News you can’t use

Political mavens are eagerly awaiting the release at 6:45 pm ET today of the poll by the Des Moines Register, the largest newspaper in Iowa, that will provide a snapshot of voter sentiment on the eve of the caucuses to be held on Monday evening. This poll has a good track record in the state.

While polls can be fun for political junkies (and I include myself in that category), I never quite see the point of polls that are released just before an event since it is too late for the candidates to do anything meaningful with that information. It may spur campaigns to extra efforts if they are close to winning or in danger of losing and maybe it influences the enthusiasm of voters.

But I find it hard to imagine that these have major effects on the outcome. I suspect that the Iowa results are already ‘baked in the cake’, as they say, in that the outcome is pretty much fixed because the voters have already decided what they are going to do and this poll won’t change anything. All hyperventilating speculations about bad or good weather affecting turnout and hence the result is just blathering. Caucusing in Iowa requires real commitment especially on the Democratic side and the people there are used to snow and anything short of a massive blizzard that shuts down the roads is not going to affect anything.

It is similar to the way that people make predictions in the media about Academy Award winners about an hour or so before the results are announced. It is a total waste of time for those not in the prediction business. The only purpose for last minute polls and predictions seems to be for bragging rights among the prognosticators, to see who got it right. This has financial repercussions for them since the winners are likely to attract more customers than the losers.

Meanwhile, Moody’s Analytics runs through a series of scenarios and predicts that either Sanders or Clinton will win in 2016 with about 326-212 electoral college margin, though some states such as Florida, Ohio, Colorado, New Hampshire and Virginia have a tiny Democratic edge of less than 1% which makes this prediction highly shaky.


  1. anat says

    While most Iowans have probably decided whom they would want to vote for, the big question is whether they will vote. If I understand correctly, typically 20% end up participating in the caucuses. Perhaps if one finds one’s preferred candidate needs their support it can encourage yet another voter to make their way to the polls.

  2. says

    If any of these polls were remotely honest they would have a candidate called “I hate them all, I am just choosing the lesser of two evils” which would win by a landslide.

  3. StevoR says

    @ ^ Marcus Ranum : Truth -- but how would ““I hate them all, I am just choosing the lesser of two evils” end up running the nation for four years and who’d be xher first lady /man? Also how’d you get him to swear the oath of office?

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