Friday, October 24, 2008

Are polls accurate?

It’s a cold beginning to this Friday. The forecast that says it will remain sunny, though, is a good one. I’m not sure I like the hint we’ll be getting some rain Sunday and possibly some more next week.

For anyone who may have read yesterday’s post about my dental woes, I think the correction that was made yesterday may have done the trick. The ache and pain seem to be gone this morning. We’ll see.

Do you know who is going to win the elections? Neither do I? We can’t know since we don’t have real information. I’ve read many poll results lately and, although the numbers are extremely inconsistent, the outcome guesses are pretty stable. But I have to wonder who truly is leading in the various races and referenda issues. My gut gives me the answer, but polls are based on statistics. You can get just about any result from statistics you want.

I find it fascinating that one poll can have the Presidential race in a virtual tie. That would be the AP poll which shows Obama leading McCain 44 to 43 percent. Yet many others have the difference anywhere from 4 to 20 percentage points. In races concerning Maine’s congressional races, the Democrats are in full control. Well, Susan Collins is leading Tom Allen and Sen. Collins does have an “R” after her name, but her ads refer to her as an independent.

Speaking of Collins and Allen, they have a battle about party votes in their respective ads. Don’t you find it interesting that Allen says Collins is bad because she votes as a Republican and Collins says Allen is bad because he votes as a Democrat? According to Collins, Allen votes as his party wishes 98% of the time. That’s bad. Allen says Collins is in lockstep with President Bush. That’s bad. We simply can’t have our representatives voting according to the way we think they should, and that would be according to the party we elected them from. Of course, I’m not sure either one of them really does.

According to those polls, the casino referendum for Oxford County is losing. I’ve said here many times it is a flawed law that proponents want passed and even they say it can be fixed by the Legislature. Yesterday a group of lawmakers held a press conference in Portland and said that making those changes wasn’t as easy as proponents would like you to believe. According to the Portland Press Herald reporting on that news conference, the lawmakers said attempts to change the racino law to allow slots at race tracks received considerable exertion by the gambling industry to make their changes. A spokesman for the Oxford casino said the industry supports necessary changes.

And speaking of those Bangor slots, a story this morning on WCSH-TV, Channel Six in Portland, reported that the Bangor Slots wants to increase their hours and open at 8 instead of noon on Sundays. The slots people say they’re losing from seven hundred thousand to a million dollars a year by not opening Sunday mornings. The operation currently closes at 4 A.M. Just imagine all the money leaving Maine for Las Vegas because of Hollywood Slots in Bangor. Imagine all the money leaving Maine for Las Vegas if the Oxford casino referendum passes.

Finally, if those polls are close to being accurate, the repeal referendum on the increase in taxes on beverages and insurance claims referendum is going down handily. No one will lose their insurance if the referendum does pass, but it could lead to a new discussion on the Dirigo health plan and perhaps discussions leading to changing restrictive laws that will allow real affordable health insurance.

Again, though, let me reiterate. Those are just poll results. I believe a goodly number of people respond to polls in one of two ways: they either say what they think the caller wants to hear or they just say anything to get rid of the caller. Today, many polls are conducted by automated callers so those results can also be questionable. The real accuracy of polls, perhaps, can be shown by their predictions. A couple of them come to mind. I remember the first poll when I began to understand polling. Those polls showed Thomas Dewey beating Harry Truman in the 1948 elections. And in all our lifetimes, keep in mind that polls had John Kerry beating George Bush.

The only poll result that counts will be revealed Nov. 5th.

Now let’s get ready for the weekend. The games I’ll be following are Kentucky in the Swamp against Florida Saturday night and St. Louis at New England Sunday afternoon. I might sneak in some World Series and auto racing, too. But a lot of my watching will depend on what Gator Wife has planned for us for this weekend.


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