Numerous dedicated McCain Moms have contacted me, sharing concern or panic that McCain was down in the polls or the race wasn't winnable. I'm not going to sugarcoat anything for you ladies: John McCain has his work cut out for him. But I worked in market research, professionally doing survey design and anaylsis for years, and I *truly* believe polls are a distraction from the task at hand: getting people to the real polls on November 4.
My advice? Instead of spending 10 minutes a day checking the polls, spend 10 minutes a day calling undecided voters in swing states, writing letters to the editor, or talking to a friend about why you support John McCain. Here's why:
1. Most polls represent the opinions of less than a thousand people. A 3% drop in a poll of 500 people means a whopping FIFTEEN PEOPLE changed their minds. This is not rocket science. You can't accurately predict what 300 million people are gonna do based on this kind of information.
2. Many polls conduct 'creative' sampling. There are more registered Democrats than Republicans in most areas, so polls may 'correct' for that by asking more Democrats than Republicans who they're voting for (guess what that does to the numbers?). More people live in urban areas than in suburban and rural ones, so many pollsters specifically choose a proportion that reflects that. So, say here in Washington, they'd pick a lot of Seattle voters (who are the bluest in the country) and many fewer from Yakima, Spokane, Kennewick, etc. In New York, they'd include more Manhattan voters than Schenectady and Buffalo. So while those few hundred people are 'scientifically chosen,' they may not truly represent
3. Every pollster has an agenda. I actually had a Mom upset over DailyKos poll numbers (the evil clowns who celebrated 9/11 as 'Happy Twin Towers Day'). You can tweak a poll with the order of your questions, the tone of voice of the questioner, and a variety of other factors. So there truly is no such thing as a 'non-partisan' poll.
4. People will ask: but what about the aggregate of all the polls? Yeah, what about it? 5 or 6 small surveys with different methodologies do not a clear picture make. The sample size is larger, but this is sort of like slicing a variety of fruits into a pie and being shocked when every slice doesn't taste like apple. Sure, some will, some will be overpowered by other fruits, but the whole pie will just taste like, well, fruit.
5. People will ask: but what about all the cell phone youth who aren't represented? Hmm? Hmm?!!? Yeah, and what about the hundreds of thousands of military votes, which one might expect to include quite a few McCain supporters, or the seniors or the multi-voter households where only one person was surveyed? Here's a news flash: I've never heard of surveyors calling you at work, which is where you'll find most McCain supporters on any given day. I know from my phone banking volunteer work that I got maybe 2 or 3 live people out of 10 calls, and those were disproportionately younger and female.
The bottom line is no matter what the polls say, we McCain supporters must persevere. People have asked me on almost a daily basis, for the last seven months, how would I feel if McCain lost? I said, well, lousy. But not as bad as I'd feel if he lost because I stood back and let it happen.
The Obama camp would be delighted if we all held a Pity Party and gave up. But we must fight on. It ain't over till it's over. Don't give up the ship.
John McCain never gave up on his country under the most unspeakable of all conditions (negotiating with Democrats in the Senate). His POW time was pretty cool too. Please show him, and the pollsters, and your country, that you care about that too. Thank you.