National tracking polls are silly and Romney probably isn’t leading Obama among women

The latest CBS News/New York Times poll is bullshit. (Sorry, Mom!) No, seriously it is. That’s the latest national poll of women voters which puts Romney ahead of President Obama by 3 points.

Excuse me while I go and laugh uncontrollably.

Confession: I’ve long thought national tracking polls for presidential races were totally stupid and pointless. Why do they exist? It’s not like we haven’t had an election where the person who won the popular vote lost the election. (Well, I guess technically that election was stolen, but you know what I mean.) Since we have the electoral college, the only polling that I pay attention to is state polls. Even more importantly, my focus is always on the battleground/swing state polls. Ya know, the ones that are yellow on Chuck Todd’s map on MSNBC. Those are the polls that really matter.

The reason why I don’t trust national polls–or believe they matter–is because they are over hyped by the media (big red flag!) and because, while they might help shape a narrative in said media, they don’t actually affect outcomes. While it’s true that President Obama has benefited in the so called “war on women”–and poll after poll shows a huge gender gap–national polls of women, just like national polls of both genders, are always prime for inconsistency. They go up and down all the time.

I’m not saying that Romney can’t be ahead of Obama in a poll; I’m saying that it is highly suspect that Romney is ahead of Obama in a poll of women. Any poll that says that given all that has happened in recent months is likely flawed. And it turns out that yes, this one is likely flawed. The Obama campaign certainly thinks the CBS News poll is “biased.” The same CBS poll last month was the only one that had the presidential race tied and instead of using a different sample of voters this time, the CBS pollsters used the same people for this month’s tracking numbers.

But, of course, because these national polls are for the media, the flawed poll isn’t explained away as an outlier. Instead, it’s used by conservatives like Rush Limbaugh to show that the “war on women” is made up and that women really do like Romney more than Obama–despite the fact that all of his policies would make our lives suck.

So quit it with these national polls folks. They’re dumbstupid.

Join the Conversation

  • Sue Nugent

    I question all polls–period. When called on a phone and your dominate husband is sitting in anger mode listening to FOX what would a woman say?
    When I get a call–I am always suspicious if they are trying to get answers out of me by asking leading questions. I can’t see Romney ahead in any measure-but I live in a liberal area.
    Personaly, I worry more about voter rights and registration issues being to blame for any ground Romney gains. I think it should be the constant focus until November–we already know the Supreme Court’s ruling on any cliff hangers.

  • Sam Lindsay-Levine

    But… we reference polls all the time.

    Look, I understand that we shouldn’t give too much weight to the result of any one particular poll – but just because a single poll gives a conclusion that you don’t like is no reason to disavow the utility of the entire technique. Fairly smart people do moderately elaborate analysis on presidential polling to determine what meaning to get out of them, and how confident we should be in the results of various polling outlets. The utility, proper methodology, and limitations of polling is a major area of academic knowledge – no doubt we have readers who are statisticians and/or social scientists who have poured years of their lives into this.

    While it’s important to retain our skepticism, it’s also important to stay focused on the world as it is, and on actual data. Pointing out crappy data analysis is very valuable. Denying the value of data in general, and disavowing all measurements because of our a priori ideology, well, ends us up as Mitt Romney and his party.

  • Brüno

    The polls could very well be BS, especially if they are not from a free press. But still, did I miss something or do all women go to feministing camp, where they become pro gay marriage and pro abortion? Its like saying all the men are against gay marriage and anti abortion.

    How do we know the anti abortion people arent in equal or greater part women?

  • Robert

    I also have a hard time believing Romney is leading Obama with women voters. It’s not impossible though, in 2000 43% of women voted for George Bush. It was not the majority but not far from half of overall votes and Romney is far more likeable than Bush.

  • honeybee

    I’m not clear on why we assume women would prefer Democrats. I mean, on one hand it would seem OBVIOUS that they should, but in my experience there’s a ton of conservative, traditional, republican style women out there who believe all the things that the Republican asshole men do. That or they simply don’t care that much and are instead picking who to vote for based on other reasons.

    This has always made me sad but not acknowledging it makes me even sadder.

    • Robert

      Honeybee it does seem like democrats provide better benefits for women and based on that they should vote democrat. But, most women have male friends, husbands, sons, brothers, and fathers that will influence their decision. I don’t know about women’s social lives on this site but in most of America women have close relationships with at least a few men. If someone close to them is getting screwed in divorce court or they have a son falsely accused of sexual harassment that will definitely make them anti feminist.