05/24/2012 07:23 pm ET Updated May 25, 2012

Late Returns: Expert Advice On Which Polls You Should Ignore

We have apparently entered the part of the 2012 mid season where the rapid accumulation of polling data is met by a burgeoning field of experts who think everyone should ignore the data in new and exciting ways that not everyone agrees upon completely.

Should you care about the national head-to-head tracking data among likely voters excluding cell-phone users? Or is it more important to pay attention to state-by-state snapshots of registered voters, cross-referenced with state-level expressions of approval rating and party enthusiasm? You should definitely do none or all of these things, sometimes or never. Or, you could do the opposite. There is literally something, nothing or everything that you can do about it.

But, hey, let's get some expert opinion up in here. Here's Paul Begala, writing for the Daily Beast:

Quick readers’ guide to the 2012 polls: until the final two weeks, ignore the head-to-head horserace. It’s an artificial question: “If the election were held today, would you vote for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama?” You can almost hear the poor person on the other end of the phone saying, “It’s only May. We don’t know Romney’s running mate or his platform. We haven’t had debates or even a campaign.”

Instead of obsessing about who’s up and who’s down, look at how folks view the direction of the country. When the “right direction” number creeps up close to 50 percent, the incumbent is going to win. But when it plunges, get ready to back the moving van up to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. At this writing, that all-important indicator is a middling 31 percent—almost precisely equidistant from both an outright rejection of Obama and an incumbent’s safe reelection.

Right! Everyone should pay strict attention to the number that currently says that President Barack Obama will almost certainly win the election unless he doesn't. Got it!

(When did 31% become a "middling" number where the poll question, "is the country moving in the right direction" is concerned, by the way? OH, I PROBABLY JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND "POLLING.")

Jonathan Bernstein has better advice that's founded in very simple statistics.


Romney Revolves On Health Care: Jonathan Cohn has the latest on what Mitt Romney will do for his second attempt at a health-care reform, now that his first attempt has been deemed to be anathema in the GOP circles that once applauded it. An early review: "Never before in history has a candidate run for President with the idea that too many people have insurance coverage.” [The New Republic]

Defining Down "Skill Set": As it turns out, the only skill you need to be a political reporter is to not be a corpse or a plant or a piece of furniture. [Wonkette]

Is Romney A Secret Keynesian Anti-Austerist? The speculation continues, because his Keynesian side keeps on peeking out. On the other hand, so does his tendency to answer questions with Sarah Palin-style word salad. [The Plum Line/Daily Intel]

Non-Surprise Of The Day: I'm sure this is going to just shock you to your core, but as it turns out, "Many local television stations do not consistently evaluate the accuracy of the political ads they air." [CJR]

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