It is a natural part of living in America that one cannot go long without hearing someone quote the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in saying that “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” However, this quote of Moynihan has achieved even more time in the public lately as both Republicans and Democrats use it to criticize the other over the reliability of public opinion polling. Many – though not by any means all – Republicans have touted that polls are biased due to assuming a high party identification for Democrats. Democrats have insisted that the polls are fair.
The insistence that polls are heavily skewed in favor of Obama comes as an interesting contrast to historical precedent. In Wisconsin, the polls that predicted a Scott Walker victory came true, showing that polling firms weren’t pursing the sabotage of data in order to assure Democrats of victory. In 2010, polls accurately predicted a Republican sweep of the House. In 2004, polls accurately indicated the decline of John Kerry. There’s no particular reason that every pollster in America should have adopted a massive bias – especially since many conservatives have implied that this bias must have been adopted over the last few weeks alone, given that those who now call the polls skewed and poorly weighted said nothing when they indicated the race as close.
Even if the polls were skewed, their recent shifts would still be a dire warning for the Republican Party. A downturn to the extent that recent polls have shown is never a good sign, regardless of the candidate’s lead. The concern over skewed polls represents a refusal to examine the indication of recent polling data, and that it indicates a dire state of the race for Mitt Romney – if not in his current standing, but in his trajectory.
The issue with the “skewed poll” argument, and the reason that some Republicans such as Governor Chris Christie are coming out against it, is that it results in ignoring the legitimate problems that have induced polling woes for the Romney campaign. While it might make sense to hold optimism before all on the day before election day, the Romney campaign still has time to correct its errors and come out on top.
The major problem that can be fixed is the lack of a message. The reason that Romney gaffes have gotten so much attention is that the Romney campaign isn’t putting out a concrete idea for the public to focus on. Instead it seems to jump from issue to issue and from tone to tone – partially to adjust for prior gaffes. There is one issue that the Romney campaign can solidify on and focus on in a targeted way. That issue is the economy. After the Democratic Convention, the poor August Jobs numbers represented an excellent chance for the campaign to remind voters of the issue that had driven 2008, 2010, and the 2012 primaries – the job record of the incumbent. By this I mean not just increased focus on the economy in stump speeches, but major advertising and media pushes outlining the issue of the economy. When I say “issue of the economy,” that is because simply calling attention to the economy being bad is not enough. A fully comprehensive approach to the issue requires Romney to focus on how he would do better, Some of this policy is already fully available, and just needs more focusing. Some economic policies should be outlined by the Romney campaign, in order to come off as a viable alternative. The Romney campaign has appeared to over-judge the effect of running against an incumbent, and has assumed that the economy can be ran against. However, there still needs to be something to run against the economy and the Romney campaign has failed to provide a clear substantive message that outlines how Mitt Romney is better than Obama for the economy. Using its financial reserves, its media airtime, the debates, and over a month of time before the election, the Romney campaign can do this. However, it will take realistic examination of the state of the campaign, not excuses for bad polls.