Sketchy new poll: Joe Miller now in ... third place?

“Sketchy” is Nate Silver’s adjective of choice, but you don’t need him to see why these numbers should, shall we say, be “taken with caution.” Can it really be She Who Shall Not Be Named 34, Scott McAdams 29, Joe Miller 23? I’ll give you three reasons why not. One, quoting from the ADN: “The Hays poll was paid for by IBEW Local 1547. The IBEW endorsed McAdams in the race and the results of the new poll were first published on the blog Mudflats, which is promoting McAdams hard.” ‘Nuff said. Two: The pollster, Hays Research, has a history of tilting heavily towards Democrats. How heavily? Check out Geraghty’s recap of their numbers on the 2006 Senate race and the 2008 presidential race. Missing Ted Stevens’s final total by six points wasn’t disastrous, but blowing the presidential race by … almost 20 points? Dude?

Third: Contrary to Politico’s claim this morning, this was in fact a poll of likely voters, not of adults (which would have made it worthless this close to the election). But their likely voter screen strikes me as sketchy too. In order to determine whether a respondent is “likely” to vote, Hays simply asked them whether they’d voted in at least two of the last four statewide elections. The problem with that is that it fails to account for differences in enthusiasm among the lefty and righty bases between, say, 2006 and 2010. See this excellent piece published last week by Sean Trende at RCP for more on that:

Pollsters who ask respondents to rate their interest in voting on a scale of 1-10 are consistently finding Republicans far outpacing Democrats among those who describe their interest as a 10, with Democrats performing better among low-interest voters. Some pollsters, even those who are showing bad results for Democrats, are letting these low-interest voters through to their samples. This is true even though research indicates that only 1/3 of those who describe their interest level as seven or below on a scale of 10 will actually vote, compared to 84 percent of 10s and 71 percent of 9s.

How many of The Nameless One’s supporters would describe their interest this year as a 10? How many of Joe Miller’s (or Scott McAdams’s) supporters would? We don’t know because Hays didn’t ask, which is kind of important in a three-way race where the margin between first place and last place might very well be something like five points. If Miller’s base turns out in droves — which is the point of Palin’s visit today, of course — and No-Name’s turns out tepidly, then No-Name’s going to be looking for work come January.

And speaking of Palin’s visit, three cheers for Sarahcuda for hitting the trail for Miller. Given how close the race is and how badly things have been going for him lately, she could have easily used that e-mail tiff as an excuse to withdraw. Instead she’s doubling down on him, knowing full well that the media will rub her face in it relentlessly if archrival No-Name ends up beating her candidate of choice. To borrow a favorite Palinism, that takes some cojones.