I’m addicted to the Washington Post’s Daily Tracking Poll, and I would get the DTs if they took it away.
But I’m convinced it’s bad for journalism. Other pundits have talked about how stories covering campaign tactics to the detriment of policy take away from the seriousness of political coverage. I agree, and I think that polls turn politics into a sport. I say this while I’m watching the Yankees. Reason tells me that I should hate the Yankees. They’re overpaid, even by Major League Baseball standards. They win more often than any other team. They’re inherently unlikeable. And yet I live and die by Yankees games. Several of my New York City colleagues today commented on how they went to bed at 1:30 a.m. today, after watching the Red Sox steal a game from the Yanks. We have an undeniable emotional connection, though, and no amount of reason (including calculations of hours of sleep) can convince us to cheer for another team.
And the same, I believe, is becoming true of politics. I believe that the unwavering certainty that Ron Suskind ascribes to George W. Bush in yesterday’s New York Times Magazine is also infecting the electorate–and on both sides of the aisle. And all we care about is win or lose. I’m as much of a victim of this attitude as anyone.
Republicans are sure W will win. Democrats are sure W will win. Bostonians are sure the Sox will lose (and they’re right). But despite the positive blip Kerry got in the polls after the debates (which I liken to the Red Sox 12th-inning win last night) served only to give Democrats their requisite moment of faith before sliding back into their resignation.
I watch the Washington Post daily tracking poll like I read the sports scores. I read other papers’ polls–and automatically dismiss the ones with which I disagree. Americans, for the most part, know for whom they will vote in two weeks. The rest is box scores.