Who’s really winning presidential race?


Story highlights

Sally Kohn: Polls that show Trump closing gap with Clinton alarm some on left, encourage Sanders and supporters

Not so fast, she says. Polls at this stage called it wrong about Obama, McCain, Clinton in earlier races

Kohn: It's early in horse race; Sanders has right to stay in race 'til California, possibly convention, but should change tone

Editor’s Note: Sally Kohn is an activist, columnist and television commentator, and a supporter of Bernie Sanders. Follow her on Twitter: @sallykohn. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

CNN —  

In October 2007, the Gallup polling organization wrote that, “Gallup’s 2007 national presidential polling strongly points to [Hillary] Clinton winning the 2008 Democratic nomination. Barring something unusual or otherwise unexpected, she is well positioned for the 2008 Democratic primaries.” Gallup was wrong.

In June 2008, it wrote, “After winning one of the most competitive nomination battles in U.S. history, Barack Obama faces what looks to be an equally tough general election for the presidency.” Gallup’s polling had Obama and John McCain neck and neck, with McCain leading by a marginal point.

In November 2008, Barack Obama was elected president, winning 52.9% of the popular vote to McCain’s 45.7%.

Polls are a lot of things. They’re gauges by which campaigns can adjust their media and organizing strategies. They’re invaluable fodder for the 24/7 news media to discuss during yearlong presidential campaigns. They’re a way for math geeks to seem sexy every four years.

But one thing polls are often not — especially months out from an election — is correct.

Decent human beings who love their country and humanity and fear for the disastrous consequences of a Donald Trump presidency are shaken up by a series of new polls that show Trump and Clinton neck and neck in a national matchup. A Washington Post-ABC poll shows Trump leading Clinton 46% to 44%. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has Clinton leading Trump 46% to 43%. Both gaps are within the statistical margin of error, but still, the numbers are understandably disconcerting. That is, if you believe them.

Some Clinton supporters are using the polling to suggest that the presumptive nominee is being hurt by the prolonged primary battle with Bernie Sanders. Meanwhile, Sanders supporters point to national matchups that suggest Sanders is in a stronger position going head-to-head against Trump. Both points are valid, but again, only if you put too much weight on the polling.

In March 2008, 28% of Clinton supporters said they would vote for McCain if Obama were the nominee. And look how that turned out.