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United States Government Politics

Are Today's Polls Clueless? 206

Posted by timothy
from the let's-ask-some-chinchillas-to-find-out dept.
Frisky070802 writes "As noted on electoral-vote, Jimmy Breslin has an interesting article in Newsday on why polls are broken. This is because they poll only landline phones, and a substantial fraction of younger people have only cell phones -- so they hit a biased demographic. If a majority of younger voters tend Democratic, the polls could be giving Kerry a raw deal. Hmm, could this be why two polls released this week vary so widely?"
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Are Today's Polls Clueless?

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  • by the darn (624240) on Friday September 17, 2004 @04:22PM (#10280033) Homepage
    Most polls lack the all-important CowboyNeil option.
    • Re:What they lack (Score:4, Insightful)

      by missing000 (602285) on Friday September 17, 2004 @04:55PM (#10280308)
      While that is funny, there are some more critical problems with polls in my opinion. Another problem with the polls we saw during the Republican convention is that the poll was conducted while a disproportionate number of republicans were at home. Two of the major polls did nothing to adjust for this and the difference in their results verses the other polls was several points. The other problem I'm aware of is the fact that these polls typically only count "likely voters", usually defined as a person who voted in the last presidential election. There is a massive increase in many states in voter registration, so these people are not counted either. My impression is that they are predominantly non-republican.
      • Maybe in your state it is predominantly non-republican, but not in Colorado. I voted rather late in the evening in our primary and the ladies running the show were talking about the number of new voters. They said almost everyone who registered that day was Republican, now granted it has a lot to do with getting Coors elected.
  • Don't have landlines. I don't, most of my friends don't. The people overseas don't. I think Breslin makes some really good points in his article. What it comes down to is that polls just don't seem to add up.
  • by ratsnapple tea (686697) on Friday September 17, 2004 @04:26PM (#10280057)
    Based on my experience as a college graduate of this year, I can say pollsters are definitely missing a huge segment of the 18-25 population. NONE of my friends (yeah, I have friends, thank you very much) have a landline to their apartment, and instead rely on cell phones, as do I. Of course, this is in NYC--which raises the question, do rural and suburban areas (read: swing states) also have large populations ditching their landlines for mobiles? If not, it wouldn't seem to affect polls in those areas as much.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 17, 2004 @04:40PM (#10280177)
      Based on my experience as a college graduate of this year, I can say pollsters are definitely missing a huge segment of the 18-25 population. NONE of my friends have a landline to their apartment.

      Sure, but do they vote? It doesn't matter if they miss people who don't vote. I started voting at 18, but in the last few years, 95% of the undergraduates I've asked say they don't vote and didn't care if I thought they should.

      • I don't have a landline and I'm very politically active and informed. And I vote.

        And many of my friends only have cell phones, and they also all vote.

        The real flaw with Gallup's polls and the Time and Newsweek polls is that they normalize heavily in favor of republicans.

        That is, gallup assumes that 40% of the turnout in November will be republicans, and 33% will be democrats, and weights the responses of the republicans commensurately.

        The problem is, that bears no resemblance to reality.

        Says John Zogb
    • I live in a relatively rural town of 40k, in the middle of no-where.. (80 miles from another city over 20k), and many, many people I know have only cell phones.. Most people in this town hate Qwest with a passion... its really disturbing to see how many ranchers out here have Cell phones, laptops, wireless access, etc..

    • Depends on the area. A lot of rural areas have poor cell coverage if any at all.

      Also consumer (and voter) tastes are going to be different in NYC than most of the country, simply because the environment is so different.

    • back at my parents' house, out in the land where they still haven't wired cable and the phone lines are only good enough to get 28.8k, cell phones are next to worthless. My other family members have them just in case they are going into a city sometime and need to call home.
  • Biased. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MindStalker (22827) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `reklatsdnim'> on Friday September 17, 2004 @04:29PM (#10280081) Journal
    The people who say they want to vote for Bush are generally in the older age brackets, and they don't have as much trouble with the lies told by Bush and his people.

