Thursday, October 21, 2010

Inside Political Campaigns - Why Election Eve Polls are so Wrong


If the hundreds of polls being taken across the nation are scientific based, why are they so wrong on election day? The answer to this rather complex question is oftentimes simple as we watch the election day results and wonder how the different polls could be so far off the target. To understand the two principle deviations in polling results, one being over or underestimating the margin of victory, the second being the failure to anticipate the party impact, we must examine a number of factors.

First is the source of the polls. No matter what anyone says, any poll can distort results with some minor and seemingly insignificant actions. For example, those favoring one party over the other may inject bias with the language of the question. Questions can be deliberately designed to influence the answer by the language used.

For example, if you ask if someone likes President Obama most all Americans want to like our president and give them the benefit of the doubt. The media never portrays it that way but Americans not want their president to fail. But if you ask them if they are happy with the success of President Obama in making your life better, you will get a far different and better picture of public perception.

Any poll that is publicly published will either provide a biased view or sanitize the information to give more generic answers. It is the unpublished, insider polls that are closer to the truth and they will never be made public during an election. Most election strategy and all election media spending (advertising) is based on these secret polls. They have no interest in sharing their secrets with the media or opposition.

If you hear the president, the Democratic or Republican spokespeople or candidates talk about the public polls, which they do most of the time, you can discount the statement on partisan grounds. It is the insider daily tracking polls that tell the true story.

In order for any poll to really be accurate it must sort the sample by Democrats, Republicans and Independents which most don't. Then registered voters. Those who actually vote in off year elections which few polls ever track. And then it must be adjusted for turnout based on the motivation of the voters. Right now the Republican turnout should be about a third higher than Democrat as half of the Democrats are not satisfied with the president.

Add to that the fact traditional Democrat groups are not motivated. Then consider that the Independents who actually elected Obama have deserted him in huge numbers meaning about half of them have no party loyalty, which is not bad thing after the job both parties have done lately, so they will likely vote GOP in protest.

With 12 days to go not much will change as most people have already made up their minds. The economy is stuck until the GOP wins when you will see a significant improvement in the economy followed by improvement in the jobs picture because small businesses will know Obama cannot bury them in new taxes and regulations.

My advice, hang on to your hats as the politicians will get off one long blast of hot air in debates, commercials and appearances. When the smoke clears the people will speak and a new agenda will finally start to materialize to set us on the road to recovery, hopefully with a lot of new faces. Just 12 more days and people can start telling the truth again.

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