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SOWELL: Polls and pols
Question of the Day
It may seem hardly worthwhile going to the polls to vote this election year, since ACORN and the media have already decided Barack Obama” href=”/themes/?Theme=Barack+Obama“>Sen. Barack Obama is to be the next president of the United States.
Still, it may take more than voter fraud and media spin to put Mr. Obama in the White House. Most public opinion polls show him ahead, but not usually by decisive margins, and sometimes by a difference within the margin of error. There has been a history of various polls over the years projecting bigger votes for Democratic presidential candidates in October than the candidates actually get in November.
Some of these polls seem not to be trying to report facts but to create an impression. One poll has been reported as using a sample of 280 Republicans and 420 Democrats. No wonder Mr. Obama leads in a poll like that.
Pollsters have to protect their reputations but they can do that by playing it straight on their last poll before Election Day, after having created an impression earlier that a landslide for the Democratic candidate was all but a done deal.
The general media bias is more blatant than usual this year. There was more media outcry about Sarah Palin’s response to “gotcha” questions than to Joe Biden’s talking about President Franklin D. Roosevelt going on television in 1929 after the stock market crash - at a time when FDR was not yet president and there was no television to go on.
A Time magazine editor admitted there has been bias but expressed a desire in the future to be fairer to both sides. The fact he expresses the issue this way shows he still doesn’t understand the real problem. The point is not to be “fair” to “both sides.” The point is to be straight with readers who buy the magazine to learn something about the facts of the real world, not to learn about its reporters’ ideology and spin.
There is another factor at work in this year’s election that makes polls and predictions more unreliable than usual. That factor is race.
Barack Obama’s string of victories in early Democratic primaries against far better-known white candidates shows large segments of the population have moved beyond race. It is Barack Obama and his supporters who have hyped race, after his large lead in the polls began to shrink or evaporate, as more facts about his checkered career came out. Almost any criticism of Mr. Obama has been equated with racism, even if there is no connection that can be seen under a microscope.
Barack Obama himself started this trend when he warned that his opponents would try to scare the public with various charges, including a statement, “And did I say he was black?”
Mr. McCain said no such thing. Mrs. Palin said no such thing. But those who support Mr. Obama - including much of the media - act as if they just know this is the underlying message.
Rep. John Lewis has likened John McCain to George Wallace. Rep. John Murtha has condemned a whole section of Pennsylvania as “racists” because folks there seem reluctant to jump on the Obama bandwagon.
Sen. Harry Reid has claimed linking Mr. Obama to deposed and disgraced Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines is racist, since they are both black - as if there are no financial and political connections between the two men.
Much is being made of the fact that, in past elections, some white voters who told pollsters they are going to vote for a black candidate did not in fact do so, so that a black candidate with a lead in the polls ended up losing on Election Day. This is supposed to show how much covert racism there is. It might instead show that people don’t want to be considered racists by pollsters because they are leaning toward someone other than the black candidate.
In other words, the media themselves helped create the charged atmosphere in which some people give misleading answers to pollsters to avoid being stigmatized.
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