CNN/Time's New Outlier Polls

Posted: Sep 30, 2010 8:11 AM
A new batch of state polls from CNN and Time smell pretty ripe to me for a few reasons.

(1) Time's write-up of the polls doesn't even accurately reflect the actual results, and greatly exaggerates Democratic advantages in a number of cases.  For example, Reporter Jay Newton-Small informs readers that Barbara Boxer leads Carly Fiorina among likely voters by a 56/37 margin.  In reality, the poll shows Boxer's lead at 52/43.  Newton-Small makes the same mistake on several other occasions, including when he incorrectly reports the Illinois Senate and Governor numbers.  (Upon further review, it looks as though Newton-Small sloppily conflated the polls' "registered voters" and "likely voters" results).

(2) As far as I could see, neither news outlet provides the poll's sample breakdown.  If its D/R/I splits are reasonable and generally reflect the current political climate (ie, reflect lower Democratic turnout and enthusiasm than 2008), then Republicans on the short end of these surveys may have cause for concern.  If, as we saw with the recent bogus California and Kentucky polls, the samples are unrealistically skewed toward Democrats, these results would be rendered meaningless.  The fact is, we just can't reach either conclusion without a good look at the missing sample data.

(3) Other polls tell radically different stories.  Various polling firms have polled all of these races within the last week or so, and CNN/Time's results stick out like a sore thumb.  Rasmussen, for example, shows Joe Miller leading big over both Lisa Murkowski and Scott McAdams.  Almost every single poll I've seen out of the Illinois Governor race shows Republican Bill Brady ahead by at least 5-8 points not neck-and-neck.  In Florida, Democrat Alex Sink has built a small but stable lead over Rick Scott in most surveys, yet this new poll shows Scott seizing the lead (although, in fairness, the latest Rasmussen also has Scott ahead).  Frankly, I don't have faith in any of the three results I just ran down.  I don't believe that Lisa Murkowski's write-in effort has catapulted her into a tie.  I'm deeply skeptical that Pat Quinn has somehow stormed back to tie Brady in Illinois.  And even though I'm pulling for them, I'm a little dubious of news that the Republican ticket has made an inexplicable comeback in the Florida Governor's race.

The ultimate poll doesn't happen until November 2nd, but in the meantime, we'll stay on the lookout for polls of all stripes.  If they smell a little fishy to us, we'll tell you why.  In this case, the CNN/Time polls reek.