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Bad Polling + Wishful Thinking = Bad Journalism

I’m not sure which is worse — a silly Steve Lonegan poll in the New Jersey Senate race or the way a handful of conservative “news” outlets treated it. They are both pretty terrible.

Lonegan’s pollster, Rick Shaftan of Neighborhood Research/Mountaintop Media, released results Tuesday from a Sept. 27-30 survey of definite and very likely voters in the Oct. 16 special election. He found the Democrat nominee, Corey Booker, leading his client by only 6 points, 48 percent to 42 percent.

That apparently was all that National Review Online writer Alec Torres needed. He posted the item, juxtaposing Shaftan’s report with a Quinnipiac poll from the previous week to suggest that Garden State voters are moving toward Lonegan in the contest.

Torres ended the post by declaring: “It is clear that Booker — who was expected to waltz to victory in this race — now has a real competition on his hands.” A reporter at The Daily Caller and Grover Norquist tweeted a link to the story.

Over at, writer Heather Ginsberg wasn’t quite as delusional, since her conclusion emphasized Booker’s continuing advantage in the race. But she, too, concluded on the basis of one questionable poll from the Republican’s campaign that Lonegan “continues to make headway.”

Now, Shaftan, who is better known for his ideological bomb throwing than survey research, has told The Save Jersey Blog, a conservative blog, that his tracking poll actually has Booker’s lead down to only 3 points.

Another website,, may have a partial answer for how Shaftan got his numbers. As the website noted in an Oct. 3 post: “Shaftan admits that his Democratic turnout assumptions are lower than what many others expect. He told MMM that he expects African-Americans will only be 8% of the vote in the senate elections (sic) compared to 12% in last year’s presidential election in New Jersey.”

Here is some advice to young and old alike: Watch the people who matter, not the folks who don’t.

Don’t you think that the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Club for Growth would be doing something in the race if they thought it was anything close to a jump ball?

Booker has much more money, a much larger base from which to draw and a better campaign. Giving much credit to Shaftan’s polling is unwise, and comparing his numbers to Quinnipiac’s shows a lack of understanding about polling.

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