September 24, 2004

by Reb Yudel
Mystery Pollster's McGovernite Past!

Looking for the ins-and-outs of polling in these last pre-elections weeks? Then you've probably already followed the recommendations of anti-Clinton centrist Mickey Kaus and pro-Bush faux-Libertarian Glenn Reynolds and visited Mark Blumenthal's new Mystery Pollster blog.

But do Mark's blogger fans know of his secret past as a strong, unabashed McGovernite?

That's right. Back in '72, when I was in third grade and Mark in fourth, our liberal Jewish school in Cleveland was strongly pro-McGovern. After the Democrat won in the school poll, it was baffling that the national landslide went in the opposite direction.

But however much we kids may have echoed our parents' liberal politics, noone was a political junkie like Mark.

I remember a couple of years later in the summer of '74, sitting in front of the Blumenthal tv set, waiting for the breaking-bulletins about Watergate and ultimately the president's resignation. Mark was not only watching eagerly; he had a tape-recorded primed to record the moment for posterity.

It's exciting to see someone's life take an exciting course plotted more than 30 years ago. Maybe it's time for me to reapply to the NASA astronaut corps....

Starting a political polling blog right now is a bit like the opening of the first Star Wars movie. We are in medias res -- in the middle of events -- with bombs exploding and lasers blasting in all directions. Nonetheless, it is also a moment of peak interest in the workings of my chosen career. An unexpected confluence of events has provided the opportunity to act on an idea I've pondered for months. So ready or not, here we go.

I am a Democratic pollster, but my aim here is not to try to spin the latest poll results in any particular direction. There are many other voices in the blogosphere that perform that function admirably. My hope is to provide a bit of straight shooting – the same role I play for my clients – with respect to polling methodology and what the polls can and cannot tell us about the state of the campaign. I also hope provide a bit of criticism and fact checking on the good, bad and ugly of surveys in the public domain. That's criticism in the formal sense, less about attacking and casting blame than about evaluating and providing an authoritative though, admittedly, subjective opinion.

I have spent most of the last 18 years as an apprentice analyst, senior analyst and ultimately a partner in firms that conduct surveys for Democratic candidates, working with some of the most brilliant pollsters and political strategists in America. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to design and analyze literally hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of polls designed to plot strategy and track campaigns as they progress toward Election Day.

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