Expert advice on profusion of polls!


Rhodes scholarship at its finest:
She could have been explaining the latest news about the Obamacare premium increases.

She could have been explaining the contents, or the lack of same, of the latest WikiLeaks dump.

That said, it's as we told you yesterday. The cable news of today is all about the blizzard of polls which swoops down out of the north each day. So Rachel Maddow, Our Own Rhodes Scholar, decided to tackle that problem.

She teased the segment not once, but twice. This was her first preview:
MADDOW (10/26/16): You know, they say, thanks to cable news, that the news cycle is now 24 hours long, which is ridiculously short. You're welcome.

Today, I would say though, is a little different. Today, we got the news cycle so tight and so fast it was more like whiplash than it was an actual cycle, particularly on the issue of polling and who is now winning the presidential race.

We're going to need some expert help to figure out some of what happened today.
What of it makes sense, what of it's important, and what of it you can disregard.

We've got that expert's decoding help coming up tonight. Stay with us.
The analysts were thrilled.

Finally! the youngsters happily cried. Finally, we'll get some help—decoding help, from an expert, no less!—concerning the profusion of polls!

When she returned from commercial break, Maddow killed a segment with pointless piddle about Candidates Perot and Dole in 1996.

After another commercial break, she burned another short segment with piddle—this time, she worked Walter Mondale in—then teased her expert again:
MADDOW: ...But one poll is just one poll. And just as we were digesting that mammoth new lead in that AP poll with Trump down by 14 points, just as we were digesting that, we got another poll from Fox News.

And Fox News, of course, editorially, is conservative, but their polling is for real.
And tonight, the new Fox News poll says, yes, Hillary Clinton is leading nationally by only by 3 points. And that's in a poll with a 2 1/2-point margin of error. So she's winning nationwide by 14 points, she's winning nationwide by 3 points.

I mean, obviously, there isn't a nationwide election. It all comes down to individual states. But still I'm popping numbers from the AP and Fox today and ones that don't make much sense together.

How should we make sense of these numbers? Where exactly are we at right now? We've got expert help on that, next.
We don't know why Maddow felt sure that the new Fox poll was on the level. But by now, she'd burned two segments saying that we'd get "expert help" so we could sift through all these polls.

The analysts were genuinely excited. Finally, they would get some help; Our Own Rhodes Scholar was coming through!

But then, after another commercial break, Maddow introduce her expert. When she did, the analysts' faces fell:
MADDOW: Joining us now is Harry Enten. He's senior political writer for He's a young man we've been increasingly turning to for poll interpretation help.

Harry, thanks for being here.

ENTEN: Pleasure.
"Oh no," several analysts cried. "Not the underwhelming Enten!"

Harry Enten is a young man, just as Rachel said. We're not real sure he's an expert. How much help did he offer last night? This was his first expert tip:
MADDOW (continuing directly): What do you make of the AP national poll coming out tonight showing Clinton with a 14-point lead, right before Fox comes out with a national poll showing her with a 3-point lead? How do we absorb that information responsibly as humans?

ENTEN: Well, I would say what I always say, and that's average them, right? We're going to always average the polls....
Enten went on and on from there. But in his first bit of expert advice, he said what he always says, that we should average the polls.

Maddow wasn't finished with her quest for complete understanding. If you're lucky enough to have an expert on hand, you want to ask as many questions as he'll let you cram in:
MADDOW: Based on the way you look at the polls and the data that you look at and your systems for absorbing it responsibly, do you feel like it's fair to say that the race is tightening a bit right now?

ENTEN: If it's tightening, it's barely tightening. The last model had Hillary Clinton with, say, a 7-point lead and now, maybe, it's like 6.3. That's tightening. But if Donald Trump continues to tighten the rice by that much, with, you know, a little less than two weeks remaining, he's just never going to be able to catch Hillary Clinton.

MADDOW: Unless he tightens the race at a faster pace, there isn't enough time left.

ENTEN: That's exactly right.
Is the Clinton-Trump race tightening? Based on the way he looks at the polls and his systems for absorbing the data he looks at responsibly, Enten cited the basic data which anyone, Maddow included, could have accessed at

Meanwhile, if we understood the rest of that exchange, Maddow said Trump couldn't catch up unless the race tightens more rapidly.

"That's exactly right," the expert Enten replied.

The expertise continued from there, pushed along by Maddow's unrelenting scholarship. Eventually, Enten advised us to keep an eye on Pennsylvania and Florida.

We're not sure we've ever seen anyone dumb herself down more than Maddow has. On the brighter side, her ratings are up. It's what her owners want.


  1. We're not sure we've ever seen anyone repeat his posts more than Somerby has. On the brighter side, his readers are less interested. It's what his analysts are crying about lately.

    1. Bob sure is repetitive, I'll give you that. But he's one of the most original thinkers I've found on the Internet, and he's so right and insightful about so many things that I think it's worth the subscription price to keep reading him.

    2. Maddow's schtick is so derivative of Ira Glass she should send him residuals.

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  5. I'm just grateful she said "decoding" instead of "parsing".

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