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Why the New York Times Poll Is Bogus
Why the New York Times Poll Is Bogus

The Arkansas Senate race has been close in virtually every serious poll. The Republican challenger, Tom Cotton, probably had a small lead a month or so ago; after a massive negative assault on him by Harry Reid's Super PAC, the Democratic incumbent, Mark Pryor, is probably now ahead by a point or two. That's the story told by every reputable public and private poll, including, I'm told, polls by both campaigns.

So what's up with the New York Times/Kaiser Family Foundation poll released today showing Pryor up by 10 points?

What's up is revealed if one burrows into the complete poll results. Look at question 12, here:

In other words, the Times and Kaiser have produced a sample in Arkansas that reports they voted in 2012 for Romney over Obama--by one point. But Romney carried Arkansas in 2012 by 24 points. Similarly, the Kentucky sample is +3 Romney when reality was +23. The Louisiana sample is +3 Obama in a state Obama lost by 17, and the North Carolina sample is +7 Obama in a state he lost by 3.

The whole point of question 12 is to provide a reality test for the sample. That's why they ask that question--we know what happened in 2012, so the only thing to be learned by asking the 2012 question of the sample is to ensure that it's a reasonably accurate snapshot of voters in the state. Of course there'll always be some variance between reality and the sample's report of its vote a year and a half ago--but not a 23 point variance.

A reputable news organization would have looked at question 12 and thrown the poll out. But then again, it was the New York Times.

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