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Jack Zaleski, Published October 27 2012

Zaleski: Bash poll you don’t like? How clever

With the regularity of healthy lower bowel movements, political campaign flaks and partisan talk-radio mouthpieces questioned the methodology and credibility of The Forum poll of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House races in North Dakota. They dumped on the poll by attacking the messenger because they didn’t like the message. What a surprise.

A poll is not a predictor of an election outcome. A poll is a snapshot of the time the poll was taken – nothing more, nothing less. A poll taken today using the same methodology of The Forum poll (conducted about two weeks ago) could have a different result in a close race. A close race can shift after a single debate, a blitz of TV ads or a stumble by a candidate. It happens all the time.

The eagerness of the Heidi Heitkamp Senate campaign and the Pam Gulleson House campaign to selectively lift out-of-context comments about The Forum poll to fit their campaign narratives is intellectually dishonest. It’s clever but crooked. But that was the modus operandi all last week by candidates who found themselves on the down side of the poll. They called on their hired guns to shoot down a professionally done poll they did not like. They missed. They cranked up the faux indignation of political allies on talk radio (now there’s a bright bunch) to parrot the party line. And parrot they did. Squawk! Squawk! No thinking allowed.

Poll bashers also cited academic “experts” who questioned The Forum’s poll and just happen to be associated with polling organizations in competition with the company The Forum used. Draw your own conclusions.

No one of even modest intelligence was fooled by the parochial spin doctors. The Forum poll was good. Its methodology was sound. It gave as accurate a picture as possible of the races at the time the poll was taken. Their status might be different today, and it is possible new polls will show as much. The hard-fought campaigns in North Dakota for the Senate and House are moving targets. (A reliable independent poll taken after The Forum poll reported similar results within the margins of error of both polls.)

The ultimate poll will be the ballot box. We’ll have results of that one in a few days.

Meanwhile, phony whiners on predictably partisan talk radio (not think radio) ought to stick with simpler stuff, like street projects or Bison football. The mercenary toadies in the aggrieved campaigns ought to grow up. And to the candidates: Want better poll numbers? Run better campaigns.

Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521.