Who gets polled anyway?

The headlines all read “Obama Ahead in the Polls.” In fact, the polls currently suggest he has a seven-point lead nationwide. But who are these organizations polling? Who is commissioning the polls? I’ve never been polled to see who I’m voting for nor do I know anyone who has been. What are the chances that someone whose opinion was solicited in a poll actually turns out to vote on election day?

Not all of the polls you see represent the views of likely voters or even the views of registered voters. According to Gallup Daily, “Obama’s current advantage is slightly less when estimating the preferences of likely voters, which Gallup will begin reporting on a regular basis between now and the election.” The Gallup poll currently has Obama leading by seven points. The poll was calculated using the likelihood that someone will vote and on their past voting history (I must mention only 50% of those solicited were likely voters). Gallup warns that question wording may lead to errors or bias in its findings.

So how does this solicitation work? Do they call you and ask: “Are you planning on voting for Barack Obama?” Or “Who are you planning on voting for in November?” By asking the latter, you will be more likely to produce a neutral unbiased survey, however by hinting at one candidate’s name over the other, you are giving that candidate an advantage.

An article in Sunday’s New York Times by Kate Zernike, reverberates, “[pollsters] can’t be sure how accurately polls capture people’s feelings about race, or how forthcoming Americans are in talking about a black candidate.”

Former popular Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, according to many polls appeared the likely winner of California’s governorship. When the election was over, pollsters began using the term “Bradley effect” to explain the phenomenon that black candidates for high office have a more favorable response in poll results than in an actual secret ballot.

Thomas Prieto laid out a four-part article in the Miami Hurricane, identifying the results of the polls and how they indicated that Obama was going to win. But Mr. Prieto’s source, realclearpolitics.com, fails to identify who was being polled. Before you trust the accuracy of polls, make sure you can verify their sample questionnaire and the sample population.

October 15, 2008


Victoria San Pedro

Contributing Columnist

7 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Who gets polled anyway?”

  1. Jim/Melody says:

    My wife and I both registered voters and have been for over 30 years. Neither one of us have ever been polled. By the way, we are also listed in the phonebook, we are not hard to find.

  2. Mike says:

    My wife and I have never been asked either- Hopefully people like us can prove the polls are wrong on Tuesday, Nov 4th. I wonder if there is “polling fraud” just like “voting fraud'”? We’re thinking about starting an organization called “Squirrel Nuts” (as opposed to “Acorn”) to steer the polls in the direction that the rest of us want!

  3. Nancy says:

    I am 70 and have never been polled………….polls are hogwash

  4. Howard says:

    Obama supporters act as if the polls are a true reflection of what’s going to happen on November 4th. When you don’t have an actual record to run on … and all you can do is point out problems, and blame others, as Obama has, you have to rely on gimmicks that have nothing to do with your actual ability to lead … like accusations of racism ad nauseam … like early voting …busing and indoctrinating homeless people on the way to the polls … photo ops with big crowds … spending 4 to 1 on advertising … having the media in the tank … having Hollywood in the tank, having Acorn in the tank … and, having 98% of all black voters in the tank. But, all of these things are nothing more than a fabricated perception. They have nothing to do with a person’s experience, or ability to lead. They just reveal a candidate who will say, or do anything to get elected. That’s why the Obamabots are so worried. That’s why Obama is telling his disciples not to get over confident. That’s why the Obama campaign tries real hard to make it look like Obama has already won … just like they did in the run against Hillary in the primaries. I happen to believe there are legions of people who are going to vote for McCain on November 4th … unlike the ‘in your face’ Obama supporters, November 4th is when the McCain supporters will express themselves. A vote for Obama is a vote for voter fraud, corrupt media, and a road to socialism. Keep America safe and strong, elect McCain/Palin on November 4th.

  5. anthony says:

    Statistically, you don’t need to poll a huge population of people to get an accurate representation of the actual numbers. As long as the pollsters use a relatively large, random sampling of potential voters, you can pretty much trust it to be true. If they were inaccurate, they wouldn’t be used so gratuitously.

  6. Derek says:

    Thank you for finally asking this question and bringing this up! Finally the media has something smart to say (or ask in this case)…

  7. vince says:

    I am a 47 year old registered voter who has voted in every presidential election since 1980. I have never been polled.

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