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Editorial: Only poll that counts

Which poll can you believe? One day a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll says Barack Obama has opened up a double-digit lead over John McCain. The next day an Associated Press poll says they’re virtually tied.
Voters and journalists are not supposed to care about the “horse race” aspect of politics ó that is, who’s winning and who’s losing. The candidates’ stances on the issues are more important. But the stances aren’t moving, the polls are. And if you care at all about the presidential race, you want to know how it’s going.
A Web site devoted to political polls, pollster.com, says Wednesday’s newest polls showed “random change” in both directions, with 11 of 17 state polls moving at least a point in Obama’s direction and four in McCain’s direction since the last survey by the same pollster. The site’s accompanying U.S. map showed a lot more blue states than this country has seen for a while. Yet the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll and the AP poll arrive at substantially different numbers.
Sound fishy? Voters actually should be more suspicious if all polls had the same findings, since pollsters call random groups. The most recent AP poll surveyed a nationally representative random sample of 1,101 adults, Each poll is “a snapshot of a highly fluid campaign,” the Associated Press has explained.
Which poll should voters believe? None of them, probably. Although early voting diminishes the impact late developments can have, this race breaks ground in so many ways that it’s totally unpredictable, even with statements in hand from 1,101 randomly selected adults. Don’t let polls sway your vote. Consider the candidates and their qualifications. The only poll that counts is the real one taking place right now in voting booths across the nation. We’ll learn the results on the evening of Nov. 4.

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