Are polls really magic?

We are a nation of nearly 313 million people. So how many people did the pollsters actually speak to? If you have extremely good eyes, you can find the answer in tiny type at the bottom of a chart: The Post-ABC poll was conducted by phone “among a random sample of 1,005 adults.”

That represents 0.0003 percent of the nation at large. (The number of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents was an even smaller sample of 395 people.)…

There is little real political analysis anymore. Instead, there are journalists who read polls and try to explain the results: Newt’s drop? Attack ads by his opponents are damaging him, people are learning more about him and don’t like what they are learning.

Obama’s rise? The 21st paragraph of a sidebar to the Post-ABC poll contains a figure that may be of critical importance: “The new survey finds that most Americans are optimistic about their personal finances, even though gloom continues about prospects for the national economy.”