3. Public opinion polls
Polls by news organizations help the public learn what other Americans are thinking. But they can also be misleading if the questions are poorly designed, or if the sample of people surveyed isn't representative.
No, news organizations aren't biased
Editors routinely publish poll results, especially as Election Day draws closer. They'd be reporting it whether the results favored Obama or Romney. In September, as people including Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan raised a ruckus over alleged bias in the media, the latest trend in polling just happened to be moving against Romney in key swing states.
Consider this excerpt from back in 2010, when it was Democrats whose mood was being soured by poll results: "Could the polls be wrong? That's a question I've been asked often in recent months, mostly by Democrats hoping that the dire forecasts produced here and elsewhere turn out to be too pessimistic," Mark Bloomenthal wrote at Huffington Post.
A poll isn't destiny, but often surveys give an accurate sense of how voters are leaning.
Yes, they are
Some conservatives, even ones who say media bias is a big problem, haven't bought into attacks arguing that polls are captive to a liberal conspiracy. But others have argued that polls are more or less flawed, and perhaps in ways that make Obama look stronger. This subject has been covered by the Monitor in recent days, including to note questions about how to gauge party turnout. (And a blog post elsewhere recently, highlighting the arrival of a website called UnSkewedPolls.com, hints at how this question has become a concern for some onlookers.)