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Ignore the Rasmussen Poll

by Published on

A new Rasmussen poll of the governor’s race has people talking today.

It shows Democratic challenger Bill White within four points of Gov. Rick Perry. (The poll found Perry earning support from 48 percent of respondents and White 44 percent.)

The reactions have ranged from giddiness (Burnt Orange Report) to guarded optimism (Off the Kuff) to skepticism (Burka). 

On the surface, this seems good news for White, who has been polling 6 to 10 points behind Perry.

But if you look a little deeper, the poll is essentially meaningless. For one, as Burka points out, polls this far out from election day aren’t usually worth paying attention to. Especially so in this case.

Rasmussen conducted a one-day survey of 500 voters. One-day polls are typically less reliable than multi-day surveys.

Moreover, the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent. That’s very high. My usual rule is to ignore any poll with a margin of error much higher than 3 percent.

With an error range that big, Perry could be as high as 52.5 percent and White as low as 39.5. It’s entirely possible the poll has shorted Perry 3-4 percent, in which case the governor would have a 7-8 point lead—largely unchanged from recent months.

Given all that, my advice—whether you’re a Perry or White supporter—is to ignore this poll. 

Dave Mann has been with the Observer since 2003. Before that, he worked as a reporter in Fort Worth and Washington, D.C. He was born and raised in Philadelphia. He thinks border collies are the world’s greatest dogs, and believes in the nourishing powers of pickup basketball.