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The Foreman Forecast: About those polls

If you don’t like the polls, don’t get mad at the pollsters; get mad at the candidates.
Hillary Clinton poses for a selfie with an audience member at a campaign Voter RegistReuters

My wife has a lot of energetic opinions about my driving. “Look out!” she’ll shout as I merge onto the D.C. Beltway. “Change lanes — pull over — speed up!” It’s not quite that bad and admittedly I kibitz from the shotgun seat too. My favorite line is: “If you’re going to keep tailgating like this, don’t you think we should update our will?” She loves that one.

The point is, we are both overreacting. (Well, it’s mainly her, but let’s not quibble.) As of this week we have been married 30 years and not once has either of us grabbed the wheel, stepped on the gas, and wrapped the Mazda around a power pole. Yet we go on responding to each tap of the brakes as if our hair has been set ablaze.

And this is how way too many voters are reacting to every change in the presidential polls. No matter how little the numbers budge, if the movement is against their candidate they howl that the poll is misleading/unfair/a tool of Satan or all of the above. And these voters are wrong.

Conspiracy theorists may imagine wicked pollsters conjuring skewed results from boiling pots of numbers, but I have never once seen evidence of that. But to the contrary, most credible news outlets are simply making an honest effort to measure what the public thinks at a given moment, and most non-partisan pollsters I know sit in bright offices laboring to produce questions, analyses and demographic breakdowns — all designed to thwart bias. That’s it.


Granted, some echo chamber, garbage websites push bogus polls. And even honest polls can be honestly wrong. Predicting how millions of voters will behave is tougher than guessing what Ann Coulter will say at a roast. In this election some pollsters have told me already we could see surprises come November.

But if you don’t like the polls, don’t get mad at the pollsters; get mad at the candidates — who so far have each failed to produce and hold a convincing lead. And don’t make me pull this car over.

(CNN’s Tom Foreman is the author of "My Year of Running Dangerously"...and an excellent driver.)

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