Foul Play in Latest Indiana Senate Poll? Certainly Looks That Way

By Kemberlee Kaye, 11/05/12

This election season has brought a new focus on the validity and accuracy of polling data. Given a dramatic skew in one direction (up to eleven points in some cases), some claim polls are being used to construct a narrative in order to influence an outcome rather than functioning as passive predictors. It appears as though a similar situation has plagued the Indiana Senate race. 

A poll released Friday by Howey Politics claims Donnelly has an eleven point lead over Mourdock. But as Hoosier Access points out, there's more than ample reason to be suspicious of this polling data: 

Howey's narrative has been clear since before the primary: he supports Dick Lugar and will criticize Richard Mourdock with every chance he gets. Its not meant as an insult to say so, it's just an observation of nearly every story Howey has written about the Indiana Senate race. 

Rasmussen also released a poll Friday showing Donnelly up by only three points among likely voters and a margin of error of four points. Interestingly enough, to be so late in the game, 6% of those polled are still undecided. Couple that with Donnelly's lead falling within the margin of error and this race is anyones for the taking. 

Given that every poll except the Howey poll (including the above mentioned Rasmussen results) show the race in a dead heat, it seems safe to safe the Howey poll is an outlier. But Howey's allegiance to ousted incumbent Lugar and statistical inconsistency with other reliable data aren't the only reasons his poll is raising eyebrows. While the shock poll indicated huge gains for Donnelly, no cross tabs were provided. Cross tabs provide break down by demographic, age group, etc. 

The Mourdock campaign released a brief statement saying:

Brian Howey scrambled together a conference call this morning to defend his weighted poll data, but said he won't release the original, unweighted data and cross tabs. Given these facts, Hoosiers have every right to be skeptical of this survey and we call on Brian Howey to change his position and release the unweighted data and cross tabls of this alleged poll.

There's more evidence to ignore the Howey poll as a contrived attempt at changing the course of the race than evidence to consider the results as a legitimate indicator of the state of the race. And with so many still undecided, it's time to pound the pavement, make those phone calls and Get Out The Vote