Budowsky: Don't believe 2014 polls
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"Morning Joe" on MSNBC around 6:04 a.m. on Friday misrepresented polling results about the Colorado Senate election. Anyone who reads the latest polling section on Real Clear Politics will find two Colorado polls posted adjacent to each other. One poll showed GOP candidate Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday Senate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE ahead by 7 points, a healthy lead; the other poll showed Gardner ahead by 2 points, an effective dead heat. "Morning Joe" only reported the poll showing Gardner up by 7 points, and ignored the poll showing the race razor thin, which gave a false impression based on the new polling that Gardner was well ahead. Minutes later Cokie Roberts told "Morning Joe" viewers that "all the polls" show GOP momentum. Wrong again.


I see this syndrome repeated again and again on cable television. The herd joins behind a narrative — in this case alleged GOP momentum — and in other examples there is sheer bias, omitting some polls and quoting others.

In fact, the totality of polling shows a long list of races that are too close to call. It is possible that Republicans win all of these close races; it is possible that Democrats win all of them, and the polls do not answer this question. Nor do statistical percentage probabilities based on those polls. Nor does pundit commentary based on those polls, especially those who give selected and incomplete reports of polling.

In 2010, there was a consistent pattern of polls that underestimated the Democratic vote. Various reasons have been given, but whatever the reason, in most 2010 races, polls underestimated the Democratic vote by between 2 and 7 percent. I suspect it may happen again. I have little confidence in predictions this year, including my own. I suspect we will not know which party controls the Senate on the morning of the election, and in the meantime, beware of putting to much faith in the polling, no matter which candidates you may favor.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. Contact him at brentbbi@webtv.net.