understands how each candidate translates his/her personal and political values into governmental policy. Values matter.

I am not speaking here of such things as religious values, such as the Ten Commandments or the Golden Rule. I am speaking of the consistency with which any given candidate demonstrates his/her dedication to the long-term values of his/her political party. That is how American government and American politics work.

Read the party platforms of the two major and several minor parties, here: Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Green, Socialist

Can  you identify and list each party’s core set of principles and values? Do they state them somewhere?

How consistently has each party’s presidential candidate modeled those values during the campaign? During the past few years? During his/her lifetime?

Finally, and most importantly: how well do each party’s core values and principles match your own values? Think very hard about this because you will find that some of these things change and take on either more or less importance over your lifetime.

For example: as a young person, getting the best education at the lowest cost possible may be the most important thing in the world to you. The second most important thing may be securing a decent job in your field of study.

Therefore, education and jobs policy are the political values you hold dear. Are the Democrats doing the most in support of those efforts? Have their efforts in Congress been blocked by Republicans over the past few years, or have the parties worked well together to further your goals? Is/are your senators or congressperson running for election or re-election, and do they support your goals? Your vote matters there, too. Look up their voting records here:  US Senate  US House of Representatives

That is how you make political decisions when election season rolls around. That is why polls are only snapshots and debates are only tools and, punditly bloviation to the contrary, your opinion as expressed by your vote on November 6, 2012 is very, very important.