How to explain those divergent Massachusetts polls 

Polls on the January 19 special Senate election in Massachusetts are showing hugely different results: the Boston Globe has Democrat Martha Coakley ahead 53%-36%, Rasmussen has Coakley ahead 50%-41% and PPP, as I noted Saturday, has Republican Scott Brown ahead 48%-47%. How to explain this? Pollster.com’s Mark Blumenthal has a characteristically first-rate analysis. His major point:

The big spread in results among the polls, and differences apparent within two of them, are all consistent in supporting one finding: The lower the turnout, the better the odds for Scott Brown. These differences indicate that the voters most interested and most likely to vote are Republican, while Democrats are more blase.

Pollsters always employ screening questions, as Blumenthal explains, and screens can be loose (all adults) or tight (those who have voted in past offyear elections and who say they are absolutely certain to vote). He notes that PPP’s robocall has an instruction, “if you do not intend to vote, . . . please hang up,” which presumably acts as a very tight screen, and so all three polls tend to agree that those who are most determined to vote are about evenly split between Coakley and Brown. The Brown campaign, by the way, is running a “moneybomb” campaign today to raise $500,000 online.

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Michael Barone

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