About those Zogby polls…

ABOUT THOSE ZOGBY POLLS…. Zogby polls haven’t enjoyed widespread acclaim this year, but they continue to be part of the mix — and as this morning, John McCain just loves the numbers Zogby published today.

Democrat Barack Obama’s lead over Republican rival John McCain has dropped to 5 points, according to a Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released on Sunday.

Obama leads McCain by 49 percent to 44 percent among likely U.S. voters in the daily tracking poll, which has a margin of error of 2.9 points. Obama’s lead has dropped over the last three days after hitting a high of 12 points on Thursday.

Now, I noted the other day that there may be a temptation on the part of some to believe polls that offer favorable results, and ignore polls that don’t. It’s not an intellectually honest way of watching a campaign, but it’s not uncommon. As such, it wasn’t especially surprising to see McCain seize on Zogby as a reliable measurement of public opinion this morning on “Meet the Press.”

But there’s reason for skepticism. Zogby’s wild swings — Obama’s leads have gone from three to 12 to five very quickly — aren’t reflected in other national polls, which have shown pretty steady numbers of late.

Isaac Chotiner noted, “Given the fact that the race has been remarkably stable over the past ten days or so, you might expect some skepticism from pollster John Zogby when his daily samples jump wildly around from night to night. But no: Not only does Zogby seem to have total confidence in his numbers, but he also interprets each wild swing as if it shows meaningful progress for one candidate or another.”

Quite right. As recently as Thursday, Zogby said McCain “is not connecting” with voters. Just 72 hours later, McCain has found his “message.”

Chotiner concluded, “This verges on the absurd. Listening to Zogby discuss his numbers is akin to hearing basketball announcers search for a reason why some particular team is having a bad shooting night. It can never be that, er, if you play an 82-game season, occasionally your shots will not fall.”

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.