06/09/2009 12:21 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Virginia: "Polls" We Shall Not Name

One of our alert readers noted two paragraphs in yesterday's New York Times report on today's Democratic primary for Governor in Virginia. First this:

A close ally of Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. McAuliffe, 52, is a multimillionaire businessman with an outsize personality who held an early lead in statewide polls based largely on his ability to out-talk and outspend his opponents.

Then later in the story, this:

After most polls had the three candidates in a statistical dead heat for most of the race, Mr. Deeds opened up a slight lead over the weekend, but many voters were still undecided and turnout was expected to be low.

Never mind that the characterization of McAuliffe's lead in "statewide polls" in the first paragraph clashes with the supposed "statistical dead heat" shown by "most polls . . . for most of the race" (the first paragraph had it right). Which polls is the Times talking about? After all the Times' official Polling Standards forbid the publication of of "interactive voice response polls," surveys "conducted by Democratic or Republican pollsters or privately-sponsored organizations or interest groups," and labels as "questionable" those surveys based on registered voter lists.

Our compilation includes seventeen publicly released, statewide surveys in Virginia that reported a vote preference question on the Democratic primary race. Of the seventeen, eleven were automated (IVR) polls (from PPP and SurveyUSA), two were conducted by Moran's Democratic pollster (Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner Research) and one more (from Suffolk University) was conducted using live interviewers but drew a sample from the list of registered voters. That leaves three polls conducted using live interviewers and a random digit dial sample by Research 2000 on behalf of the DailyKos website. You can decide whether DailyKos counts as a "privately-sponsored organization or interest group."

More to the point, the only surveys that showed Deeds opening up a lead "over the weekend" were the automated/IVR polls done by PPP and SurveyUSA.

Similarly, the Washington Post tells us this morning "surveys" have been showing "remarkable volatility in the race's final days," but since those surveys do not meet the Posts standards for publication, they will not report on them.

So apparently the recent findings from these automated polls are newsworthy, but who did them, what they show (specifically) and why are not. Got it?

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