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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We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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