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Barack Obama & John McCain each lead a Gallup poll

Pollsters and others who specialize in statistics will be unfazed by the different glimpses of the presidential race offered today by the Gallup polling organization. The rest of us will be left to scratch our heads -- and remember that the only result that counts comes on the first Tuesday in November.

Presumptive Republican presidential candidate John McCain talks to the media as he campaigned in Bakersfield, Ca On the one hand, the daily Gallup tracking poll -- a rolling average of three days' worth of interviews with registered voters -- gave Barack Obama one of his more comfortable leads of late over John McCain, 48% to 40%.

But a separate survey based on interviews with different registered voters conducted over the same period -- Friday through Sunday -- and done in conjunction with USA Today found a smaller Obama lead: 47% to 44%.

And then there's this, from this second sample but narrowed to those Gallup judged most likely to vote: McCain leads, 49% to 45%.

As the USA Today story on the poll notes, a similar survey in late June found McCain trailing among the likely voters group, 50% to 44%.

According to the article, Gallup editor Frank Newport advises against making too much of the differences in the various findings. He's quoted as saying "statistical noise" may explain the seeming discrepancies.

Others, upon learning of the results putting McCain ahead in the likely voter sample (though by an amount within the margin of error) reacted with somewhat less equanimity. Time magazine's The Page blog headlined its brief posting on the numbers "Gallup-ing Shocker!!"

And Newport felt some need to explain; he posted on the Gallup Web site an article headlined: "Who Are Likely Voters and When Do They Matter?"

He contends that the surge in McCain's standing in the likely voter group "could be a result of a short-term energizing of the GOP base as a reaction to the Obama foreign trip or some other cause. ... The degree to which this current shift toward the GOP candidate among likely voters remains in place remains to be seen."

As does whether this poll picked up an early sign of a significant sea change in the presidential campaign or whether it caught a rogue wave.

-- Don Frederick

Photo credit: Associated Press

 
Comments () | Archives (7)

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The Gallup-USA Today poll is garbage, because close to 70 percent of the voters that they deemed unlikely were Obama supporters. Also, the tracking poll, which showed Obama up by eight points, had a sample that was four times larger.

I wouldn't trust any poll that claims it knows who the "likely voters" are. Are they the people who claim to have voted in 2006? 2004? People lie, the electorate changes substantially each time, and this time especially the shift is likely to be considerable. And how are these people being reached, anyhow? By land lines? We already know who the dinosaurs will vote for.

It's way too early to rely on the polls. However, it's hard to see Obama's numbers go anywhere but down as the scrutiny of the records and experience are looked at more carefully. It will be hard to convince people that Obama is a centrist with his record and his inspiring speeches have already been well documented and have won over those who will be won over by rhetoric.

We need a "BREAK" from all these polls. Will the pollsters please take a month off. Look it is close period.

VJ Machiavelli
http://www.vjmachiavelli.blogspot.com

The polls are a strange thing. some people will Never vote. Only about 50% actually do vote is my understanding. So Nov. will tell the tale. Sure hope McCain gets it I think the McCain's are fine people and cindy is a darling who works for great causes helping children in Rowanda.

Republicans have always been the most reliable voters. The former Hillary voters are still luke warm but they are polling for Obama. They will be more commital by November.

of course obama voters are less likely, most of them are college students who dont know how to get an absentee ballot. Most of them will be out of their home county for college in the november election.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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