    Biased anyone?
    • Re:Biased. (Score:5, Funny)

      by scrod (136965) on Friday September 17, 2004 @06:26PM (#10280969) Homepage
      Yes, it is biased. There's no reason to believe that older people would necessarily be more inclined to believe the Bush admin's lies than younger people would.
    • What, Bush and his people tell no lies? They are the politicians who speak only the truth? Please awaken from your romantic fantasy and stop taking offense whenever anyone points out that a politician lies.
  • by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Friday September 17, 2004 @04:30PM (#10280087)
    The key thing to remember is that people who carry cell phones tend to be younger and more liberal than people with land lines. As such, polls that ignore cell phones tend to have fairly skewed results.

    Going door-to-door is probably the best alternative at this point, though there are flaws with that as well.
    • Of course it has flaws, you miss the homeless! :)
      • Homeless voting (Score:5, Insightful)

        by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Friday September 17, 2004 @04:40PM (#10280182)
        While I understand your comment is tongue-in-cheek, there's actually a number of states that make it quite difficult for homeless to vote [projectvote.org].

        There's been attempts to get them voting, but it's quite a challenge. In Oregon, for example, ballots are all sent in the mail. Now, you can use the election clerk's office as a mailing address, but that means physically picking it up. I suspect most homeless people are more interested in little things like shelter and food than going through the hassle it takes to vote.
        • Interesting site. If these laws and policy's stop one person from voting who is eligible (ie not felon) and who wants to they could probably be overturned if one were willing to make a legal battle out of it.

          I was pretty sure we got rid of that property owner requirement for voting awhile back.
        • You had to be a land owner in the US to be eligible to vote.

          No foolin'.
    • Can you site some source for this assertion. I would contend that people who carry cell phones only tend to be more intelligent, hence more conservative. Those that meet both criteria, having only a cell phone and likely to vote, also tend to have jobs and want to keep more of their own money, making them more conservative.

      Source: My own survey of friends.

      Basis: Those of my friends that only have a cell phone have made the decision to cancel their land-line and spend the additional money on additional mi
  • by rritterson (588983) * on Friday September 17, 2004 @04:31PM (#10280094)
    The devil is in the details here. First, of the 168 million cell phones, how many of those are owned by people who have no landline? And of those, how many are likely to vote?

    Using my unscientific survey (i.e. my life as a college student) about 40% of 18-22 year olds don't have a cell phone. I would estimate that segment of the population to own maybe ~35% of the cell phones. In the last election we voted at about 36%. Thus, .4*.35*.36*168 million is about 8 million votes that aren't included in the poll. Of those (at the very most). I bet it's 60/40 Kerry/Bush. I don't think it's really large enough to cause a dramatic turnaround in the election, but it is big enough to increase the margin of error in the polls.

    On a side note: does anyone know if they survey all of the likely voters in a household, or just the person who answers? (I've never been polled)
  • by LennyDotCom (26658) <Lenny@lenny.com> on Friday September 17, 2004 @04:31PM (#10280102) Homepage Journal
    I have seen a lot of sloppy polling. You have the big problem of the callers cheating, faking data and all kinds of crap you wouldn't belive. when they say + or - whatever % don't belive it for a minute
  • by waynegoode (758645) * on Friday September 17, 2004 @04:33PM (#10280121) Homepage
    ...a substantial fraction of younger people have only cell phones--so they hit a biased demographic.

    I don't think this is the problem. Demographics like gender, race and political party, preference, etc., are usually corrected for, although I don't know about these polls specifically. They will either adjust the group they poll so that they are half men and half women, for instance, or adjust the weighting of the answers so they are effectively half men and half women. Unless people with cell phones hold different opinions that those with land lines--that is not accounted for by gender, race or political party, etc.--this will not be a problem.

    I think the difference is just the inherent inaccuracy in conducting a political poll.

