Five by 8 – 5/19/10: Somebody’s poll is wrong

1) A new poll out today reveals that…. somebody’s poll is wrong. In the MPR- Humphrey Institute poll, former Sen. Mark Dayton beats all comers and Republican-endorsee Tom Emmer beats all DFLers and Independents but Dayton.

The margin of error in the MPR poll is 5.8 — that’s a lot. An equal number of DFLers and Republicans were measured.

Flashback almost two weeks and we have a KSTP poll that showed Emmer beating all DFLers by a lot. He beat Dayton in the survey of 900 people, most of whom were registered to vote. It surveyed an equal number of DFLers and Republicans, but a greater percentage of independents than the MPR survey. The margin of error was a little over 4 percent.

In the KSTP poll, 17 percent were undecided. In the MPR poll, 25 percent were undecided.

The KSTP poll was put in the field right after the GOP state convention, perhaps giving Republicans a bounce if you assume the average Minnesotan was on the edge of their couch all weekend paying attention to it.

Has there really been an 11-point swing in two weeks from Emmer to Dayton? Not likely. More likely: Somebody’s poll isn’t scientifically representative of the voters as a whole. But after last night’s election results in other states, how would you even try to figure out what representative of the electorate means?

Which poll should you believe? The one you want to.

2) A Connecticut politician admitted yesterday he misspoke. He didn’t serve in Vietnam. He served during Vietnam? Let’s see now: How many political careers have been ruined by questions about service during Vietnam. The Washington Post, naturally, is keeping score.

Dan Quayle kicked off the “what didn’t you do in the war, Daddy” era when reporters questioned how he stayed out of the jungle, and instead got stuck writing press releases in Indiana? Later, questions about the service of someone who actually did go to Vietnam, labeled John Kerry a “coward” while someone who didn’t go got the “patriot” treatment.

Messed up? It’s a perfect political quagmire for a war that was nothing but, says the Post.

These kinds of issues have not arisen for politicians who have gone to war in subsequent conflicts, largely because there was no draft for Iraq and Afghanistan that separated the privileged and the connected from those who had no choice. But the Vietnam War generation will never escape them. What looked at the time to be the most personal decisions — ones bound in honor and survival and ambiguity — have become metaphors for the larger sins of a war whose history continues to be written.

It all comes back to the draft. Thirty years from now, nobody is going to ask politicians what they did during the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, because there’s no longer an equal responsibility to serve as there was in the ’60s where by design everybody could be drafted but by reality the fortunate sons did not.

But the more puzzling question is this one: Why do politicians keep lying about stuff like this? It’s 2010 and while the news business is circling the drain, it’s still pretty easy to catch someone in a lie.

3) The new ground zero in the anti-smoking battle is Rochester, where the City Council has widened a smoking ban in the downtown area to include two blocks of West Center Street between the Kahler Grand Hotel, Methodist Hospital and the Gonda Building. And, the Rochester Post Bulletin reports, it may expand it even more. It started, as smoking bans do, as an indoors ban, now it’s an outdoors ban, too. Some Mayo Clinic employees told the paper they can’t get to the part of the city where they can smoke and then get back to their jobs in the 10-minutes they have to take a break.

Which brings up the question: At what point is a ban on smoking in a certain spot simply the outlawing of smoking in general?

4) Children of the Great Recession. I wonder what stories today’s 7-year-olds will be telling their grandchildren 50 years from now about what it’s like to grow up during the Great Recession?5) “Not in my middle-of-nowhere.” Wind farms seemed like a great idea years ago and maybe they still are. But dozens of people packed a hearing room in Stearns County yesterday to consider whether the county should ban large wind farms, according to the St. Cloud Times.

It’s a growing issue. Should the wide-open horizon of greater Minnesota be dotted with dozens of wind turbines as far as they eye can see?

You know, like Iowa:


(h/t: Midwest Energy News)


Security cameras are becoming such a regular feature of urban life that they raise privacy concerns in some minds. Have security cameras ever made you feel intruded upon?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: What happens to security camera information once it’s viewed or recorded? As federal security agencies and local police forces try to come up with ways to prevent terrorist attacks, this raw information is up for grabs.

Second hour: As a Jesuit priest in a gang-ridden neighborhood in Los Angeles, Father Gregory Boyle has seen his share of violence and unnecessary death. The jobs program he created offers youth a different path from gang life.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Second hour: Live broadcast from National Press Club with the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Tim Kaine.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: NPR political editor Ken Rudin sorts through yesterday’s election results.

Second hour: Theauthor of “Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us.”

