Polls and the way we elect politicians

One of the great mysteries of politics is why the news media continues to present public opinion polls showing the state of the presidential race, based on a model of electing a president that we don’t use in the United States.

Poll shows White House race still tight, the Associated Press headline says.

In fact, it’s a statistical dead heat with most people having already made up their minds.

The problem, as I’ve mentioned before, is we don’t elect presidents based on a general majority election. So while the person in Pennsylvania supporting Obama appears to be offset by the person in Georgia backing Romney, that’s not reflective of anything. Neither is the voter in California. California is going to go Obama’s way; there’s hardly much of a reason to even make the call to California to see what a voter thinks.

Pennsylvania is more important than Georgia. Pennsylvania has 20 electoral votes; Georgia has 16. What makes the race close — or not — is states, and it wouldn’t be hard for the media to present a more detailed picture of the race; it’s not like most of the boys on the bus are busy covering issues.

More than likely, in fact, they’re in Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, or North Carolina — the largest states that could go either way.

Electoral-Vote.com calculates all the individual state polls and says as of today, Obama likely has 297 votes; Romney has 241. A person needs 270 electoral votes. Is it close? Sure, nobody’s voted yet and a few — very few, really — states are up for grabs.

The news in the Associated Press story isn’t the popular vote, it’s that the race hasn’t statistically changed in two months. But what kind of sexy headline is, “Nothing much new in presidential race”?

Look at it this way, under the Associated Press’ method of assessing the race, Al Gore was elected president (I know what you’re thinking; don’t even bother saying it.) based on the number of votes cast. But that’s not how we elect presidents.

By the way, if you’re looking for an important legislative branch that’s really close, look no further than the Senate. Again, according to Electoral-vote.com, based on state polling, Republicans look to be poised to take control from the Democrats.

Now, that’s a story.