Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Another Week, Another Useless Poll

Last week, we offered an unflattering assessment of the latest poll from Siena. We really didn't think we'd be writing another piece like that for at least a month or two, because most polls are not so crummy. But we'll be damned if the latest from Harvard CAPS/Harris didn't prove us wrong.

The topline number, which got a lot of attention of course, is that Donald Trump leads Joe Biden by 6 points right now, 48% to 42%. And when the pollster added the third-party candidates, Trump's lead grows to 8 points, 44% to 36%. That's pretty far out of line with most other polls of the presidential contest, excepting those from Rasmussen. So, while the finding is at least within the realm of possibility, you have to be at least a little leery.

Where things really fall apart, however, is Harvard CAPS/Harris' findings when it comes to approval. They asked about 22 different people, and here are their findings, ordered from highest to lowest approval:

Person Approve Disapprove Net Approval
Donald Trump 50% 47% 3%
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. 48% 31% 17%
Elon Musk 47% 37% 11%
Hillary Clinton 43% 49% -6%
Joe Biden 43% 54% -11%
Nikki Haley 42% 38% 5%
Kamala Harris 42% 51% -9%
Ron DeSantis 41% 41% -1%
Vivek Ramaswamy 35% 29% 5%
Chuck Schumer 33% 38% -6%
Benjamin Netanyahu 31% 30% 1%
Mike Johnson 29% 28% 1%
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 29% 42% -12%
Gavin Newsom 29% 36% -7%
Joe Manchin 25% 32% -7%
Antony Blinken 24% 29% -5%
Hunter Biden 23% 57% -34%
Cornel West 20% 24% -4%
Ilhan Omar 17% 36% -19%
Jill Stein 17% 27% -10%
Rashida Tlaib 15% 32% -18%
Mahmoud Abbas 12% 27% -15%

When a poll produces one or two numbers that are a little wacky, well, that isn't necessarily disqualifying. For example, Joe Biden's net approval is unexpectedly low here, but... maybe. The problem is that this chart is absolutely FULL of stuff that just defies belief. Among the problems:

At best, there is something wrong with the model of the electorate that Harvard CAPS is using, with the result that the results are skewing rightward.

At worst, the people running the Harvard CAPS poll are putting their thumb on the scale. And, truth be told, this is what we think is really going on. Looking at the table above, consider these two questions. First, why ask about controversial Democratic members of the House (e.g., Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY; Omar; Tlaib) but NOT about controversial Republican members (e.g., Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-GA; Lauren Boebert, R-CO, etc.)? Second, and more instructive, what can possibly be the justification for asking about Hunter Biden's approval rating? Since he is not an officeholder, we can only think of one answer to that: to give right-wing media members and politicians a talking point.

So, who exactly is running this polling house? The answer is Mark Penn. If we told you, correctly, that he worked as a pollster and strategist for Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign, you might conclude we're nuts to think he's manipulating his results to favor Republicans. But what if we told you, also correctly, that since then he's become a Trumper, working as a consultant to Trump's campaigns, speaking out loudly against the two impeachments, and claiming that the former president is being targeted by the deep state? Maybe that's not a person who should be overseeing a "nonpartisan" polling operation.

We've actually expressed skepticism about Harvard CAPS/Harris' results previously. Now, they're on the list with Trafalgar, Rasmussen, ARG, and Fabrizio, Lee & Associates as pollsters whose numbers have to be taken with multiple grains of salt, at least until we're given reason to think otherwise. (Z)

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