I and millions of Americans have been and are suffering from sensory overload from political polls and political advertising as the election grows closer and closer. I have long wondered how and why polls on the same subject at the same time revealed such different results.
I found this article and the author has done a great job in answering basic questions about polls.
Political polls and poll results are manipulated and the parsed to tell the story that the political party or candidate wants to tell, often at the cost of the truth or at the very least selective use of the results to support the position held before the poll was conducted.
Instead, he looks at the daily results from Gallup and Rasmussen, which run continuous tracking surveys based on rolling averages of a few days. Here’s what their surveys showed Friday.
Rasmussen polls “likely” voters, which tend to vote more Republican. Even so, Rasmussen had Obama at 46 percent and Romney at 45. Gallup surveys “registered” voters. He had Obama and Romney tied at 47 percent.
Both surveys are reputable. Rasmussen, by the way, tied with Pew for the most accurate of the 2008 presidential race.
The other polls are less reliable, sometimes even zany. Too many of them under-sample Republicans. Take a Washington Post/ABC News poll that ran earlier this month. It had Obama leading Romney 49-48 among likely voters, and 50-44 among registered voters.
But turn to the key question — party affiliation — and you learn that the sample was 33 percent Democrat, 23 percent Republican and 37 percent Independent.
Which means you take that poll with a large grain of salt.
Well that is a great overview of what how polls are conducted and how they can produce skewed and inaccurate results. The next question that comes to mind is – are those skewed results accidental or the intended result of the polling in the first place?
Pollsters surround themselves with technical gobbledygook but what they do is more art than science. They try to forecast the makeup of the electorate that will show up Nov. 6 and then construct a random sample of respondents with those characteristics, not only in terms of party preference but all sorts of criteria such as gender, age, racial composition and urban/rural split.
Many pollsters are guarded about how they “weight” their samples — what my political consultant friend called “the voodoo.” But flaws in the sample aren’t always hidden in the voodoo; they can be glaringly obvious, as in The Post poll cited above.
So what does it all mean?
I really don’t know for sure, but the author summed it up this way.
So where is the race now? Probably where it has been for some time. Obama is slightly ahead, but the prize is still up for grabs — perhaps why all these polls are driving so many people nuts