A New Poll Says the Presidential Debates Are Really Important. It’s Wrong.

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From the Wall Street Journal:

One-third of voters say the presidential debates will be very important in helping them decide whom to support for president, with slightly more Republicans than Democrats saying so, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll has found.

This is one reason not to take polls too seriously. It’s not even faintly plausible that a third of the voting public is undecided enough that the debates will make any difference to them. The true number is probably closer to 5 percent. Maybe 10 percent at the outside. And even that small number will probably break about evenly by Election Day. There’s an endless body of research showing that the actual effect of debates is minuscule.

In most polls,1 the fact that people say stuff like this is a far, far bigger source of inaccuracy than the margin of error. The biggest problem with polls is human beings, not statistics.

1Simple candidate preference polls are an exception. They tend to be fairly accurate.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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