What to do when you're freaking out
  1. First, remember: most poll reporting is designed to get you to click.
    And, specifically, shocking bad news is what you're most likely to click.
  2. Not all polls were made equal.
    You should trust polls! But "shocking" polls most often massage the truth. Consider the source and, when in doubt, check 538 for their poll ranking. A D+ pollster projecting a 2-point Trump win is much less scary than an A- pollster projecting a tie.
  3. Check aggregates, not polls
    This shows the trends rather than having you fixate on outliers. Trump has a poll showing him up 2 today: but he also has one showing him down 3 and another with him down 6. Context is key.
  4. Be a detective
    Check the details. Is this a poll with a small sample size of say, 400 people? Those are likely very swingy. Is this a land-line only poll? Those under-reach both minority households and young voters. Does this pollster have a known bias or tilt? Rasmussen, for example, projected a dominant Romney win—keep that in mind when they come up in the cycle.
  5. Check the cross-tabs
    If a poll has you alarmed or thrilled, check the cross tabs. That's where hiccups will emerge. A recent poll showed Trump up high in North Carolina...and also gave him 36% of the African American vote. Don't discard results that surprise you, but be aware when something truly doesn't mesh with national trends.
  6. Remember the context
    The polls are tightening in this race. They also traditionally tighten before the debates as media seeks to elevate ratings. Worth keeping that in mind.
  7. Remember that there's nothing you can really do anyway and we're all adrift together.
    Fun! Here's a gif