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July 19, 2010

Poll feud has Maryland ties

Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley pans the onslaught of automated survey in the Maryland governor's race as "Republican robo-polls." Republicans have a skeptical view of a Democratic automated pollster. And political analysts have only haltingly begun using such pollsters in their reports, calling the work dubious at best.

In short, there's not a lot of love for automated polls, although as The Sun reported this morning, we'll be seeing lots of them this year.

But it's worth noting that the most explosive polling controversy of the moment does not involve a fly-by-night "robo-poll" operation. Or any automated pollster. Rather, at the center is a traditional live-interview firm with a 10-year history, an experienced pollster and, until recently, a solid reputatation.

Research 2000 -- based in Olney, Md. -- seems to have closed up shop amid an embarassing feud with the liberal web site, Daily Kos. Late last month, the web site's founder, Markos Moulitsas, said three independent analysts had found that R2K's Daily Kos surveys for the past year and a half were "likely bunk."

The web site filed a lawsuit against the polling firm July 1 in California. The allegations of fraud cover only R2K's weekly surveys for the web site, not its horserace or other polls. Still, Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent predicted that the lawsuit will give us an "unprecedented look at the inside of a professional polling operation."

Research 2000 founder Del Ali at first defended his firm but now appears to have closed up shop, redirecting his company web site to a Wikipedia entry on opinion polls.

Poll-watchers Mark Blumenthal at and Nate Silver at have written extensively about the controversy.

The lesson: it's probably wise to view polls -- all polls -- with a skeptical eye. As a favorite political mantra goes, the only poll that really matters is what voters decide on Election Day.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 11:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Horserace


Polls and statistics are completely meaningless.

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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