It's obvious you are new here (welcome). My ad-hominem attack is well deserved. Go read anything Julie has posted anywhere if you want to see a definition of ad-hominem. What I wrote was less an attack than a compliment.
Thanks Jeff! Delayed response here, but yes I have read stuff by Julie since then and am now more fully aware of the need for the ad-hom. Obnoxious trolls get no love from me.
So you know people who have participated in polls? Yes or no. I still haven't spoken to anyone that has actually participated. I am surrounded by professionals - mostly lawyers. Not one has taken part in a poll. I used to work at a fortune 500. My team was a fair representation of the average voter - some were rich, some were poor, some had lots of education, some had little. There were people from every background. Of the 15 or so on that team that I used to talk politics with, none had participated in a poll. So I will say it again - polls are relatively meaningless. They are a snapshot of a group of supposedly random people who agree to be polled and take the time to take the polls, some of which do so with malicious intent to skew the numbers. Scott Rasmussen was interviewed by a local talk host and he said 'even the a-holes should be represented'.
Yes, I actually do know people who have taken polls. The point about your small group of 15 people almost reinforces the idea of why polls can work even if they don't reach every person in America, even indirectly- because a small group can be representative of the larger population. That's how statistics work and what makes polls accurate. You don't need to be personally connected to a poll for a poll to be able to find a sample demographic similar to yours. In a country of over 300 million people it is likely that the vast majority will not be polled, but a good professional pollster will be able to still get good results anyways.
Don't make the mistake of interpreting my message as being anti-poll. It isn't. But like Scott Rasmussen, I understand that polls are a glimpse into a possibility and in no way are actual reliable predictors of anything. Polls are random. Some (i would wager quite a few) take the poll with either an intent to skew them or simply don't actually vote.
The economy DOESN'T shut down nights and weekends. But the average single 9-5 employee is at work during the day. When they get home, most don't want to talk to pollsters. If you want to look at polls to try and predict trends or to try and see how a random group feels, that's okay. But it is clearly more intelligent to view those polls with a grain of salt. The most important poll we know of is the actual election, which as we both agree is relatively unpredictable.
I will agree with your general sentiment here, that polls should be taken with a grain of salt- but disagree with your conclusion that the general election itself is completely unpredictable. Trends can be seen in the electorate at large and with enough data a very accurate prediction can be made in advance, ie: http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2008/11/todays-polls-and-final-election.html
Granted a lot of other predictors got it wrong, but most polls I saw before the election were pretty close to accurate with regards to the final results.
My theory about housewives is that they tend to skew liberal. Most of us have priority issues. Some of us are single issue voters. The appeal to the lazy for Obama is palpable - he gets the most positive coverage and many in the media have decided to glorify his holiness and attack McCain. The fact is that many of us simply don't think the media has given McCain a fair shake. They pretend that they are hard on Palin because they feel it is important to vet candidates. Unfortunately for them, the facts bear out that these same media outlets all but refuse to vet Obama - to this day. Obama coverage tends to be favorable, forgiving, and chock full of spin while McCain coverage tends to be critical, harsh, and negative.
From an outsiders perspective I can say that Obama ran an objectively better campaign, was better at damage control, more responsive to the media, and had a better message from the start. Obama had a larger share of the spotlight from the beginning due to the extended length of the democratic primary. Since 2006 it has been nearly a foregone conclusion that the 08 race was the democrats to lose, and Obama naturally came in with a very large lead that was expanded by the collapsing economy and floundering McCain campaign (I like McCain and still think he ran one of the worst general election campaigns I've seen). More than anything the media is horse-race driven, the guy who is ahead on the polls will get a natural boost in coverage, not to mention who has a better handle on the media, will by default be received better in the media. The media was hard on Palin because she is an easy target, an inexperienced unknown who made mistake after mistake yet still received enormous accolades after making an acceptance speech at the convention that in my view was simply average and really nothing more than a mash-up of all the standard attack lines of the GOP to date. Add to that the first-black-president angle and a skew in coverage is all but inevitable. Go back to 2004 and you will see that both Kerry and Dean got piled on by the media because they ran horrible campaigns and made very large public relations mistakes, respectively, and were trashed by a well run campaign by W. There are real palpable reasons for the things you are complaining about, you need to look past conspiracy theories to get your answers.
The NYT printed a column by Obama which contained no preconditions. When McCain responded with his own column, all of a sudden preconditions existed. The NYT leveled unproven allegations against Sarah Palin while ignoring unproven allegations about Obama and Biden. Hell, the NYT printed a ridiculous hit piece claiming McCain had an affair with a lobbyist. They knew their source was crap and that the story wasn't true. Did they print an investigation into Obama's ties with Rezko or Ayers? Nah, they ignored it until they decided to make excuses for these stories.
And that's just the NYT.
Yes, and Fox News ran piece after piece about Ayers, frequently mixed up Obama/Osama and generally trashed his campaign the whole way. It shouldn't come as a surprise that the mainstays of ideological reporting report along the lines of their ideologies.
What about CNN's coverage of the republican convention vs. the democratic conventions? CNN talked over speeched at the repub conventions and showed images of white people in suits. Contrast that to the dem's convention, where they showed celebrity after celebrity and ignored the minorities who were hidden in the wings. Then they complained about a lack of minorities at the repub convention, which they covered with an all-white male panel.
Polls are part of the theater. Leaders lead. Followers follow. The left seems to want to follow the polls. The right tends to resist it.
All the coverage I saw of both events tried to focus on minorities and people in the crowds. It just so happens that the GOP is far more white and homogenous than the democratic party. And they weren't wearing suits, it was bucket hats with oil rigs on them. Durr. It is also well known that there are more celebrities in the democratic party than the GOP- esp this year with Barackstar.
Yes politics is theater. Yes the media is compliant, hypocritical, and absurdly easy to dupe (think Charlie Brown versus the football). Yes the GOP has been consistently better at shaping public opinion than the democrats. So? This doesn't at all support the notion that polls are inaccurate. You are making a lot of disconnected points that don't support your thesis.
It's an observation, nothing more. The same points are being made. When I was SURE Kerry was going to win, I was one of those people who didn't understand how the polls showed he was up and the vote returned a different result. Think what you want, but this thing is going to be a close one, polls be damned.
Click on the link I posted above. The polls were accurate in 04 and generally predicted Kerry's loss. JK was boring as all heck and impossible to listen to. I remember hearing him speak during the World Series and my oh my was it bad. He was unresponsive and stiff- remember Swift Boat? If he had spine or passion he would have blasted that to hell, some rich GOP backer trashing a decorate Vietnam vet in support of a son-of-an-oilman chicken hawk? Kerry rolled over and took it. Kerry also voted to authorize use of force against Iraq and never made a clear differntiation between himself and Bush on war policy. He failed to get anyone excited about voting for him. He was just about as exciting as the ketchup that propelled him to the Senate. If you really thought he was going to win you must have been living with your head in the ground. I also think it is laughable that you thought this election would defy the polls and be close, when it turned out to be on of the swiftest and cleanest elections in a while, it was pretty much done before polls on the West Coast closed.