At some point, someone has to ask: What purpose do political polls serve other than getting the name of the sponsoring news organization onto competitors’ pages or newscasts?
Over the weekend, of course, two polls for the U.S. Senate race showed Al Franken well in front in one race, well behind in another. Net effect? Useless information.
Today, Minnesota Public Radio is out with a poll showing Barack Obama “surging ahead” of John McCain in Minnesota. It mirrors to a degree the Star Tribune poll two days ago that shows roughly the same thing.
“As they tune in and as they are concerned about the economy, they’re asking the question ‘Which candidate is better able to handle the economy going forward and to get us out of this economic mess?'” Obama Minnesota campaign boss Jeff Blodgett said. “And overwhelmingly, we are finding that voters are coming toward Barack Obama.”
Meanwhile, a National Journal poll shows McCain closing the gap nationally and pulling within the margin of error, apparently because of the economy. On the question of who is best to handle the economy, the poll said, Obama’s lead has evaporated.
Two other polls show Obama widening his lead over McCain nationally.
So let’s sort this out. Obama is extending his lead, McCain is closing the gap, the economy is responsible for the shift to Obama, and the economy is responsible for the shift to McCain.
We’ve got plenty of polls; we have precious little clarity.