Polls And News

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There is an interesting study today in how to interpret poll results, or rather, how news media interprets those results. A new MSNBC/McClatchy poll came out. Using the same exact result, you see two different headlines. MSNBC goes with: " Polls: Democrats closer to taking Senate control" with the subhead: "But polls show no evidence of a national Democratic 'tidal wave'". Now the results part of it, when you actually read it, shows basically no real movement since the last poll for the most part. All movement appears to be within the margin of error. But MSNBC did admit that there does not appear to be a building tidal wave. One of the first of the MSM to not try to tout one lately.

McClatchy has the headline: "GOP holds narrow lead in must-win Senate races". Now remember, this is writing up the same poll. This article reports the same data, but focuses on two key "must holds". The rest of the data is also presented, but again, there are no indications of any landslide.

I think it is important to keep in mind what Jay Cost said yesterday over at Real Clear Politics:

Polls like this are consistent with a general phenomenon I have noted: media polls are designed to maximize news value, not truth value. I see a lot of that. Media polls always seem to offer lots of heat and very little light.

And the murkiness just gets worse when two organizations come up with different interpretations of the data.

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