A new poll released today in the Nevada senate race should serve as a lesson for any candidates who wish to refute negative poll results: leave the poll analysis to the pollsters.
The kerfuffle began last week, when Harry Reid's campaign pushed back against the results of a Las Vegas Review-Journal / Mason-Dixon poll showing Reid behind in potential Senate contests against two GOP frontrunners. The Reid campaign's criticism was that the poll didn't include all ballot options, leaving off several independent candidates and a "none of the above" option that appears on the ballot in Nevada.
Today, the Review-Journal responded in a predictable manner: they called the Reid campaign's bluff and released a new poll testing Reid against Sue Lowden (the Republican), six additional candidates, and "none of these." The result? 45% Lowden, 33% Reid. The result in the previously released poll? 46% Lowden, 38% Reid. This time, the Reid campaign's criticisms got even more bizarre: the Review-Journal reports that Reid's spokesman, Jon Summers, claimed that none of Mason-Dixon's polls are "scientifically sound" because they rely on random digit dialing to collect their samples rather than lists of registered or likely voters.
A Reid spokesman elaborated, as reported by Rachel Slajda at TPM:
"It's especially problematic in NV where less than half the voting age population cast ballots in the 2008 Presidential election ... In 2006 (the last off year election), just 31% of voting age Nevadans turned out. With turnout so low, the gap between the number who claim to be voters in response to a public poll and the numbers who actually vote is likely to be substantial."
Although many campaign pollsters do use list samples, RDD is hardly an exception to the rule for media pollsters. As our own Charles Franklin told TPM's Slajda:
"It's a complete inversion of the truth ... Random digit dialing is the standard method of doing polls -- hardly an exception, let alone a disadvantage."
Any guess on how the Reid campaign responds once someone goes into the field using a list sample?