But nobody asked me…..

Broken Arrow Family Drug blog

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  • 11 July 2011
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    But nobody asked me…..

    It’s been on my mind for the past few days, so I figured I’d blog about it.

    You’re going to be seeing polls, polls, POLLS between now and the Presidential election. I’ve had a few of my friends post links to polls, and point to them saying, “See? The public really approves/disapproves of this!”

    Let me give you a really quick primer on how to read polls, and which ones are worth something.

    First, you will see that polling firms will poll one of four different groups – online, adults, registered voters, or likely voters. Polls sampling “online” are those that allow all comers to vote on a topic on their website. This is the least reliable type of poll, because people can vote multiple times and skew results. These are like the phone polls on the news. Worthless.

    Polls sampling “adults” sample anyone, regardless of whether they are registered to vote or not. This group is usually not “plugged in” to politics, and can identify Reese Witherspoon but not Joe Biden. These are not reliable types of poll.

    Polls sampling “registered voters” are better. These folks care enough to at least register to vote, and probably have voted in the past.

    The best polls are those of “likely voters”. These folks are “plugged in”, at least to the point of getting out of their easy chair and casting a vote.

    Another thing to consider is the mix of party representation in the poll. You will see this as Democrat/Republican/Independent (D/R/I) at the end of the poll. During the 2008 Presidential election, the national D/R/I mix was 39/32/29. During the 2010 election (where Republicans took back a lot of House seats), the mix was 35/35/30.

    The point is, if you see a poll that asked a lot more Democrats than Republicans, the poll will be skewed toward the Democrat – where the actual mix of Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. is pretty close to even.

    Quick example – in a Washington Post/ABC News poll yesterday, they said that their poll showed Obama and Romney tied. When you look at the poll, it is of “registered voters” (good, but not great), and the D/R/I mix was 33/24/36 – 9% more Democrats were polled. I suspect if the polling were closer to the 35/35/30 mix from 2010 (the mix of ACTUAL voters), the poll results would be different.

    I know for some of you this isn’t very exciting, but when you hear poll after poll this summer/fall, at least now you’ll know whether to pay attention or not.

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