The season is now upon us that I have to make this public service announcement:

Polls are the reality TV of journalism. Drama draws eyeballs. Never trust them. Do the math.

The recent NYT poll is an especially egregious example (No, I’m not linking to it). It is no better than media clickbait. Let’s do the math…

  • 3,662 individuals polled out of about 48 million… Not a representative sample size.
  • The margin of sampling error for each state is between 4.4 and 4.8 percentage points (which in this political environment where races are decided in under 1 pt is HUGE).
  • Also, they polled by only calling landline numbers? LANDLINES in 2023.

And yet, the vast majority of the rest of the media on all sides is treating it as fact with no journalistic skepticism (or, frankly, integrity).

If I use a poll to tell you Candidate X is way ahead, what effect on lazy voters (i.e. folks that don’t vote unless they have to) do you think that will have. Do you think that if they like Candidate X they will be more or less likely to get off their asses and vote? Now, what if that poll came from the “Paper of Record” that you know leans more heavily towards Candidate Y? Do you think they might have an interest in motivating folks with the fear that Candidate X might win?

POLLS are PROPAGANDA. Don’t trust them.