Public opinion polls

Friday, September 28, 2012 - 6:08pm

Whenever we find ourselves in a heated political contest, public opinion polls become more and more important.
And if they aren’t going your way, they become more and more controversial.
But the truth is, most pollsters try to get it right.
Their reputations depend on it.
It happens every four years.
If one presidential candidate opens up a lead, however small, in the latest round of public opinion polls, supporters of his opponent cry foul.
And in the latest polls, Republican nominee Governor Mitt Romney is trailing. And some are saying, national polling samples are weighted toward Democratic voters.
But Michael Dimock, associate Director of Research for the Pew Center for People and the Press says,  that view is exactly backwards.
Pew generally samples about 2000 people in a national poll versus 3000 for Gallup and 1500 for Resmussen.
And they do have to adjust their sample, but not for politics.
“We never get a perfect sample of the public,” Dimock says, “It’s harder to reach young people than it is older people. It’s harder to reach people in cities than it is in the country. So we do have to make some weighting adjustments to our surveys, but one thing we don’t do though is weight to party identification.”
And if more Democrats than Republicans respond, there is a reason.
“There are more democrats than republicans in this country right now,” he told us. “This started in the 2000’s, where republican ID started to come up in the wake of 911 in the early Bush years. But it fell very steeply in Bush’s second term.”  
But that aside, what really matters in the end, is who shows up November 6th.

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