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Election Hangover? A Polling Postmortem Cures What Ails Ya’


Well, depending on your horse(s), you were either drinking victory punch (Go Walker!) or suicide smoothies well into the night.

I joined in the Golden Hall festivities via the scrappy San Diego CityBeat live election night blog hosted by our very own San Diego Rostra and our lefty friends at OBRag. If you didn’t follow along with our 100 or so friends last night, including some elected officials and candidates, it’s worth a peek.

As results crawled in at a frustrating glacial pace, CityBeat editor David Rolland said the polling basically called the elections.

The least surprising result of the night certainly jibed with polling: Councilman Carl DeMaio finished first in the mayor’s race.

Rolland’s observation got me thinking about the controversial nature of polling.

There’s two schools of thought that follow a chicken or egg scenario: Polling causes outcomes, or outcomes are based on quality polling.

After the last Presidential Election, The Atlantic Monthly printed a radical proposal calling to do away with polling altogether.

Author Conor Clarke began his provocative piece: “Polls are as integral to the American political tradition as sex scandals or earmarks.”

Polling, he goes on, would be “as harmless as printing baseball scores” were it not for three problems: constant polling hurts democracy, many polls are wrong and worst of all, one poll can unnaturally affect outcomes.

George Washington University political science professor John Sides tore Clarke’s arguments to shreds on The Monkey Cage post “Should We Get Rid of Polls?”

His arguments boil down to a sentiment I wholeheartedly endorse: “Clarke is right about this: we are awash in polls. The imperative for journalists and others is to become more discerning interpreters.”

Awash. More like drowned.

In no race was that more true than for the San Diego mayor’s race.

Recent polling from Competitive Edge Research & Communication put DeMaio firmly in the lead.

But do polls cause a bandwagon effect?

Sides says not so: “Some candidates never get off the ground: they don’t have money, endorsements, news coverage, or support in the polls. But what’s the cause of their failure? Is it because people saw the polls and said, ‘Well, no one supports that guy, so I certainly won’t?’ No, the whole constellation of self-reinforcing factors is to blame… Polls per se don’t matter all that much.”

But even so, polling tell us something important about who seems to present that “whole constellation” best to voters.

Luckily, we’ve got another five months to feed our insatiable polling appetites until our bellies burst. Delicious.

For now, let’s do what we always do after elections… analyze them to death.

Join us at Albondigas this Friday in Old Town for a noon postmortem discussion over meatball soup at Cafe Coyote with pollster and client John Nienstedt of Competitive Edge Research & Communication. Cost to enter is $15. Please RSVP at Southwest Strategies.

Nienstedt’s also set to speak at 6 p.m. next Tuesday, June 11 at the GOP Central Committee meeting at the Rancho Bernardo Inn.

Other speaking engagements with Nienstedt so far include the San Diego Business Leadership Alliance, the San Diego County Building Industry Association and the Lincoln Club of San Diego County.

If you’d like to have John speak to your group, email him at john (at)

Competitive Edge worked with a long list of interesting clients this cycle, including San Diego mayoral candidate Councilman Carl DeMaio, City of San Diego Council District Seats 1 and 7, Steve Danon for San Diego County Supervisor, Bob Buster for the Riverside County Supervisor, Propositions A and B in San Diego, Proposition E in Oceanside, Measure B in San Jose, the Republican Party of San Diego County, the Lincoln Club of San Diego County, the U-T San Diego and Sycuan.

Erica Holloway is a Rostra blogger and principal of Galvanized Strategies, a San Diego-based public relations firm. Contact her at erica (at) or follow her @erica_holloway.

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