For political junkies like myself, reading up on the newest poll numbers is habitual and in a sense thrilling. Yet, we as consumers of polls must be conscious of inaccuracies in the data and the media’s role. Working in the Hillary office here in Manchester, poll numbers spread throughout the office via whispers not grand announcements as some would expect: the gap between Hillary and Bernie has continued to shrink, creating an undercurrent of tension and fear in the office. No one openly discusses the closeness of the race but we all realize how close the numbers are in the polls. But, should we at the Hillary office be worried about these polls? The answer is yes, but with caution.
On Saturday evening the Governor of Virginia and former chair of the Democratic National Convention dropped by the Clinton office. Although he assured staffers and volunteers that Hillary is going to win Iowa (and New Hampshire), he continuously used the phrase “A win is a win in Iowa,” furthering my understanding of how there is a mild sense of uncertainty. Already in the short week I have been working on the Clinton campaign two guests have stopped by the office with a third visiting Wednesday—the main purpose of these casual drop-byes is to boost morale and propel us to work harder.
So yes the polls are close, but polls have been inaccurate in the past. Our class is currently reading David W. Moore and Andrew E. Smith’s book, The First Primary, which discusses the importance of poll numbers and its inaccuracies.
One important point the authors make is that polls were not highly publicized until the 1990’s, and are mainly used by the media to create hype prior to the election. Several times in the Clinton office we have been told that poll numbers do not matter—what matters is how many voters show up on primary day. Moore and Smith say that a whopping 15% of voters in New Hampshire decide on the way or inside of the voting booth, an astounding number making quick last minute judgments. An additional 25% say they decide within the last three days before the primary.
From my experiences in the office and classwork I have realized how little value polls serve both to the campaigns and the voters. I truly believe that polls are only displayed to create frenzy. The polls may influence voters to a certain degree, but over a quarter of voters in New Hampshire are undecided up until the primary: we as consumers of the media should be aware of this fact and realize how inaccurate these polls can be. As the Governor of Virginia said, "A win is a win".