    • It's interesting that you bring up as a positive one of the things that I see lacking in modern polling methodology. The "normalizing" of poll data is a great threat to the ability of polls to actually reflect shifts in public opinion and one of the ways that observation can taint the observed data.

      Say, for example, that a great number of American voters have figured out that Bush and Kerry agree on most of the major issues and have decided to vote for Badnarik [badnarik.org] instead. When the pollster sees say, a 10%
    • Those damn kids with their text messaging.

      http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/08/19/1918 24 3

      Anyway, cellphones are more popular amongst younger voters and less popular amongst older voters.

      And younger voters do tend to vote Democrat more than older voters.

      So the polling could be missing a segment of the population that will be voting more heavily Democrat. Personally, I know two people who only have cell phones and I intend on annoying them into voting.
  • by DLWormwood (154934) <[wormwood] [at] [me.com]> on Friday September 17, 2004 @04:33PM (#10280122) Homepage
    The people who say they want to vote for Bush are generally in the older age brackets, and they don't have as much trouble with the lies told by Bush and his people.

    Now, while I agree that Bush has told some whoppers in the White House, pointing out this non-sequitur in an article that's supposed to be about bad polling methods really undermines his message. If he hopes to get better youth representation in future polls, the writer has best not look like a partisan shill while he's trying to influence the pollsters into changing their methods. He may as well have just wrote down a Dean-esque "YEARGH!" in print... his advice is going to be ignored as if he did so.

    • Yeah, the first thing that lept to my mind at that point is "No, young people simply prefer the lies of Kerry over Bush."

      (Of course, this is using the latest re-definition of "lie" to mean "anything opposed to the truth" (and we'll just leave "truth" up in the air), as opposed to the rather more reasonable definition of "knowingly telling a falsehood". Under that definition, I don't think either candidate is lying much, although both have lied about their past to one degree or another and both have lied ab
      • "(Of course, this is using the latest re-definition of "lie" to mean "anything opposed to the truth" (and we'll just leave "truth" up in the air), as opposed to the rather more reasonable definition of "knowingly telling a falsehood"."

        I prefer "misleading someone to suit your goals".

        Under your definition, half-truths, evasions, rumours, beliefs and such are all "true" in that they aren't "lies".
    • They are quicker, and probably smarter at this time, and almost doubtlessly more in favor of Kerry than Bush.

      Older people complain about Kerry's performance as a candidate. Younger people don't want to get shot at in a war that most believe, and firmly, never should have started because it was started with a president lying.

      Good grief!

      For the record... I'm quick, I'm smart, I fit into the 18-25 age bracket *and* I have only a cell phone.

      I just happen to be using my quickness and smarts to make

    • by Anonymous Coward
      It's really pathetic that we live in a political culture where it's somehow partisan to point out when a politician isn't telling the truth. If a politician says something that he/she knew to be untrue, saying they lied isn't a partisan opinion -- it's a fact!

      Given that Bush has been caught in a stream of lies [msn.com]; outright lies [factcheck.org] and lies of omission [snopes.com] (as well as blatent attempts to mislead the American voters [factcheck.org] and vast distortions [factcheck.org]), it's not "partisan" to say he's a liar. It's a statement of fact.

      • it's not "partisan" to say he's a liar. It's a statement of fact.

        I think you missed the point of my critique. One important skill useful in wielding political influence is "tact." You want your adversaries to agree with your suggestions by making them think they'll derive just as much benefit as your side by the change in policy.

        By flagrantly saying that only Democrats will benefit from cell phone polling, it only gives the Republicans incentive to drag their heels and oppose it. This is just like ho

  • Thank goodness they don't poll people with cell phones. I'm perfectly happy not getting solicitation calls on my cell phone.

    Find some other way to handle this demographic.
  • Who cares? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by isaac (2852) on Friday September 17, 2004 @04:39PM (#10280168)
    The 18-25 demographic doesn't vote.

    See http://www.fec.gov/pages/agedemog.htm

    Year after year, Americans under age 25 fail to do their civic duty. Why do you think the drinking age is 21?

