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Fight over ‘bias’ in political polling as numbers show clear edge for Obama (+video)

Most polls give President Obama the lead over Mitt Romney – some by a margin many find startling. Conservatives say that just proves the polls are rigged to give Democrats the advantage.

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Nate Silver, who pores through political statistics for his FiveThirtyEight blog at the New York Times, finds that polls have no history of being purposely skewed toward one party or the other.

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“The polls have no such history of partisan bias, at least not on a consistent basis,” he wrote Saturday. “There have been years, like 1980 and 1994, when the polls did underestimate the standing of Republicans. But there have been others, like 2000 and 2006, when they underestimated the standing of Democrats.”

“On the whole, it is reasonably impressive how unbiased the polls have been,” Mr. Silver writes. “In both presidential and Senate races, the bias has been less than a full percentage point over the long run, and it has run in opposite directions.”

It takes 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. An analysis by the Associated Press “based on a review of public and private polls, television advertising and numerous interviews with campaign and party officials as well as Republican and Democratic strategists in the competitive states and in Washington” shows that Obama would win at least 271 electoral votes if the election were held today, with likely victories in crucial Ohio and Iowa along with 19 other states and the District of Columbia. Romney would win 23 states for a total of 206.

“To oust the Democratic incumbent, Romney would need to take up-for-grabs Florida, Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, New Hampshire and Virginia, which would put him at 267 votes, and upend Obama in either Ohio or Iowa,” the AP reported Sunday.

Still, Silver, Barone, and other experts caution against making too big a deal out of political polls. And yet both campaigns watch them like hawks, and they have their own polling operations as well.

Why do Election 2012 swing states matter? 5 resources to explain.


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