Gallup conducts polls on a dizzying and occasionally mystifying variety of subjects. But what Gallup is famous for is politics. Thus, every so often my Gallup email has a headline like this: "Obama 49 percent, Romney 45 percent among registered voters nationwide." That one arrived on April 2. Three weeks later the day's headline read: "Obama now at 50 percent job approval; leads Romney 49 percent to 42 percent."

One could look at those two polls and see something significant: a waning of Romney's political strength, renewed vigour in the Obama campaign. Most importantly: a widening of the gap beyond the margin of error, making the later poll statistically significant. Or one could point out that with the election still six months away this is all pretty meaningless.

Politics often masquerades as low theatre. Having effectively locked up the Republican Party's presidential nomination Mitt Romney's campaign almost immediately found itself engaged in a childish argument with President Barack Obama's supporters.

Top Obama aide David Axelrod started things with a snarky tweet about how much the President loves his family dog. This was meant to get under the skin of Romney, who has spent the last several years trying to live down the fact that, 30 years ago, he took a family vacation involving a lengthy car trip during which the Romney family dog was strapped to the car roof. Romney's spokesman, taking the bait, tweeted in return that Obama's dog ought to watch out since the President, in his book Dreams from my Father, mentioned having eaten dog meat as a child in Indonesia.

Partisans on both sides acted with predictable outrage and spent the better part of a week debating who was cheapening the political process because, let's face it, hurling insults about three-decade-old dog stories is way more fun than discussing America's economy, Europe's economy, Syria, North Korea or pretty much anything else that might actually matter where the presidency is concerned.

To be fair, Americans' ability to allow stupid non-issues to hijack a national campaign is hardly unique. Witness the amount of time French presidential candidates have devoted to the burning question of how much halal meat the country ought to have and whether it should be labelled as such. Still, the fact that Americans do not travel the low road of politics alone does not make the journey any more pleasant.

Offhand I cannot say which candidate "won" the week of dog-related campaign coverage. More importantly, I do not care. This is not because silly arguments over who loves dogs have no bearing on who is going to be elected US President this November. It is because the political world, at this stage of the game, is talking mainly to itself.

The US, as we will all no doubt be reminded this fall, has the worst voter turnout of any major democracy. Every four years, barely half of those eligible to cast ballots for President bother to do so. For lesser offices, the turnout is even lower. One of the few good things that flows from this collective national apathy is the fact that the dog debate - and many other equally silly small-scale political ‘controversies' - will be ignored by the vast majority of the public.

The lesson for readers further afield is that over the next few months the daily and weekly horse race aspects of the American campaign merit very little attention. In this respect, the polls available from Gallup and other organisations on an almost daily basis do not, at this stage, tell us much that is worth knowing about the US presidential race. This does not mean that we should all take a break from the US campaign until, say, September. It does mean that as the political silly season plods along, it may become ever harder to focus on the real issues separating the candidates.

n    The writer, a long time Middle East journalist and US political analyst, teaches political science at the University of Vermont. This article has been reproduced from the Gulf News.