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A poll is more thermometer than crystal ball
Volatile pre-election polling can't always say who will win, points to the bigger picture
By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) ' At this point four years ago, national polls taken in the run-up to presidential primaries said to get ready for a faceoff between Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

That match-up didn't materialize.

As the past has proved, countrywide polls are hardly crystal balls, particularly for primary elections that are won state by state. National surveys are more like thermometers, giving insights about what people think ' and why they think it ' rather than predicting how they'll vote.

State-level polling close to an election can be predictive, but even that is far from precise. Voters always can change their minds and attitudes shift quickly.

So there's no guarantee that Mitt Romney or Ron Paul, who are leading in Iowa polls just days before Tuesday's leadoff presidential caucuses, will win.

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