    Young adults might support Kerry over Bush... if they bothered to *vote*.

    -Isaac

    • Re:Who cares? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Jordy (440) * <(moc.pacons) (ta) (nadroj)> on Friday September 17, 2004 @05:01PM (#10280351) Homepage
      I've always wondered why the age groups were so biased against young people. I mean look at them:

      18-20 (3 years worth of people representing 10.7 million)
      21-24 (4 years representing 13.8 million)
      25-44 (20 years representing 83.3 million!)
      45-64 (20 years representing 53.7 million)
      65+ (avg age of ~80 = ~16 years representing 31.8 milion)

      Graphing it would have been better. Yes, young people vote less, but is 24 really much worse than 25 or is there a spike at 30 or 35 that brings everyne in the age bracket up?
    • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by PurpleFloyd (149812) <zeno20@attbPASCALi.com minus language> on Friday September 17, 2004 @05:06PM (#10280400) Homepage
      First of all, I'm a college student, and I vote. Every election, local or national. I look through the voter's pamphlet, visit candidates' websites, and generally try to make an informed choice. By doing that, I'm doing my "civic duty" better than many middle-aged adults.

      Second, I think the youth vote will be far more of a factor in this election than it has been in the past. An example: Among my circle of friends, I'm known as someone who is very politically active, and thus has been the go-to guy to get registered to vote. I have helped register many friends (and friends of friends, and so on), including several who have never shown any political inclination before. As might be expected, these people are planning to vote Kerry in droves. Quite simply, they think Bush is a reckless cowboy, and feel that he is selling out their futures with reckless defecit spending. While the 18-25 turnout may be lower than the national average, I think that it will turn out to be one of the decisive groups in this election.

  • Zogby, anyone? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Asprin (545477) <gsarnoldNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Friday September 17, 2004 @04:39PM (#10280171) Homepage Journal

    HA-HA!

    What comes around goes around, I guess.

    About 10 or 15 years ago, some dude named John Zogby surmised that the standard political telephone polls we skewed toward the left because their methodologies involved making the calls during the day, when older Americans -- who tended to be more conservative -- were more likely to be preoccupied with activities like working, shopping and running errands. He started company [zogby.com] to prove he was right. Here's his bio. [zogby.com]
    • Thats why all the polling is done after 4 pm It's a total money drain trying to get surveys before 4 because nobody is home and you have a room full of callers calling empty houses and old folks
  • Door to Door might work better- but nobody wants to pay for that anymore. Calling phone numbers truly at random might work- but you've got more than just the United States in that list (Canada is also tied into the 10 digit dialing system, as are a few other places like the US Virgin Islands). I think that one guy has the best idea- move forward to internet polling of truly large samples.
    • by incom (570967)
      What is it with all those "US territories" anyways? Does nobody else find it strange that they can't vote/don't have US citizenship/rights , and that they are still a part of the US? Does that make the US president their unelected dictator? Why don't they "count" anyways? If I were one of them I'd be royally pissed everytime bush mentions the word democracy.
      • by zCyl (14362)
        Does nobody else find it strange that they can't vote/don't have US citizenship/rights , and that they are still a part of the US?

        They ARE full citizens (Puerto Rico since 1917, and many of the Islands since 1927), and thus possess the same rights as any other US citizens. Because we are stuck in an electoral college system, citizens living in the territories do not get a vote for president, but currently they are as free as any other citizen to move into a state which does have an electoral representati
        • But it's hardly fair to call them oppressed or subject to a dictator.


          There isn't anything standing in their way of statehood should they want that and push for it, either. I believe Puerto Rico held a referendum for statehood and it actually failed.
  • n(prime)% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
  • by Skeezix (14602) <jamin@pubcrawler.org> on Friday September 17, 2004 @04:41PM (#10280188) Homepage
    Any credible argument or salient points are pretty much wiped out by statements such as:

    The people who say they want to vote for Bush are generally in the older age brackets, and they don't have as much trouble with the lies told by Bush and his people.

