A poll was released by MPR/Humphrey Institute this week giving Mark Dayton (41%)  a substantial lead (12 points) over Tom Emmer (29%) and placing Horner at a distant third (11%). It seemed to be a dramatic development in the race. Polls are supposed to be scientific, respectable tools, right? But then KSTP released another poll last night showing what many observers on the center right suspected, or at least hoped; the race in a dead heat with Horner falling back.

These disparate polling results make you wonder about whether the tool of polling is being used to affect the outcome of the race. Here is Professor Larry Jacobs, who must be the most frequently quoted person in Minnesota, posing as a “neutral” and “expert” on the subject:

“Dayton has built a broad coalition of support, said University of Minnesota political science professor Larry Jacobs, who oversaw the poll. Dayton has the advantage among women and lower-income voters and is holding his own among affluent voters.” (emphasis added) Note that Larry was in charge of the poll.

Jacobs does go on to say that Dayton’s support if softer than Emmer’s, and that Horner’s support, which has a lot of Republicans, could shift to Emmer. In other words, there is a lot of potential for movement on Tuesday. Jacobs hedged his bets if you read beyond the headline, but this is what we heard in the media:

“Jacobs said Minnesota appears to be defying national trends that show Republicans with an election advantage. He said Dayton seems to have tapped into voter anger.”

“I think it was, you know, ‘let’s tax the other guy,’ particularly the rich, that ended up working pretty well here for Dayton,” Jacobs said. “You’re not seeing it anywhere else in the country. Dayton is probably the most liberal statewide candidate running.” 

We suspect there is a bit of wishful thinking going on but then I suppose the same could be said of  Emmer’s supporters.

The KSTP Poll, however, was conducted by Survey USA, a polling company that is ranked high for accuracy. According to Tom Hauser, the New York Times (538 Blog) ranks Survey USA third in the nation for accuracy. This poll included young people who only use cell phones–which is supposed to add to the poll’s accuracy. Hauser noted wisely that the only poll that matters is the big one on Tuesday. We agree.

Both Polls are available below so you can judge for yourself.