Ignore the Hype: This is a Dead Heat

I think we all know what the headline from this morning’s Washington Post story said about the Governor’s race: O’Malley has 8-point lead over Ehrlich among registered voters.

And it is in the headline that shows exactly why the headline is misleading, and why this race is already too close to call.

The key point of the headline and of the poll results as they are reported by John Wagner, Aaron Davis and Jon Cohen is that Martin O’Malley is far ahead of Bob Ehrlich when you restrict the data to registered voters; in that case, O’Malley has 49-41 lead. The problem with that part of the poll, however, is that while it deals with a statistically significant number of voters for the scope of a statewide race, the results are just that; registered voters.

That 49-41 number is not indicative of the people who are actually going to go vote in the polls on Election Day. As the Post story notes (but in the second paragraph, naturally) is that among those individuals who are certain to vote on election day, Bob Ehrlich and Martin O’Malley are tied 47-47.

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Of course, a poll of registered voters and a poll of certain voters are both reasonably meaningless; the real action in polling is in the realm of likely voters, because those are the margins that make the difference in an election as close as this one. And for reasons that I cannot begin to fathom, the Post neglected to poll on the one number that would actually make for a relevant story.

Nobody should make too much out of this, but given the data that is available it is safe to say that this race is undoubtedly in the margin of error. Forget the headline, forget the hype, and forget the people trying to make too much out of the results of this poll; the race can’t get any tighter than this, and O’Malley and Company are already feeling the heat as evidence by O’Malley’s babyish rants on WTOP this morning…..


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