    Yeah, because we all know that older people don't mind when a president and "his people" lie to the nation. And clearly everyone knows the president has lied to all of us. It's just that older people don't mind. Huh?

    The young people on cell phones appear not to be listening and they hear every syllable. They punch out a number without looking. They are quicker, and probably smarter at this time, and almost doubtlessly more in favor of Kerry than Bush.

    Yeah, and we all know that the younger people who are also smarter will doubtless vote for Kerry (probably a direct consequence of their increased intelligence). Only the old, stupid, slow people would not mind Bush's lies and vote for him and "his people."

    Older people complain about Kerry's performance as a candidate. Younger people don't want to get shot at in a war that most believe, and firmly, never should have started because it was started with a president lying.

    And obviously the older generation will be more concerned with trivial details such as the candidate's "political record" and "performance" while the younger, smarter people don't want to die and therefore don't want to vote for a liar who sends people to their death for a pointless cause.

    • You're absolutely right. There are plenty of young idiots voting for Bush and wise elders voting for Kerry. ;)
    • And obviously the older generation will be more concerned with trivial details such as the candidate's "political record" and "performance" while the younger, smarter people don't want to die and therefore don't want to vote for a liar who sends people to their death for a pointless cause.

      Many in the older generation seem to be primarily concerned with stealing money from future generations: They want the Bush tax cuts even though Bush is running the federal government into the red to the tune of over $40
    • by lynx_user_abroad (323975) on Friday September 17, 2004 @06:01PM (#10280810) Homepage Journal

      Yeah, because we all know that older people don't mind when a president and "his people" lie to the nation. And clearly everyone knows the president has lied to all of us. It's just that older people don't mind. Huh?

      I think I'm old enough to qualify as one of them "older people", even if I don't tend to agree with my peers, so I'll try to relate things from the "Boomer" point -of-view. It might help others (you don't seem to need it) understand just what a mess we're in.

      The baby boom generation represents a demographic abnormality which may not be apparent to you, but is clearly apparent to them.

      First, they are by far the largest single demographic of American society today. Which means, in terms of raw numbers, they have the votes.

      Second, every generation tends to become more active as voters as they reach their senior years, and that's what the Boomers are becomming right now.

      And finally, the Boomers (generally, people born between the end of WWII (1945) and the middle of the 60's (1965)) were raised during the Industrialization Bubble on the mid 20th century, where the Corporation was King, standardization and mass production were the buzzwords. They have been raised in a society which rewards Group-Think, and rewards it well.

      Because educating our children was deemed a priority then, most Boomers attended schools in buildings less than 10 years old. Because educating our children now is just a lip-service issue, most of the Boomer's children (and a lot of their grandchildren) attend school in those very same buildings.

      The Boomers have generally reached senior points in their careers, and are past child-breaing years. That means they aren't generally nearly as interested in questions like "How can I afford the mortgage payment" and "how can I pay for my children's education" as their younger counterparts because, for many of them, the paychecks are bigger, the mortgage is paid-off, and the Kids are already through college. Instead, the issues of interest to Boomers, generally, revolve around staying healthy as long as possible, and preparing for the day they're no longer around. This also explains, to some extent, the surge of religious dedication often attributed to the Religious Right.

      In a strange twist, the oldest Boomers who saved hard for retirement are finding an unusual and unexpected expense: instead of treating their grandchildren to a toy train at Christmas and a winter vacation in Florida are instead breaking the budget for such things as braces and winter coats for grandchildren who's parents are unable to get the health care or proper winter clothing for them. Instead of a retirement spent growing roses, it's unofficial daycare duty for their own childern, who can't afford to take a day off work.

      It makes perfect sense, therefore, for the Boomer generation to favor policies which emphasize health care for seniors to be paid for by a huge budget deficits. The cost will be paid after they're dead and buried. They are only acting rationally, in their own interest. The don't just want tax breaks skewed toward their higher incomes, they need them in order to reach their retirement goals.

