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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

If you like, you can send Magpie an email!



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Thursday, October 28, 2004

How come the polls don't make any sense?

During the current US presidential election season, voters have grown increasingly skeptical of polls. Providing fuel for this skepticism are revelations that the Gallup poll skews its sampling in favor of GOP voters and the fact that 65 million US cell phones aren't called by pollsters.

This week has seen a couple of good articles on polling in the US press. In the 'standard' media, the Washington Post takes a stab today at explaining the problems that pollsters face when gathering data. Here's a tidbit that we thought particularly interesting:

At least one news organization has decided to stop doing pre-election polls altogether. Not because they're inaccurate but because they're addictive.

"They suck all of the oxygen out of the coverage by reducing the whole thing to who's up and who's down," says Tony Burman, chief news editor of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. "Besides, the methodology is really becoming suspect. The response rate has become low, and reliability has suffered. So we decided not to commission them on our own and be very restrained in covering them."

The CBC abruptly quit pre-election polling in May, weeks before the Canadian national election. The goal, Burman wrote in an e-mail to staff, was "to ensure that more coverage and attention during the campaign will be devoted to the actual issues in front of the electorate -- leaving the determination of actual 'voter preference' to the voters on election day."

Burman urges his counterparts in this country to do the same. "There is a lot of empty coverage in the United States devoted to horse-race polls that just fill up the airtime. It's the quintessential example of lazy journalism." He says he's "not lecturing anyone on it. We're just happy that we're getting the balance right."


Online, Slate produced a consumer's guide to US polls, which we're finding a big help in determining how credible we think a poll is. The guide tells you in detail what to look for in a poll, and then lays out the data for 15 major US polls.

Democracy Corps (Greenberg Quinlan Rosner)

Publishes entire questionnaire with results: Yes.

Where: Here. Click to read any survey.

Screens people out based on past failure to vote: Yes.

Likely voter test: If you were old enough to vote in 2000, you must have voted in 2000 or 2002, be registered, and say you will probably vote in 2004. Exceptions: If you were too young in 2000, or if you were unregistered in 2000 or 2002 but have registered since then, you can still be counted as a likely voter as long as you say you will probably vote.

Raises these questions before asking whom you'd vote for: Right/wrong track, Bush job approval.

Presses undecideds to pick a candidate: Yes.

Average boost from pressing, last three samples: Bush +1.33, Kerry +1.67.

Disclosure of boost factor: Published.

May weight your vote differently based on your: sex, age, education.

Adjusts results to fit expected party shares of electorate: No.


Fox News

Publishes entire questionnaire with results: Yes, except for screening and demographic questions.

Where: Here. Click any link in the "archive" box to see the summary of a previous poll. From there, scroll to the bottom and click "full poll results" to read the questionnaire.

Screens people out based on past failure to vote: Yes.

Likely voter test: Unspecified.

Raises these questions before asking whom you'd vote for: Whether you view each candidate favorably.

Presses undecideds to pick a candidate: Yes.

Average boost from pressing, last three samples: Unknown.

Disclosure of boost factor: Not published.

May weight your vote differently depending on your: Race, age.

Adjusts results to fit expected party shares of electorate: No.

| | Posted by Magpie at 2:13 PM | Get permalink




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