Editorial: Don’t believe the polls

In an email to supporters Tuesday, congressional hopeful Randy Altschuler said new polling numbers show he has a four-point lead over Congressman Tim Bishop.

When asked for a response, the Bishop camp produced a recent poll that shows Mr. Bishop leading by 24 points. They also dismissed Mr. Altschuler’s poll as having been conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, a company that a New York Times blog labeled “biased and inaccurate.”

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Mr. Altschuler’s camp then fired back, charging that the poll Mr. Bishop’s people touted had been performed by a political action committee that functions like “an arm of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.”

The moral of this story: Don’t believe polling data.

One particularly telling part of Tuesday’s exchange was a claim by Mr. Bishop’s people that the Altschuler campaign has paid more than $50,000 in the past year, including nearly $17,000 in April, to McLaughlin & Associates, an international polling and research firm. “That’s a real polling company,” said Bobby Pierce, communications director for Bishop for Congress.

According to Mr. Pierce, the Altschuler campaign has to date released no polling data from McLaughlin & Associates.

One could conclude that after McLaughlin produced results that Mr. Altschuler’s people didn’t want to share, they hired Pulse to tell a different tale.

While we understand the value of being able to tell people that your guy’s ahead in hopes that undecided voters will gravitate toward the “winning” side, it seems incredibly wasteful to spend campaign funds for information that provides no real insight into how you’re actually doing. That’s like a business hiring a focus group stacked only with people they already know like their product. Sure, the group’s report will boost your ego, but will the information help you grow?

Here’s a piece of advice for the two campaigns: Stop wasting money on bogus polls. Spend that money instead on telling people how you really feel.

This is a key election and it comes at a critical time for our nation. Our economy has not recovered. The housing market remains sluggish. Unemployment is still high. Foreign tensions continue to escalate.

What’s Tim Bishop doing about this? What would Randy Altschuler do differently?

We’re happy to hear you’re both popular. Now tell us what we need to know.

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