Wisconsin Moves to the Far Right or Just Bad Polling?

Teagan Goddard’s Political Wire just came through with a post titled “Another Poll Shows Feingold in Close Race“. Hardly surprising given the political environment, it shows Senator Feingold ahead of Ron Johnson 45%-43%. They must not have heard of Johnson’s plan to drill for oil in the Great Lakes.

The poll links to a company called Magellan Strategies. These results come from a two hour interview window on July 12th from 6 to 8 pm, among 1,145 adults, presumably, and it has a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points at the 99% confidence level. Seems like a reputable survey since they interviewed so many people but no human being talked to them or later verified if a survey was done (if they did do this, it is not in their “methodology“). It takes my interviewers forever to do even 5-10 minute surveys over a week, but somehow Magellan can get a lot of people pushing buttons over a phone in a short period of time and call it a poll with an extremely high confidence level.

However, the poll also included a poll about Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court. According to them, more people oppose her nomination (43%) than support it (41%) with 15% undecided. That’s odd, given how the Washington Post released a national poll last week conducted the old-fashioned way, with human beings calling and talking to other human beings and recording their answers, and making multiple calling attempts to ensure a random sample. It took the Post 5 days to reach slightly more people (1,288) than Magellan did in two hours in Wisconsin. In the Post poll 53% said Elena Kagan should be confirmed, 25% said she should not be, and 22% were unsure. How can 53% of adults nationally support her confirmation, but 43% oppose her confirmation in Wisconsin, a state less conservative than the country as a whole (34% conservative in the United States, 31% conservative in Wisconsin in the 2008 exit poll).

Never believe a polling number that can’t be verified elsewhere or is completely at odds with national polling results from reputable news outlets. The real Magellan never would have made it a couple of hundred miles if he had these strategists using his name helping guide him with robot interviewers.


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