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Is Dissecting Poll Data a Waste of Time ?

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Amy Fried, Ph.D.     Permalink
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Last night, Keith Olbermann interviewed Nate Silver of, about his prediction that Barack Obama will win the election. He introduced Silver by lauding his impressive record of predictions in the field of sports. But sports isn’t politics. In the age of caging and hackable voting machines, I wonder: are we wasting our time with statistical analyses of polls?I remember a number of predictions that Kerry would win in 2004. For instance, this 2004 page from CNET News includes a number of predictions of a Kerry win. I also remember another interesting sports-politics parallel on Olbermann’s show, written up on Halloween of 2004, where he chronicled the surprisingly consistent power of the Washington Redskins’ win-loss record to predict presidential elections:

If the Redskins won their final home game before a presidential election, the incumbent party kept the White House. If the Redskins lost that game, so did the party in power …. The Redskins have played home games before 17 Presidential Elections, and only 17 Presidential Elections, and their results have easily and without qualification forecast the outcomes of all 17.”

Later, days before the 2004 election, Olbermann noted that both the work of famed pollster, Zogby, and the “Redskin Rule,” pointed to a Kerry win.These predictions stuck in my mind, as I read the many accounts claiming that the 2004 election was stolen many times over, either through selective voter disenfranchisement or voter machine hackery - including

Mark Crispin Miller’s book, Fooled Again: The Real Case for Electoral Reform, as well as RFK, Jr.’s Rolling Stone article, “Was the 2004 Election Stolen?,” and Miller’s article in Harper’s: “None Dare Call it Stolen.” The findings range from selectively throwing voters of the rolls, to selectively providing too few voting machines, to actually manually covering up Kerry votes, to voting machines that flip Kerry votes to Bush votes, to claiming fake “terrorist threats” to keep the media away from the vote counting. According to the RFK article, even the recount were questionable. (Much of the evidence was compiled in the report by Rep. John Conyers: "What Went Wrong in Ohio?") And then, of course, there’s all the work on voting machines that the folks at Black Box Voting have done, as well as the "Daily Voting News" reports that appear regularly on opednews. And for those who haven’t seen it yet, the video of the testimony of Clint Curtis, former computer programmer who later ran for Congress - on high-tech vote hacking - is riveting. In this election, when I hear the endless dissection of polling data from right and left wing pundits alike, I can’t help but wonder if they’re living in fantasy land. All those polls of “likely” or “registered” voters assumes a level playing field - but Greg Palast and RFK, Jr. have been ringing the alarm bells about voter purges that have already occurred in the 2008 election. So far, few (especially, of course, in the MSM) have been listening. Even progressives such as Olbermann and Rachel Maddow haven’t spent that much time on the prospect of another election being stolen. All of which makes me feel like a child being told a fairy tale, or an adult whose time is being wasted. If we wait until after the purges, the hackery, and the disenfranchisement, it will, of course, be too late.


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Amy Fried is the author of "Escaping Dick Cheney's Stomach." She received her Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior, and has been an advocate for church-state separation and other civil liberties issues. She writes on women's issues, media, veganism (more...)

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