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The Boston Globe

Opinion

In defense of polls

The Catholic religion has its own profession of faith. Politicians and pundits need one too, and it should begin, “I believe in the power of polls . . .” The meaning of the 2012 election will likely be subject to interminable argument. The Tea Party, for instance, believes it proved “weak-kneed Republicans do not get elected.” Others think the contrary — hard-right posturing threatens to marginalize the party altogether. But one thing it seems all sides should acknowledge: Pollsters know what they’re doing.

On election morning, New York Times blogger Nate Silver predicted 313 electoral votes for Obama along with a popular vote favoring the president 50.8 percent to 48.3 percent. The Real Clear Politics average of polls just before the election showed Obama up by 0.7 points. The Signal looked at the same polls and predicted at least 303 electoral votes for Obama. The Huffington Post’s national tracking model estimated a 1.1 point Obama edge. Nate Cohn of the New Republic reached similar conclusions. The actual results: Obama received 50 percent of the popular vote and 332 electoral votes. In essence, all of these folks were right on the mark.

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