      And the politicians they support, who also must act in their own best interest, are also acting rationally when they pander to (as they must) this voting block. It's no secret that many Kerry supporters are only luke-warm in their support, voting for Kerry primarily because doing so is a vote against Bush. The Bush campaign has picked up on this, too, citing Kerry's seeming tendency to flip-flop on issues, which (my opinion here) is a manifestation of Kerry's realization that he has no way to run this country any better than Bush without reversing a slew of Bush's policies, but if he were to admit before the election that he has plans to reverse Bush's policies, he wouldn't stand a snowballs' chance in hell of getting the Boomer votes he needs t

      • MOD PARENT UP MAJOR TIME.

        Best discussion I've ever seen as to why Boomers now vote Republican. As for me:
        live like a pauper, saving like hell, in hopes you can scrape by the next 20 years,
        Already doing this one, but am failing at it (partially because I failed to see the trend early enough and am around $200,000 in debt for trying to live like my parents did- and they weren't rich people to begin with)
        or organize, discuss, and vote in hopes of becomming an unusually lucrative voting block.

        I'm workin
      • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday September 18, 2004 @11:48AM (#10284896)
        "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.

        The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance; from abundance to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again into bondage."

        Alexander Frasier Tytler
        "The decline and fall of the Athenian republic"

        It looks like we're at "apathy" now. Time to break the cycle.
      • by cyberformer (257332) on Saturday September 18, 2004 @04:32PM (#10286555)
        This is really interesting, but you're repeating that "flip-flopper" BS about Kerry.

        Kerry isn't perfect, but he really hasn't "flip flopped" much. Different versions of the same bill come up in congress, and most congresscritters (including Kerry) vote for some and against others. For example, Kerry voted for a bill giving the US military $87 billion for Iraq, but against a version of the same bill that also included a provision that enlarged the deficit to give millionaires an even bigger tax cut.

        There are some areas where Kerry has actually changed his mind, like fighting in 'Nam and then protesting the war. But changing your beliefs when new evidence emerges is not something to be ashamed of. It's just rational.
    • Yeah, and we all know that the younger people who are also smarter will doubtless vote for Kerry (probably a direct consequence of their increased intelligence). Only the old, stupid, slow people would not mind Bush's lies and vote for him and "his people."

      Do you think perhaps it's because smarter actually value intelligent conversation- and Bush often comes up appearing like a rich frat boy whose father paid for every good grade he ever got?
  • Does any politician really care what young people think? The only votes that truly matter are the middle-aged middle-class votes. Period. All middle-aged, middle-class people have land lines. Wait 20 years when all the youngsters are middle-aged and then the polling methods will change.

    • The only votes that truly matter are the middle-aged middle-class votes. Period.

      There is an easy workaround for this, next time you are voting. See that box labelled "middle-aged, middle-class"? Check it, even if it isn't true. They can't verify it, after all.

      Once you do that, you'll find your vote counted along with all the rest of our votes.
  • A lot of younger people have cell phones, true.
    But, a lot of younger people, quite frankly, "can't be bothered" to vote. (Idiots)

    I think it evens out, yes they are missing some voters, but I think that the amount they are missing is quite negligible. I'm sure they have thought of this dilemma.

    When the 60+ crowd (who are the 'best' voters) get cell phones, I'll start thinking we may need a better system, but until then I think we'll be ok.
    • But, a lot of younger people, quite frankly, "can't be bothered" to vote. (Idiots)

      Awe Mom, I said I was gonna vote this time, and I really really really mean it this time!

      When the 60+ crowd (who are the 'best' voters)

      If I remember right, aren't you over 60, Mom?
  • another "bias" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jeffy124 (453342) on Friday September 17, 2004 @04:47PM (#10280251) Homepage Journal
    they only get to ask those people who dont hangup on them.

    it would be interesting to see a poll that showed the response rate. A lot of people hang up on pollster calls, thinking they're telemarketers or something, often before the questions even get asked. Therefore, if Gallup or USAToday or Quinnipeac (sp?) phoned 20000 numbers, show how many or what percentage of them took time to actually answer the pollster's questions.

    the other thing I would like to see on these public opinion polls are how the questions are presented to the pollee. E.g, phrasing of the questions, multiple choice or open ended, etc.
    • Yes, if the questions are half as biased in that nutty article, the polls will be skewed all over the place.

