On Monday morning, Trump flagged a ZeroHedge story (that had been previously flagged by Matt Drudge) alleging that the reason Trump is down in the polls is because the Clinton campaign conspired to rig polls by “oversampling” Democrats.
This is an outstanding tweet. The double “the,” the use of the third person—top shelf stuff. But it’s also bullshit. Here’s the relevant portion of the WikiLeaks email from Tom Mattzie that ZeroHedge claims is about public polling:
I also want to get your Atlas folks to recommend oversamples for our polling before we start in February. By market, regions, etc. I want to get this all compiled into one set of recommendations so we can maximize what we get out of our media polling.
The email is from Clinton’s 2008 campaign, which you may recall did not turn out so well for her. But Mattzie is not talking about the kinds of polls that show Trump is losing big league, to use one of his favorite phrases—those polls are done by pollsters in concert with media outlets. Instead, he’s talking about polling that campaigns do internally to decide how to target voters.
The Washington Post’s Philip Bump, who has an excellent explainer on what is (most likely) going on here, writes: “Mattzie’s talking about polling that’s done by campaigns and political action committees to inform media buys. In other words, before campaigns spend $200,000 on a flight of TV spots, they’ll poll on the messages in those ads and figure out what to say to whom and then target that ad to those people as best they can.” The oversampling portion of the email, Bump goes on to explain, refers to the fact that it’s often difficult to get the right sample sizes: “Normal polling in a state will usually have no problem getting enough white people in the mix to evaluate where they stand, but you may need to specifically target more black or Hispanic voters to get a statistically relevant sample size.” In this instance, Mattzie is probably referring to “Native Americans and Democrat-leaning independents and moderate Republican women.”
Could the polls showing Clinton with a sizable lead be wrong? Sure. But not because they’ve been rigged by the Clinton campaign.