It's an election year! Time to start obsessing about polling

Let's start with Presidential approval ratings.

According to a CBS News poll released yesterday, President Obama's are up, reaching 50% for the first time since May, 2011:

CNN's polls say the same thing. So do Rasmussen Reports, which says that 49% approve of the President, and that 49% disapprove. They display the data differently:

What's going on here? I suspect it's in the way the questions are asked and the data tabulated. If CBS and CNN subtracted the lukewarm approvals from the strong approvals, you might get the 27% strong approvals that Rasmussen reports. But it appears that right now there are more people expressing strong and lukewarm approval than there are expressing disapproval. The takeaway? If you can, look at more than source for information. And think about how each organization is reporting its data. And right now, in a head-to-head competition, even Rasmussen reports that Obama beats Santorum and Romney.

Which is what Nate Silver, of FiveThirtyEight (now a part of the New York Times) reports as well. I should say that's what Silver concludes, as he is using an early stage model taking account of the economy, each candidate's ideology, and the approval ratings. He also has some projections about upcoming Republican primaries (in Arizona, Michigan, Georgia, and Ohio). FiveThirtyEight is a great site, and I'll be keeping an eye on it in the coming months. Even though the election is still nine months away.

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