Wednesday, January 09, 2008

About New Hampshire and Polls

My kind readers have probably noticed I’m not a big fan of Hillary Clinton. Still, last night I enjoyed watching the news media going to strenuous efforts to wipe the egg off their faces. They assumed Obama was going to win big and were already talking about what that meant about the rest of the campaign. Oops!

To show more fairness than the Mainstream News Media ever has, their presumption was understandable -- all the polls, including Clinton’s internal polls, showed Obama was going to win. So what happened?

To give Hillary credit, she did campaign well in the closing days. And, yes, I do think her teary-eyed moment helped. She looked very human and decent, eliciting empathy even from me. I also suspect some had second thoughts about Obama, as they should. So there probably was a last minute swing to Clinton.

But there is factor not much talked about. It is a bit awkward to talk about. But this former political operative has no tact, so here goes.

People lie to polls. And there are occasions when they are particularly prone to lie to polls. If the media culture creates an atmosphere in which it seems people who don’t vote for a certain candidate are not “with it” or are even wrong-headed, some people will say they support said candidate even if they do not. (I’m convinced this was a factor behind inaccurate exit polls in the 2000 presidential election, by the way.) Peer pressure to conform or at least pretend to conform doesn’t end in high school.

Further, if the media-favored candidate is of African-American heritage, people who may not support said candidate are all the more prone to dissemble because they do not want to be perceived as racist. I know of one past Senate campaign so certain of this that they factored it into their evaluation of polls.

The media cheerleading of Obama was rather blatant. And, yes, Obama is of African-American heritage. So, yes, there was a lot of fibbing going on in those polls. Some people told pollsters one thing, while doing quite another when in the privacy of the polling booth. It’s not the first time that has happened, and it won’t be the last.

And not-so-by-the-way, the New Hampshire primary is indeed by secret ballot. The Iowa caucus is emphatically not. The Iowa caucus is a bit of a circus which compounds not dampens peer pressure.

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