Political Polls Are Tricky Business
Did you vote in this past Tuesday's elections? I hope so. Did you participate in any pre-election surveys, and then do exactly what you said you would? Perhaps you are one of the many who screened phone calls and emails for pesky pollsters, initiating tried and true "survey avoidance strategies" at just the right time. Regardless of your particular behaviors, it is the political pollsters' job to take that into consideration.�
Unfortunately for pollsters, even if their pre-election predictions closely mirror election results, no one is going to put them on their shoulders and carry them around Washington, since the pollsters have simply done what they were supposed to do. When the pre-election polls don�t match up to the results, however, the methodology is seriously questioned and pollsters are charged with not professionally executing their craft.�
There are certainly winners and losers in the final analysis, and as of right now, it seems that most pre-election polls were able to predict the elections with a reasonable degree of accuracy, or within what we researchers call the margin of error. So, how did the pollsters do?
Actual Results (99% precincts reporting)
51% Bush (59,249,702), 48% Kerry (55,713,254), 1% Nader (397,244)
Polls Conducted Within 1 Week Of Election
CNN/USA Today/Gallup: 49% Bush, 47% Kerry, 1% Nader ABC News: Bush 49%, Kerry 48%, 1% Nader Times/CBS: 49% Bush, 46% Kerry, 1% Nader Pew Research: 48% Bush, 45% Kerry, 1% Nader Newsweek: 50% Bush, 44% Kerry, 1% Nader Harris Interactive (telephone): 49% Bush, 45% Kerry, 2% Nader
As you can see, these pollsters did fairly well, both in predicting the eventual winner and the percentage of voters for each candidate. While the margin of error for each of the polls is different depending upon sample size, most ranged between 2 percentage points and 4 percentage points and were therefore fairly accurate.
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