The Fine Art of Pooh-Poohing the Polls

Politics 101: When your guy is ahead in a poll, trumpet the news. When your guy is behind in a poll, either (a) question the

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Politics 101: When your guy is ahead in a poll, trumpet the news. When your guy is behind in a poll, either (a) question the value of the poll or (b) say the other guy should be FURTHER ahead or (c) both.


The Jeff Merkley campaign is taking approach (c) in response to a Rasmussen Poll released Monday that shows Republican Sen. Gordon Smith with an eight-point lead, 47% to 39%.

Merkley campaign spokesman Matt Canter told politickeror.com today that the two-term senator is so well-known he should be polling at 60%.

"Voters in Oregon know Senator Smith," Canter said. "With his name identification, he should be up to 60%. Oregon voters are looking for a new leader in Washington, DC."

When last month's Rasmussen telephone survey showed Merkley with a two-point lead over Smith, Canter called it "historic." But now he's less enthusiastic about Rasmussen, arguing that with a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points, a two-point lead for Merkley or an eight-point lead for Smith is not significant.

"In July, Merkley enjoyed a statistically insignificant two-percentage point lead," Rasmussen wrote. "In the month prior, Smith led by nine percentage points. Still, any incumbent who polls below 50% is considered vulnerable."

"Favorability ratings for the incumbent have changed little since July," Rasmussen continued. "Smith is viewed favorably by 55% and unfavorably by 38%. By contrast, Merkley's ratings have worsened over the past month. The challenger is viewed favorably by 42%, down from 51% last month, while 45% view him unfavorably, up from 34% last month."

Looks like those Smith attack ads hitting Merkley for the Oregon Legislature spending $2 million on new furnishings are getting some traction.

Meanwhile, with an 11-percentage-point swing one way from June to July and a 10-point swing the other way from July to August, The Eye has to wonder how valid any of the Rasmussen Polls are.

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