It was utterly predictable that liberal activists and their traditional media allies would claim that Republicans will lose their House majority in 2014 as a result of the government shutdown.
It was just as predictable that their Exhibit A would be a severely flawed poll bearing the same resemblance to statistical validity as Mr. Twain's lightning bug had to lightning.
Moveon.org commissioned the Public Policy Polling survey now being touted throughout the traditional media as proof the Republicans are committing political suicide by holding firm in the government shutdown battle.
As the Washington Examiner's Tim Mak reported Monday, the PPP survey of 24 Republican-held swing districts "shows that a generic Democrat would beat a Republican incumbent in 17 of them -- the very number of seats Democrats would need to wrest from Republicans to take control of the House."
Be advised, however, that the PPP poll is all but worthless, for many of the same reasons most such exercises in data manipulation are taken seriously only by ideologues. Consider just two of those reasons.
First, the PPP survey has two major flaws. It covered only 700 adults, so the sample size is less than desirable for measuring voter behavior. Far better is a survey sample of at least 1,000 individuals.
Ask the Foreign Legion:
More serious is that the respondents are randomly selected adults, not likely voters. As a result, a survey of 700 members of the French Foreign Legion would have been about as useful for predicting the outcome of the 2014 congressional contests.
The bigger issue with such surveys, however, is one former New York Times survey guru Nate Silver explained a few years ago, namely sample bias against Republicans, which is especially evident in polls based on adults rather than likely voters.
The difference can be profound in off-year congressional elections, as in 2010 when Silver estimated surveys based on likely voters were as much as seven points more favorable to Republicans than those based on adults.
In other words, anybody from any point on the ideological or partisan spectrum who comes along peddling a survey of 700 adults and claiming to know thereby who will win the 2014 election is selling statistical snake oil.
As it happens, PPP and Moveon.org come from the Left. The same sort of survey shenanigans can also be found from ideological shysters on the Right. Both deserve scorn.
From Today's Washington Examiner:
Michael Barone: Why the Democrats aren't likely to take the House in 2014.
Joseph Lawler: Five crazy ways for Obama to circumvent the debt ceiling.
Byron York: What the Republican rebels Cruz and Lee will do next.
In Other News:
The Washington Post: This cancer patient's treatment is on hold because of the shutdown.
The Washington Post: Shutdown unlikely to damage the economy.
USA Today: 'God particle' scientists win Nobel Prize.
The New York Times: Little fear on Wall Street of debt-ceiling default, at least for now.
The Los Angeles Times: Emboldened Republicans defy Washington norms.
Chicago Tribune: Hate crime ruled out in soldier's stabbing death.
TalkingPointsMemo: Meet nine Republicans down for defaulting on debt.
Washington Monthly: Jonathan Bernstein on the 'Fournier Transform.'
Huffington Post: Senate Republicans flirt with debt disaster.
National Taxpayers Union: Federal budget important but debt ceiling resolution vital.
Heritage Foundation: The amazing story of Dr. Tim Shepherd.
Cato Institute: Why economic growth is getting harder.