Forum editorial: Early polls don’t mean a whole lotEarly political polls can be fun, but they are little else six months before the November election.
Early political polls can be fun, but they are little else six months before the November election.
The polls getting the most attention in the past few weeks have focused on the North Dakota congressional race between incumbent U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., and challenger state Rep. Rick Berg, R-Fargo. The first poll had Berg ahead a few points, which made Republicans smile. A second poll a few days ago showed the gap closing so that the numbers were within the margin of error – in other words, a dead heat.
The polls were done by the Rasmussen organization, which is suspect in some political circles because its principle owner tilts conservative Republican. Therefore, the critics say, the results will skew toward Berg. Maybe so.
But whatever the bias, if any, polls so early in the campaign season make for a headline or two but have little bearing on voters’ proclivities by November. It is wise, therefore, for voters who are not handicapped by partisan blinders to take poll results with a grain of salt. No, a bucket of salt.
In the congressional race in particular, the campaign really hasn’t begun. An early skirmish regarding campaign disclosure filings was so much inside baseball. Berg has been spouting party boilerplate about Pomeroy being in the clutches of the U.S. House’s scary liberals, but it’s not sticking with thoughtful North Dakotans. Berg is trying to hang Pomeroy with the congressman’s vote on health insurance reform, but the danger in that is that by fall, North Dakotans might start to like what they see in the new law.
For his part, the congressman has started some early TV advertising, designed not to attack his Republican opponent but to portray himself as a common-sense North Dakotan. Other than party faithful, most North Dakotans see that sort of image-building advertising as, well, image building.
Polls are useful. As the campaign season grinds on, more polling in the congressional race is likely because it appears the Pomeroy-Berg contest will be close all the way to the wire. A series of polls, including Forum-sponsored polls later in the season, will reveal trends. Trends that hold over time have been good indicators of Election Day results.
But polls before the Fourth of July are flawed indicators at best.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.