As Republican pundit Rich Mullens noted in his must-read daily blog, Mullings:
“According to the RealClearPolitics average of polling in 12 swing states, Obama has leads outside the margin of error in only Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Nevada, Romney leads in two (North Carolina and Missouri) and the rest are essentially tied, such as Obama’s 0.8 percent lead in Florida.”
Doesn’t USA Today/Gallup’s own comparison between April and June pool results in the battlegrounds as well as this RealClearPolitics data demonstrate that, if anything, Obama’s negative ads have actually hurt … Obama?
The moral of the story: When you see all the media jumping in one direction in interpreting polls, beware.
When they don’t tell you the total sample, or subsample in the battlegrounds, or the margin of error of the subsample, or whether there were control groups to determine whether the negative ads “caused” the change of minds, beware.
In other words, when you read poll results interpreted by a political media prone to rush to judgment all at once in the same direction, remember what Mark Twain frequently said, quoting former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli’s famous expression:
“There are lies, damned lies and statistics!”
Lanny Davis, the principal in the Washington law firm of Lanny J. Davis & Associates, which also specializes in legal crisis management, served as President Clinton’s special counsel from 1996-98 and as a member of President George W. Bush’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (2006-07). He currently serves as Special Counsel to Dilworth Paxson. He is the author of the book “Scandal: How ‘Gotcha’ Politics Is Destroying America” and the forthcoming book, “Crisis Tales — Five Rules for Handling Scandal in Business, Politics and Life,” to be published by Simon & Schuster.