Polls, The Undecided and a Horse Race

Bill Tatro
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Posted: Aug 23, 2016 12:01 AM
Polls, The Undecided and a Horse Race

Are the presidential polls a true measure of the electorate’s decision or are they a never ending measurement of odds?

A few months ago Donald Trump had a lead on Hillary Clinton.  Then after a series of the Donald’s misstatements, his questionable actions, Hillary’s advertising barrage and Trump’s hierarchy reshuffling, the roles reversed in the polls.  It all sounded like the track announcer calling the seventh race at Aqueduct.  “Annnnd it’s Hillary surging to the lead, with a quarter mile to go.”

As the pollster’s numbers changed I was left with a series of unanswered questions.  I hear from the many experienced political veterans, on both sides of the aisle, that polls do matter.  They tell us that campaign strategies ebb and flow as the numbers move up and down.

Where I get confused is IF this is the most polarizing presidential election in history (with apologies to Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas-remember that little thing called the Civil War?) who has not already made up their mind as to who they will vote for?  Of the hundreds of eligible voters who I have talked to across these United States not one is undecided.  Passions and emotions run high but uncertainty is not one of them.  Included in my poll are those have decided not to vote.  Many are disgusted with both candidates.  Others believe the system is rigged so why bother.  Still others could care less.  These folks may get a last minute twinge of conscience upon reflecting the sacrifice many made so they could have the freedom to vote.  I greatly doubt that any of them will go to the polls. However pushed to the wall I am sure they have a favorite of one over the other.  Even they are decided.

So why, I ask, do the polls go up and down if everyone has already decided?

Many times it is the way a series of questions are asked leaving the pollster to make an assumption of what the respondent meant.  Often the demographics are skewed to the bias of the pollster.  The old story about 2+2 seems to be appropriate.  When the government official was asked what 2+2 equaled he responded by saying “what do you need it to be?”

Biased pollsters are a fact of life.  Each one knows who he or she wants as president and is not above producing the data that will help their candidate.  This is, after all, not an election for local dog catcher but for the most powerful office in the world.  Therefore it’s no holds bar, anything goes and biased pollsters are a fact of life.

Perhaps taking equal parts of Democrat/Republican, young/middle age/old, rich/poor, black/white/red/yellow, and going back to them week after week to see if any advertising monies spent, speeches made or new revelations gleaned has made them change their mind about their candidate, would be a more appropriate and honest poll.

I am quite certain that none would be convinced to change horses.  Everyone knows exactly who they will vote for this November regardless of what the so called pundits have to say.

Everything else is simply a sideshow for the folks on MSNBC, FOX, CNN, CBS and others to fill airtime.

The election has already been decided.  It’s now just waiting for the horses to cross the finish line and the track announcer to declare “the winner is.”