As the presidential election gets ever closer, new polls come out nearly every day, some suggesting that President Barack Obama is gaining an unassailable lead, others predicting challenger Mitt Romney is inching ahead.
Both sides like to put their spin on the results, however bad they look. Each wants to take comfort from a little piece of data hidden inside.
But how does the average voter find out which poll he or she should you believe and which polls are there merely as a distraction?
Costas Panagopoulos of Fordham University, surveying 23 polling organizations, prepared a list showing which organizations were most accurate in their final poll before the 2008 election.
Two — Rasmussen Reports and the Pew Research Center — got the result dead right, Panagopoulos says. Of the other 21, 17 over-estimated support for Barack Obama, while just four said John McCain would receive a larger percentage of the vote than he actually did.
The big media organizations almost universally failed to give readers a final accurate prediction, with Newsweek coming in dead last, just behind polls for CBS/New York Times; Reuters/C-Span/Zogby and Gallup.
Polls carried out for Fox, NBC, ABC, the Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal were also all in the bottom half of Panagopoulos’ study.
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