Can We Believe the Polls?

Monday, 15 Oct 2012 09:37 AM

By Jon Friedman

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I don't believe the polls on the presidential elections.

Sorry, but I'm skeptical even though we have certainly reached a point in the political process in which pollsters can measure every conceivable demographic and geographic group of voters. The polls merely keep telling me what I already know: This is a tight election, lots of folks remain undecided and the candidates need to work harder to connect with the electorate.

But I'm not buying their value because the polls can't tell us what we really need to know: What will the rather large group of undecided voters do on Election Day? The polls merely confuse the issue for me.

Urgent Poll: Who Won the Vice Presidential Debate? Vote Here!

What I would want to know is what will make the undecideds pull the lever one way or another?

The debates will go a long way toward giving each candidate a persona — and confirming what we voters think we already know about each side.

Once, there weren't so many polls to ponder. Life seemed so much easier back then. Politicians had a clear idea on what they had to do and they presented specific points of view.

Now, because their teams of advisers arm them with reams of evidence of likely voter behavior, the candidates head into debates and stump appearances as robots who are only capable of spouting the data that they have just memorized about the deficit, national security, crime, inflation, unemployment, and the stock market.

I have no illusions. We can't turn the clock back and yearn for a time when we voters weren't being bombarded by instant polls that say everything — and nothing.

Urgent Poll: Who Won the Vice Presidential Debate? Vote Here!

I just wish the pollsters would be able to tell me something conclusive about what America is thinking about the two candidates. There are so many polls now that they tend to contradict the findings of the previous one, taken seemingly only moments earlier.

Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch.com. Click here to read his latest column. He is also the author of "Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)invention, Shunning the Naysayers and Creating a Personal Revolution," which is now available. Read more reports from Jon Friedman — Click Here Now.





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