If, hypothetically speaking, you were ever to make the mistake of publicly mentioning your instinctive distrust of the polling process, you would be innundated with email from Very Rational People assuring you that polls are conducted Very Scientifically and are therefore Very Trustworthy and you’d have to be some sort of crazed irrational luddite to ever think otherwise.
And yet. What does it mean when poll results vary wildly when Bush has a double-digit lead in one poll, and yet the race is apparently neck-and-neck in another? Perhaps these polls have a twelve point margin of error, which is to say, they’re complete guesswork. Perhaps one of these polls is trustworthy and the other uses questionable methodology but the very fact that questionable methodology can exist takes us back to my initial point: I don’t trust polls. Or, maybe more accurately, I trust them in the way that I trust the weather forecast which is to say, they may give you a general sense of the mood of the country but they often miss the sudden thunderstorm that blows up out of nowhere and totally ruins your picnic.
Or the other guy’s picnic, if you prefer.
Look, a lot of people want you to believe that if Bush pulls ahead 7/8ths of a point, it means that he’s got the election sewn up and you might as well stay home on election day because there’s really no point in bothering. They want you to believe that because a certain sequence of events has occurred in the past, there’s no possible way Bush can lose now. They want you to believe that because liberals do not worship Kerry with the unconditional unthinking adoration conservatives seem to have for Bush, the outcome of the election is predetermined.
It’s all bollocks, of course. Republicans just want to psyche you out. They want you to think they can’t be defeated. They want you to doubt yourself, to stumble, to give up. But there are way too many variables at play. Iraq, the economy, terrorism it’s a confluence of events which hasn’t come together like this before. We’re in uncharted territory.
The future hasn’t been written yet. Don’t forget that.