We're on the verge of a government shutdown, and the political question of the hour is: If a shutdown happens, who comes out ahead politically?
As is often the case, polling constitutes the only empirical evidence we have to try to assess. And the polling we have is based on similar, future-tense questions, with different polls offering different results. The Wall Street Journal and NBC say President Obama. The Washington Post and ABC say it's even. So does Gallup.
This brings up a broader question about polling reliability: Can poll respondents accurately predict future opinions?
I asked several polling experts what they thought about this, and former CBS polling director Kathy Frankovic pointed to an example from the Clinton administration -- when Republican impeachment proceedings loomed -- when the public said they would feel one way before an event happened, and in the end felt another way entirely.
Frankovic said, via email:
CBS News asked a national sample in the week leading up to the House impeachment vote what they wanted IF the House voted to impeach Bill Clinton, and a sizable majority said they would then want him to resign. We called many of those same people back AFTER the impeachment vote was taken, and only about a third supported resignation.
Huffington post polling editor Mark Blumenthal sees opinions as fickle, given that different phrasings have elicited different responses.