VA-GOV: Questionable Polling Gives Deeds the Edge

Last week, Rasmussen Reports achieved a feat that has never before been accomplished in the history of mankind: The survey research firm produced a poll ...
by | June 17, 2009

Last week, Rasmussen Reports achieved a feat that has never before been accomplished in the history of mankind: The survey research firm produced a poll that not even I thought was worthy of discussion.

Rasmussen conducted a one-day survey of the Virginia governor's race the day after Creigh Deeds won the Democratic nomination. In other words, they asked voters who they were supporting on the same day that every newspaper in the state had a headline that said something to the effect of, "Deeds wins triumphant, incredible, smashing landslide!"

The poll gave Deeds a six-point lead, when every pre-primary poll had indicated that Republican Bob McDonnell had the edge. But, there was no way of knowing whether the electorate really had moved toward Deeds or whether he was just basking in the short-term afterglow of his primary victory. The poll, I thought, was pretty much worthless.

As you may have noticed, though, I'm discussing the poll right now, in this very blog post. I guess Rasmussen won't end up in the Guinness Book of World Records after all.

Why the change of heart?

Yesterday, a second post-primary poll became public showing Deeds ahead, this time by four points. It was conducted by Democratic firm Anzalone-Liszt on behalf of the Democratic Governors Association. Partisan polls aren't always unreliable, but they always deserve skepticism.

The Anzalone-Liszt poll was in the field for five days, beginning the day after Deeds' primary win, so it suffered from the same problem as the Rasmussen poll (though to a lesser extent). It also produced some results that are simply hard to believe. A Democrat (even a rural Democrat) is ahead by 22 points in Southwest Virginia?

These polls do, however, give each other a little more credibility. When two polls say the same thing, it's hard not to take notice. Maybe Deeds' numbers were artificially high the day or two after the election. Then again, maybe the media attention of the campaign and the amicable conclusion to the Democratic race gave him a unity bounce and a durable increase in support. Still, I'd like to see one more poll before jumping to that conclusion.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com  | 

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