The insta-polls

No, really, I should just go to bed.  From Jon Bernstein:

Too easy to dismiss this as “how’d that work out for Romney?”  Do the debates usually change election outcomes?  Nope.  But can the debates matter and move the polls a few points?  Sure.  And tell me right now you don’t think a few points matter.

So, does some insta-poll of an overly-Democratic sample actually mean anything?  Nope.  But, it will help drive the media narrative and that’s what really matters (again, ask Al Gore post first debate).   John Kerry lost to GWB, of course, but he really seemed to make up ground after a solid first debate performance (largely forgotten as he ultimately lost).  I remember watching all the post-debate coverage and you could literally see it evolve in real time in response to the first insta-poll.  It had Kerry “winning” the debate by 7 points or so.  Because that influenced coverage, a couple days later, it was near consensus that Kerry had won.

So, sure it’s the savvy, sophisticated thing to say debates don’t matter.  But just because they usually don’t matter and when they do, they probably don’t matter that much, is no reason to discount that what happened tonight was, at worst, a little bit good for Clinton (and who won’t take that in a tight race), and, at best in an unusually uncertain election environment, very good for Clinton.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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