Talk about hedging your bets. The redoubtable Gallup organization has two new polls out. One shows Barack Obama enjoying one of his largest leads in weeks. The other has John McCain pulling ahead for the first time in months.
Needless to say, this is prompting some rather contradictory headlines.
"Obama Takes Widest Lead Yet in Gallup Tracking Poll" said the Wall Street Journal on Sunday, when Gallup’s survey of 2,692 voters found Obama – buoyed perhaps by the coverage of his overseas trip last week – opening a nine-point advantage (49 to 40 percent) over McCain. (The numbers were about the same today, when the daily tracking poll’s three-day average put Obama ahead 48 to 40 percent.)
But then The Page wrote today about a new "shocker" — a separate Gallup poll conducted over the weekend, this one in conjunction with the USA Today, that gives McCain a 49-45 percent edge among likely voters. (When the poll is expanded to include only registered voters, Obama pulls ahead by three points.)
Gallup’s daily tracking poll – the one that has Obama well ahead – included about four times as many respondents and has a smaller margin of error, plus/minus two percent, than the Gallup-USA Today survey, in which the margin of error is four percent. And, for what it’s worth, Gallup’s editor, Frank Newport, chalked up the vast discrepancies to "statistical noise." (That’s some pretty loud noise, though.)
In terms of headlines, though, Gallup has managed to do the unimaginable – nearly simultaneously giving each campaign some of the best news it’s received in weeks, if not months.