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Early Horse-Race Polls: How Relevant?

Is all the time, expense and energy that goes into early political horse race polls and poll analysis justified? Maybe not, if Robin Toner's article in today's New York Times is right. Toner pulls together interesting examples and observations from political insiders to make her case. Mark Blumenthal's Pollster.com article "The Merits of the Horse Race" agrees with Toner that early polls have little value in predicting election outcomes. But he sees value in monitoring polls to assess campaign progress and in polls in early primary states. Blumenthal has a round-up review of recent articles on the relevance of early horse-race polls here.