On Sunday, the day before the first debate between the two major candidates, the Washington Post announced the latest findings of the ABC/WP poll with the headline, “Poll: Clinton, Trump in virtual dead heat on eve of first debate.”
Similarly, ABC announced the findings, “The race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump has narrowed to essentially a dead heat nationally.”
It’s simply not true to characterize the results as “essentially” or “virtually” a dead heat.
The ABC/WP poll finds a two-point lead for Clinton, 46% to 44%. These results mirror almost exactly the average of polls compiled by RealClearPolitics, which shows that Clinton leads Trump 46.2% to 43.7%. The compilation of polls by HuffPollster also shows a two-point lead, 41.4% to 39.4%.
The problem here is that ABC and the Post report their “news” as though there are no other polls measuring public opinion. They implicitly assume that all other polls are completely irrelevant, while only their poll has news value.
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That’s how ABC can write “The 2-point gap between them [Clinton and Trump] is not significant, given the survey’s margin of sampling error. The race has closed from an 8-point lead in early August.”
First, the two-point gap, when combined with the average of all other polls, is indeed substantively and statistically significant.
Second, the race hasn’t just this week closed from an 8-point Clinton lead. True to their pattern of ignoring all other polls, ABC and the Post compare their results only with their own previous results, which were last reported more than six weeks earlier. Their announcement that there has been a tightening of the race is not news. See the RealClearPolitics chart – if anything, the lead has been widening since last week, after what had been a significant tightening of the race.
Don’t ABC and the Post pay attention to the news?