Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pew Pollster Admits Polls Unreliable: True Media Confessions Continue

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Holy Gallup's Ghost !
Top Pollster Admits Early Election Polls Can’t Be Trusted

by David W. Moore

The Sunday before the election, the Director of Pew Research, Andrew Kohut, admitted on NPR's "All Things Considered" what we pollsters have known all along, but have been able to keep out of the general public's consciousness.

It was the polling equivalent of the little child saying out loud, The emperor has no clothes!

Except that it was a pollster admitting this truth.

When NPR's Andrea Seabrook asked Kohut why the polls had shown such divergent readings throughout the campaign season, Kohut admitted that pre-election polls simply couldn't be trusted - at least not until just before people actually started to vote!


Andrea Seabrook: "Why are the polls - the polls seem to be converging across the polls towards the sort of five-point lead for Obama, when they had been pretty disparate - there had been a lot of difference between them?"

Andrew Kohut: "The answer to that is that the closer we get to the election, the more crystallized public opinion is and therefore the more likely it is when we make a telephone call, we're going to get the same answers as another polling organization will get. These voters have made up their minds and there's not so many of 'I'll vote for this guy one day and if you call me tomorrow I'll vote for someone else.' So, it's pretty typical that the polls - rigorous polls - all come together in the final weeks."

It was especially fortuitous for Pew that the polls all came together toward Election Day, for as Kohut acknowledged in the interview, only a few days earlier the Pew poll had shown Obama with a "boxcar kind of lead" - up by 15 points over McCain, a real outlier. That wouldn't have looked good.


Some of the other polls were showing a much closer race and had been for many days. But just in time for the election, the Pew poll suddenly bounced into line. Other polls that had been off the mark also mysteriously bounced in the same direction.

The veteran pollster, a former president of the Gallup Organization, where he first cut his teeth on the art of polling, was surprisingly candid about the limitations of polls during the election campaign.

What did the veteran pollster admit? What do those early polls really measure?

Continue reading: Holy Gallup's Ghost ! Top Pollster Admits Early Election Polls Can’t Be Trusted

by David W. Moore
Source/images: Holy Gallup's Ghost ! Top Pollster Admits Early Election Polls Can’t Be Trusted

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