February 23, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

“Polls Biased? Gripers Usually Wrong”:

Every election year at this time, radio and television airwaves, newspaper columns and political websites are suffused with poll results. Some track voter preferences daily, like www.realclearpolitics.com, which carries a daily compendium of polls on presidential and other significant contests at the national and state levels.

But are these polls accurate? As a rule, whichever party the polls report as trailing complains about things like skewed samples, political push polling where questions asked by pollsters lead respondents into preferred answers, and the fact that polls usually can’t reflect the very latest events.

And yet…most published polls are devastatingly accurate, especially when they account for likely voter prejudices and the latest in early-voting availability, whether absentee or electronic.

For most of the last two months, national polls and surveys in so-called battleground states like Florida, Ohio and Colorado have showed President Obama with small to moderate poll margins over Republican challenger Mitt Romney. They also predict there will be no real contest in California, where both Obama and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein are projected as easy winners.

This does not sit well with GOP activists, who know that everything from free television coverage to campaign donations and voter turnout can hinge on what the polls say.

So the Tea Party-linked Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama began bleating about poll bias six weeks before Election Day, just about the time the first early voters were casting ballots.

The public polls include too many Democrats in their samples, the group argues in email after email to its adherents. There’s also the argument that many public polls survey among registered voters rather than winnowing their samples to include only likely voters.

Using registered voters, both the daily Rasmussen Reports and Gallup tracking polls have shown Obama with a slight national lead for the last six weeks and larger leads in some swing states, most notably Ohio and Wisconsin, where his edge in the surveys has ranged as high as 12 percent.

To read the rest of Tom Elias’ column, visit smmirror.com and click on the ‘Opinion’ tab on the left hand side of the homepage.

Neither the current Republican gripes nor similar ones by Democrats during the George W. Bush election years explain why public polls, whose very survival as businesses depends on accuracy, would deliberately skew their samples to favor one party or the other. If any public poll develops a reputation for inaccuracy, push-polling or favoritism, that poll will quickly disappear.

Says Jay Leve, director of the New Jersey-based Survey USA firm whose polls are paid for and used by many California television outlets, “(The complaints) are an assault on the integrity of an entire profession and I find it repugnant, as should any thinking person.”

As a rule, private polls run by campaigns provide somewhat more detailed information than public ones, but plenty of detail can still be gleaned from analyzing the results of public surveys like Reuters-Ipsos (http://www.ipsos-na.com/news-polls/pressrelease.aspx?id=5764), which polls for several newspaper and television outlets.

One Reuters-Ipsos poll taken between Sept. 7 and Sept. 10, for example, found Obama ahead nationally by 48-45 percent among registered voters. It used a sample including 38 percent who leaned Republican and 42 percent leaning Democratic, which Republican complainers instantly said was responsible for the poll’s result. But the sample also showed 51 percent of those responding identified with at least some of the Tea Party’s conservative message. And other national surveys indicate slightly more voters identify themselves as Democratic; hence slightly more Democratic leaners in the sample.

Like its competitors, Reuters-Ipsos risked its reputation on its sampling choices. And most similar polls have been very accurate in the modern era.

The surveys learned a lot from the 1982 election of Republican George Deukmejian over Democrat Tom Bradley as California governor. Polls published the day before that vote showed Bradley the likely winner and exit polls on Election Day also had him ahead. But Deukmejian won. One reason was that large-scale voting by mail was then a new thing and the polls had not taken it into account. They never made that mistake again, and came within 1 percent of predicting the actual presidential outcome in 2008.

Polls were also inaccurate in two California primary election races in 2006, failing to account for both the number of individuals who have cellphones but no land lines and not considering the impact of last-minute email blasts by the campaign of current Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

There have been problems with polls using only robotic telephone calls, too, but those also have mostly been repaired.

The bottom line this year: Despite complaints from those who don’t like their findings, chances are the public polls have been accurate so far and will be pretty reliable right up to Election Day. Unless one or more campaigns have introduced some new wrinkle that no pollster knows about.

in Opinion
Related Posts

S.M.a.r.t Column: Gelson’s Looms Large

February 22, 2024

February 22, 2024

Our guest column this week is by SMCLC (the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City). SMCLC is a well-established...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Top Toady Town

February 18, 2024

February 18, 2024

Throughout history, from the ancient Romans and Assyrians to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, siege warfare has served as an...

S.M.a.r.t Column: The Sunset of Home Ownership

February 11, 2024

February 11, 2024

We are watching the sunset of our historical and cultural American dream of home ownership as we now are crossing...

SMa.r.t. Column: B(U)Y RIGHT

February 4, 2024

February 4, 2024

“By Right” state housing laws that give developers, in certain projects, the ability to ignore codes ‘by right.’ Well, that...

S.M.a.r.t  Column: Serf City

January 28, 2024

January 28, 2024

Homelessness is a problem in California, and nowhere is this more evident than in our fair city, where the unhoused...

S.M.a.r.t  Column: Bond Fatigue

January 22, 2024

January 22, 2024

Last week’s SMart article,  described two critical problems faced by our Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD): the declining...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Peace on Earth

December 27, 2023

December 27, 2023

We are all, by now, saturated with jingles, holiday cards, “ho ho ho’s,” countless commercial advertisements, and exhortations to feel...

S.M.a.r.t Column: On the Clock with Mayor Brock

December 17, 2023

December 17, 2023

I became Santa Monica’s Mayor on Tuesday, December 12, 2023, following a simple “switch of the chairs” transition with outgoing...

S.M.a.r.t Column: SANTA MONICA CITY COUNCIL 2024

December 10, 2023

December 10, 2023

Position:Seeking Santa Monica City Council Candidate(s) Introduction:Exciting opportunity for the right candidate(s) to work with like-minded Council members committed to...

S.M.a.r.t Column: ARB (NOT Ready to Build!)

December 3, 2023

December 3, 2023

Santa Monica City’s Architectural Review Board (ARB), established in 1974, acts “…to preserve existing areas of natural beauty, cultural importance...

SMa.r.t. Column: We are thankful for….

November 27, 2023

November 27, 2023

SMa.r.t. would like to wish you all a great Thanksgiving with friends and family and also to thank its readers...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Make the City New Again

November 19, 2023

November 19, 2023

When the COVID crisis struck, it cut the city’s income in half, demolishing many businesses and causing widespread layoffs and...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Four Futures

October 29, 2023

October 29, 2023

As well described by Paul Krugman, all cities have a core competency: things they do well or better regionally or...

SMa.r.t column: Beautiful Quartz Countertops Are Hurting Workers and Should Be Banned

October 9, 2023

October 9, 2023

Quartz countertops are super popular because they’re tough and can handle stains, scratches, and heat. But there’s a big problem:...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Architect’s Son Reflects On Civic Auditorium

October 2, 2023

October 2, 2023

Welton (David) Becket (1902-1969), pictured above, backed by a picture of our Civic Auditorium, was the designer of that famed...