Ignore That 2016 Poll

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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The Washington Post/ABC News poll asked a 2016 general election horse race question, pitting Hillary Clinton against Chris Christie.

Ignore those polls!

Whatever the merits of polling on the 2016 presidential nominations (and perhaps I'll get to that later), general election polls at this early date are essentially worthless. The results are some messy mix of relative party standing, candidate name recognition, recent press reports about the candidates and who knows what else. Any relationship with events taking place in the fall of 2016 is almost totally coincidental.

To the extent candidates and campaigns matter beyond basic party voting, we're not going to see it now, because the party voting part of it hasn't been properly activated yet. By the end of the party conventions in 2016, barring some extraordinary events, partisans on both sides will be strongly lined up behind their nominees. Since that's a long way off, there's just no way to make sense of head-to-head matchups.

The 2016 nomination campaigns have started; in fact, they started some time ago. But only among the relatively few people who pay very close attention to politics. For most voters, 2016 is in other galaxy, and they won't really start paying attention until the conventions kick off the fall 2016 campaign. Yes, voters will answer pollsters' questions, but there's just no reason for us to pay any attention to the answers -- or whether one candidate outperforms another at this point.

It's not too soon for serious coverage of the 2016 nomination contests. But it really is too soon for general election polling.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

(Jonathan Bernstein covers U.S. politics for Bloomberg View. He is co-editor of "The Making of the Presidential Candidates 2012." Follow him on Twitter at @JBPlainblog.)

To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Frank Wilkinson at fwilkinson1@bloomberg.net