The most important of these results –Florida and Ohio—at first surprised and then either thrilled or discouraged observers depending on whether they were cheering for Team Romney or Team Obama.
Then, however, the partisan makeup of the respondents was revealed. (HotAir's Ed Morrissey is always quick to find and publish such key data.)
Turns out the sample Quinnipiac used in Florida had 9% more Democrats than Republicans.
The sample used in Ohio had 8% more Democrats than Republicans.
Not only did these samples fail to reflect the partisan make-up of the 2010 election turnout in either state, they even oversampled Democrats compared to the 2008 turnout –and 2008 was the best year for Democratic turnout in a generation.
It is simply impossible to argue with a straight face that these results are at all useful as predictive of November’s result or even of public opinion in either state as it exists today. But that is exactly what both the paper and the television network did. CBS opened its story by declaring that "President Obama leads Mitt Romney among likely voters in Ohio and Florida." The Times' headline asserted that "New Polls in Three Battleground States Show Obama Edge."
Interestingly, the Times' reporters, Jeff Zeleny and Dalia Sussman, avoided anything like CBS' declaration in their write-up, as though both were aware of the deep flaw in the polls' sample.
The New York Times and CBS are both biased media organizations –the former greatly so, the latter less so but still left-of-center.
Everyone understands this, and arguments about this bias aren’t worth having.
Since these media organizations don’t care about accuracy, neither will they care about a misleading poll carrying their brand name even though individual reporters might refuse through artful writing to pump a lousy poll.
But should RealClearPolitics.com care?
I interviewed Peter Brown of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute on Wednesday’s show. The transcript is here. Mr. Brown has no defense for the approach they took, other than to repeat that Quinnipiac has a great track record. I gave him opportunity after opportunity to defend the poll's methodology, and he simply could not answer the obvious questions.
When Mr. Brown agreed that a poll of all Democrats would have no utility in telling us anything worth knowing, the game was over, and he sensed it, refusing to provide any guidance on when a random sample crossed over from useless to useful.
Read the transcript and ask yourself why The New York Times or CBS or any “news” organization would use these results as the basis for a front page story?
There is no good reason to do so, no conclusions that can be drawn from the results about how the state is leaning in the fall or what issues are driving the electorate. If a poll of all Democrats is useless, then a poll wildly oversampling Democrats is also useless, though less obviously so.
Indeed, a sample that is ridiculously over-weighted with Democrats coming up with a “result” that President Obama is leading? That is worse than worthless. That is misleading.
So RCP has to decide whether to pollute its “poll of polls” with an obviously biased poll.
It took a dozen years to build a great brand. Will RCP act to protect it?
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