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Since DDT was banned, the population of bald eagles has recovered dramatically. But how healthy are they? MPR’s Stephanie Hemphill will have the answer.

MPR’s Tim Post looks at what’s happening with college tuition rates around the state.

NPR will look at job retraining in the sad state of Michigan. There has been plenty of retraining, but not many jobs.

  • You ask, “At what point is a ban on smoking in a certain spot simply the outlawing of smoking in general?”

    I’ll answer: Take a closer look at the law many smoking ban critics cite, the Volstead Act (named after Minnesotan Andrew Volstead). It prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcholic beverages in the United States.

    No city, county or state tobacco law or ordinance in Minnesota comes anywhere CLOSE to Prohibition.

    Rochester has not “outlawed smoking in general.”

  • David W.

    The opposition to wind power in rural areas comes from the usual NIMBY suspects who want to control all within their view via exclusive zoning that would essentially ban wind turbine towers. Sorry, but they’re not that ugly nor do they cause the sort of harm being claimed by said NIMBYs. Wind turbines are much better neighbors than mega-sized hog feedlots if it’s nuisance you’re concerned about.

  • John P.

    Rochester may not have outlawed “smoking in general”, and what they have done is not the same as thew Volstead Act, but they have outlawed “smoking in general” for a certain geographic area.

    At some point, the geographic area becomes large enough to have the same effect as a general ban. What’s the point of allowing the “manufacture and sale” if there’s no reasonable place the product can be used?

    Personally, I think cigarettes ought to be outlawed as a health hazard, like lead in paint. However, this gradual approach is cowardly and dishonest.

  • vsjacobsen

    Not that I think we should roll back all the restrictions, but I should point out:

    If we ban smoking, can you IMAGINE what our state budget would look like? All those taxes, errr, fees would be gone instantly!

  • John P. says “However, this gradual approach is cowardly and dishonest.”

    I say the slow and steady aproach has won more than one race. I would agree with you that Minnesotans health would be significantly better if nobody smoked. The adult smoking rate in this state is about 17%, the lowest it has ever been. We can do even better.

    BTW, in interests of full disclosure, I’m the communications director for the American Lung Association in Minnesota.

  • Bob Collins

    There was an interesting segment on MPR over the weekend — it was Saturday, I believe but I can’t remember what program it was. Anyway, it was a historical look at Prohibition and the guest — and, of course, I can’t remember who it was — noted that Prohibition was eliminated when the economy tanked and authorities realized they need the tax money from alcohol. They needed people to drink.

  • Quite a few people told me that the state legislature would NEVER pass the Freedom To Breathe Act, or Governor Pawlenty would never sign it, because it might reduce smoking (which it did) and thus cigarette taxes collected by the state.

    Then it passed, and he signed it.

    We were able to make the case that the taxpayer spends much more on smokers than we collect from them in taxes.

  • The Analyst

    “Somebody’s poll is wrong” — no, not necessarily. Polls don’t give you either a right or wrong answer. They are a measurement. What you have are two different measurements taken at two different times in two different ways. The fact that they don’t give you the same answer doesn’t necessarily mean that either is bad.

    You could measure the amount of oil in seawater washing ashore at two different spots along Louisiana’s coastline at two different times and in two different ways. You might get two different results. You wouldn’t conclude that one of the results must be bogus. Instead, you would conclude that you need more information to make an informed judgment about the true amount of oil in the seawater.

    That’s all we can conclude about these polls — we won’t have a better sense of where the race really stands until more polling is done.

  • Bob Collins

    Not exactly, The Analyst.

    You’re right, of course, that we have two different surveys with two different methodologies, and from a scientific — or mathmatic — perspective, you can’t claim that one (or both) is bogus because they don’t agree.

    But polls — or at least their sponsors — engage in another activity where polling is concerned, and that is suggesting that it’s not REALLY a story about what 700 (or 900) people think (although it actually is) but that the science involved is representative of the electorate as a whole and if the election were held today, this is the snapshot of the electorate.

    So while there might be two places where oil can come ashore, there’s only one electorate and at the end of the day a poll either is an accurate snapshot of it or it’s not.

    Of course, I pointed out the difference in timing and purely from the “representative of the electorate” angle, I am led to believe that there was a large shift toward Mark Dayton in the last 10 days. But I don’t believe that happened and I believe most of the electorate doesn’t even know who’s running yet.

    You’re right that we won’t know more until more polling is done.

    Personally, I’m less interested in what name the voter favors than I am in studied research that tells us why voters feel the way they do and why they don’t feel the way they did.

    I also believe the main purpose of polls is to get other media to say your newspaper’s name or TV/radio call letters on their newspaper/radio/TV station.