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Tom Murse

Santorum Lashes Out at Pollster

By April 2, 2012

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Rick SantorumRepublican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum doesn't think much of a recent public-opinion poll showing him just barely winning his former home state of Pennsylvania.

"We feel very good about Pennsylvania. We're going to do exceptionally well there," Santorum told Fox News Sunday. He went on to allege the nonpartisan academic institute behind the survey "draws numbers out of a hat sometimes," a preposterous claim that drew fire from the veteran pollster.

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The poll in question was conducted in late March by Franklin & Marshall College's widely respected Center for Opinion Research. It found Santorum leading Mitt Romney by only 2 percentage points, 30 percent to 28 percent, among Republican voters in Pennsylvania. That's within the poll's 4.4-point margin of error. A month ago the same poll had Santorum up by a whopping 29 points.

It's no wonder Santorum is feeling a tad bit sensitive; Pennsylvania is one of the next big prizes in the delegate sweepstakes, and its primary is just three weeks away. And yes, it's a state he represented in the House and Senate for 16 years before losing re-election by a wide margin in 2006.

Dropping Pennsylvania would not only be embarrassing to Santorum, but be devastating to his presidential campaign as well.

The poll director, G. Terry Madonna, issued a strong defense of his work over the past two decades as a political analyst and surveyor of public opinion. He said Santorum is "entitled to his own opinions; he's not entitled to his own facts." He pointed out that his previous polls rightly projected Santorum winning his U.S. Senate races in 1994 and 2000, then losing in 2006.

Madonna told The Washington Post that Santorum  "insults the professionals who work in the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College, where the poll is done using scientific methods that you would expect to be done by academic pollsters."

We'll find out who was right - Santorum or Franklin & Marshall's pollsters - on April 24.

[Photo of Rick Santorum by Getty Images News]

Comments

April 2, 2012 at 11:06 am
(1) Realtime53 says:

Hi Tom –

“We’ll find out who was right – Santorum or Franklin & Marshall’s pollsters – on April 24.”

Not really. Thirty days ago, this same poll had Santorum up by 30 points. Twenty two days from now, anything is possible. A poll is very much a reading of the current water temperature.

BTW, is it just me, or is Rick really losing it over the past week?

April 2, 2012 at 2:09 pm
(2) uspolitics says:

Realtime53:

A good point, and I’m glad you made it.

I think if you look at all the polling data in Pennsylvania from all major independent firms over the last month or so, though, you’ll see a clear downward trajectory for Santorum. He went from being +29 in the February F&M Poll, down to +18 and +14 in the PPP and Quinnipiac polls in early March and, finally, +2 in last month’s F&M Poll.

Absolutely, the most recent Franklin & Marshall survey is but a single (and historically very reliable) poll marking a single moment in the 2012 Republican contest. However, if Santorum does in fact lose Pennsylvania, or only narrowly wins it, the folks at F&M can make a pretty good case that their late-March poll accurately reflected the former U.S. senator’s slide well before the April 24 primary, and that the candidate was full of bunk at the time by claiming he was still up by 20 points.

As to your question, I think we may be witnessing a campaign in its final throes. Although, come to think of it, weren’t his and Newt’s campaign both declared dead many times before?

Cheers,

~ tm

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