We’ve reached that stage of the campaign. The back-to-school commercials are on the air, and the “unskewing” of polls has begun — the quadrennial exercise in which partisans simply adjust the polls to get results more to their liking, usually with a thin sheen of math-y words to make it all sound like rigorous analysis instead of magical thinking.
If any of this sounds familiar — and if I sound a little exasperated — it’s probably because we went through this four years ago. Remember UnSkewedPolls.com? (The website is defunct, but you can view an archived picture of it here.) The main contention of that site and others like it was that the polls had too many Democratic respondents in their samples. Dean Chambers, who ran the site, regularly wrote that the polls were vastly undercounting independents and should have used a higher proportion of Republicans in their samples. But in the end, the polls underestimated President Obama’s margin.
Now the unskewers are back, again insisting that pollsters are “using” more Democrats than they should, and that the percentage of Democrats and Republicans should be equal, or that there should be more Republicans. They point to surveys like the recent one from ABC News and The Washington Post, in which 33 percent of registered voters identified as Democrats compared to 27 percent as Republicans. That poll found Hillary Clinton ahead by 8 percentage points.
But let’s say this plainly: The polls are not “skewed.” They weren’t in 2012, and they aren’t now.