The King of Horse Race Polls Is Out

A friend tells the story of entering a Burger King near the French Quarter in New Orleans very late one night (or perhaps very early in the morning, depending on how you look at it) and asking for a Whopper.

“We’re out of Whoppers” said the person at the cash register.

“OK, how about a Bacon Cheeseburger.”

“We’re out of them, too.”

“Just a hamburger?”

“Same answer–we’re out of burgers.”

“How can you be out of burgers? You’re the king of burgers!”

That’s sort of how I feel upon reading this news via Politico‘s Steven Shepard:

Gallup has been the country’s gold standard for horse-race election polling ever since its legendary founder, George Gallup, predicted Franklin Roosevelt’s landslide reelection in 1936.

But after a bruising 2012 cycle, in which its polls were farther off than most of its competitors, Gallup told POLITICO it isn’t planning any polls for the presidential primary horse race this cycle. And, even following an internal probe into what went wrong last time around, Gallup won’t commit to tracking the general election next year.

But, but–you’re the king of horse-race polls! How can you be out of them?

As Shepard’s article suggests, Gallup has not recovered psychologically from being so decisively and outspokenly wrong in 2012, when their late surveys pointing to a Romney win were the basis of an entire industry of false hope for the GOP candidate. It seems an elaborate internal review has not resolved what went wrong, and since the United States isn’t going to rerun the 2012 elections to satisfy Gallup’s objections to the outcome, they’re just Not Going There this cycle, at least during the primaries and maybe not even in the general election

Make no mistake, Gallup’s withdrawal from this portion of the polling business (they will still do issue surveys along with presidential approval ratings and other data touching on the presidential contest) will be cited over and over by people disenchanted by what the remaining polls are telling them. If Gallup can’t get it right, who can? But I suspect for the most part people will keep buying burgers wherever they can find them.

UPDATE: My prediction about how this news will be used by those unhappy with other polls confirmed instantly:

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.