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Blaming Voters and Pollsters Does Not Excuse Shoddy Journalism

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It's a bit tough to discern who started the short-lived and specious effort to blame Barack Obama's New Hampshire defeat on racism - the Illinois senator's surrogates, hoping to enrage African-American voters in later primaries, or news media big wigs needing to explain away their bizarre pre-primary political obituaries for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Either way, the racial charge did an injustice to the people of New Hampshire - and to pollsters who are not responsible for shoddy reporting that mischaracterized their survey data to fit the preferred narrative that Obama would win. Once the actual vote proved the predictions wrong, desperate commentators trotted out the argument that racists had misled the pollsters.

For so many reasons, it is simply laughable to argue that deceitful racists told pollsters they would vote for Obama and then switched to Clinton in the privacy of the voting booth. For starters, the overwhelming majority of last-minute surveys before New Hampshire's primary showed no statistically significant difference between Obama's polling numbers and what he did at the ballot box. Where's the racism if there was no drop-off in Obama's support between what people told pollsters and what they actually did?

The crucial difference between the polls and the actual results was a rise in Clinton's numbers, not a drop-off in Obama's support. And the pre-primary polls included data that should have tipped off any objective journalist to that possibility.

To varying degrees, the pre-New Hampshire media polls showed large numbers of undecided or wavering voters - and even Obama's lead in some cases was clearly inside the margin of error. Those numbers revealed the potential opening that eventually gave Clinton her victory. But such nuance was too complicated (or inconvenient?) for those who were so anxious to rave about how Obama was winning.

Race-baiting the New Hampshire results is about as ridiculous as scapegoating the pollsters. There is no crisis in polling. There is a crisis in how polls are reported.

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