Blame the Polls, Yes, but Media, Too

Post-Iowa hype skewed the preprimary coverage in New Hampshire.


There was too much moaning in the press about the polls missing Sen. Hillary Clinton's upset of Sen. Barack Obama in the New Hampshire primary.

Yes, the pollsters and the media deserve some criticism but more for the reporting following the post-Iowa hype of Obama's victory there.

Moreover, the polling data surprised even the Clinton campaign. It was recording the same poor numbers as the nonpartisan pollsters. The senator was fully prepared to put up a tough front in the wake of a second straight loss.

Of course, the polls were almost on target in the GOP primary. The forecast of the victory margin of Sen. John McCain over former Gov. Mitt Romney was nearly exact.

Former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw, who admitted he was caught up in the Obama preprimary numbers, had it right in the postprimary analysis. He said the problem is that there is so much time to fill now in the primary season. Both races are still wide open and drawing heavy and daily attention.

This is particularly true of cable television. Anchors seem compelled to race out with the latest poll numbers.

Polling is an ongoing political science. Andrew Kohut, who conducts authoritative and nonpartisan polls for the Pew Center for the People and the Press, points out that African-Americans and young voters are often difficult to reach by phone. Future models may have to take this into account more in the tabulations.

So there was an upset in New Hampshire, but some of the moaning was overdone. The pollsters can get back on track right away in Michigan, Nevada, and South Carolina.