Wednesday, October 10, 2012
While pundits get excited about the post-debate polls, political science suggests they will level out
In excitable pundits vs. political scientists, I’ll take political scientists every time
Political scientists will tell you that debates don’t usually decide presidential elections, or even lead to noticeable changes in the polls. In their huge survey of every publicly available poll in the last 15 presidential campaigns, Robert Erikson and Christopher Wlezien concluded, “there is no case where we can trace a substantial shift to the debates.” A study by James Stimson came to much the same conclusion … For the record, I’ll take political scientists looking at thousands of polls over multiple elections over pundits freaking out after the first few polls following the first presidential debate. This, in my view, is exactly what political science does well: Reminds you to calm down, to take the long view, and to ask yourself whether you think this election will break from historical precedent, and if so, why.
Simon Owens is an assistant managing editor at U.S. News & World Report. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. Email him at email@example.com