Actually, Election Day is Not “The Only Poll That Matters”

Tim Mak artfully skewers bad political writing at Politico. He nails 7 clichés and makes a sly joke by putting an eighth in his title (“very tired cliches”… are there fresh clichés out there with which the “tired” ones can be contrasted?).

Of the 7 stale horrors Mak critiques, I find particularly irritating “The only poll that matters is the one on election day”. This is usually a smug pundit’s put down to people who debate the meaning of the latest poll. It’s not only a cliché. It’s completely untrue.

As we have seen throughout this primary election cycle, polls drive media coverage, fundraising and candidate strategy. They also affect voters’ judgments about who is electable and who has momentum. The reality is that many, many polls matter, not least because they help determine who is still left standing on general election day to participate in “the only poll that matters”.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University. He served as a senior policy advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2009 to 2010.