The Faux Horserace

Larison chides me for attacking Dick Morris. I agree with this comment on his site:

It’s at best misleading to make anything of leads in polls “disappearing” and “reappearing” on a day-to-day basis. Sure, it’s possible that those shifts are significant of daily shifts in voter preferences, but overwhelmingly more likely (and militated for by Occam’s razor) that nothing at all changed in that period, and the poll had simply captured statistical noise. That’s why polling averages are useful. They help discriminate between real shifts in opinion and noise. Writing an article about fluctuations in a single daily tracking poll is a good sign of an innumerate hack, and cherrypicking a single poll that conforms to one’s biases before any verifiable trend can be adduced is breathtakingly mendacious i.e., exactly what you’d expect from Dick Morris. True, we shouldn’t impute more errors to him than he makes on his own, but an epistemology that extends Morris the benefit of the doubt we are accustomed to extend to reasonable and honest people is bound to lead to error.