01/02/08 — Facts on polls: If you don’t like the result, just wait for the next one

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Facts on polls: If you don’t like the result, just wait for the next one

If you have paid any attention at all to the Iowa caucuses and the scuffle to lay claim to the frontrunner title, you know that the leads of the races for both parties have changed somewhere in the neighborhood of a half-dozen times.

First it was Hillary Clinton, then Barack Obama. Mike Huckabee took the lead for the GOP, with various other measures putting the race between him and Mitt Romney at a dead heat. Pretty much you can find a poll to support the candidacy of just about everyone who is hoping to capture Iowa.

Now, some of the latest polls — and there have been quite a few — are saying that both races for the nominations are too close to call.

Like we needed a poll to tell us that.

The truth about polls is that while they offer interesting conjecture about the behavior of the American voting public, they are not ironclad predictors of who will win the vote or who will be the best candidate for the job.

There are so many factors that can influence a poll — and so many reasons its results might not be truly representative of those who will make the decisions at the ballot box — that to base any kind of campaign strategy or presidential vote on their results is risky at best.

So, too, with tomorrow’s Iowa caucus.

While the numbers will be interesting and could say something about who might actually be able to win the nomination, making a decision on a candidate’s viability based solely on the results is not too smart.

There are more votes to wait for and more polls to giggle at before anyone has any idea for whom they will be able to vote in 2008.

Paying attention to polls is a diversion and fun. So, go ahead, try to see who had it right.

But when it comes to voting, look at the issues, the promises and the records. That’s much better than a crystal ball.

Published in Editorials on January 2, 2008 11:30 AM