    • their sample is biased towards people that don't have anything better to do with their time! That eliminates most working people or people with children. Personally, I consider my time to be worth at least $60/hour, so if you want me to spend 10 minutes answering questions, you'd better pay me $10 -- otherwise I'll use that time to play with my 3-year old kid instead!
  • effect of Caller ID? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nekoniku (183821)
    Anytime I see a caller I don't recognize on Caller ID, I don't answer the phone and let the answering machine deal with it. Such calls have increased in frequency over the last few months; I wonder how many of those calls I don't answer are pollsters or campaign fundraisers?

    I wonder if Caller ID has a neutral or skewing effect on the accuracy of polling today?
    • I wonder if Caller ID has a neutral or skewing effect on the accuracy of polling today?

      Not sure about your location, but here in Toronto I get called by Pollara [pollara.ca] once in a while. It actually shows up as Pollara on call display. Even telemarketers (mainly the Toronto Star for some reason) show up as Call Centre or something like that. The only numbers here that I don't get a name on are either cell numbers or a caller that has deliberately blocked it. Even those show up as Private Caller on call display
  • News Polls (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Jinsaku (729938)
    This is a tad unrelated, but I've got a big problem with polls on newspaper sites. For instance, CNN may run an article on how the war in Iraq was a bad thing (a viewpoint article), then, have a poll attached to it with the Q: "Do you think the war in Iraq was bad?" Yes/No ... of course, someone who just read an opinion article about how bad it was will probably vote the way the article did.

    Just irritating. Anyone else seen stuff like this and wish to add to it?
  • This is because they poll only landline phones, and a substantial fraction of younger people have only cell phones -- so they hit a biased demographic.


    I wonder how that information was gathered... Maybe some sort of sampling method like a poll? Maybe a hunch? Totally made up, perhaps?

    Nah, I'm sure it's totally reliable and accurate information from a completely unbiased unquestionably authoratative source.
  • by green.vervet (565158) <.cheyenne.martin. .at. .flashmail.com.> on Friday September 17, 2004 @05:16PM (#10280488)
    The reason for Gallop's very high poll numbers for Bush was based on its bizarre assumptions on turnout. This is well documented in Zogby's critique of Gallop:

    http://www.zogby.com/news/ReadNews.dbm?ID=859 [zogby.com]

    Gallop assumes for that poll assumes that the turnout on election day will break down as follows:

    Total Sample: 767
    GOP: 305 (40%)
    Dem: 253 (33%)
    Ind: 208 (28%)

    However, as zogby noted:

    If we look at the three last Presidential elections, the spread was 34% Democrats, 34% Republicans and 33% Independents (in 1992 with Ross Perot in the race); 39% Democrats, 34% Republicans, and 27% Independents in 1996; and 39% Democrats, 35% Republicans and 26% Independents in 2000

    So Republicans are badly over-sampled and Democrats badly under-sampled, giving systematically biased results. Awful polling, but used to keep Republicans motivated and Democrats depressed.
    • Check it out. [cbsnews.com] Bush leading 50% to 41% amoung registered (not even "likely") voters.

      Now, are you also going to argue that CBS and the New York Times are biased towards Republicans?
      • That's what Rush Limbaugh argued - that they were skewing results so that they could show Kerry momentum in the future. I am saying that you need to find out what assumptions the pollster made about the population they are sampling to see if there is a systemic bias in the polling results. Right now you have a body of polls with the race as a dead heat and two polls consistently showing a Bush landslide. These two sets of polls are outside each other's margins of error - which means that there must be funda
  • by yoder (178161) <progressivepenguin@gmail.com> on Friday September 17, 2004 @05:22PM (#10280526) Homepage Journal
    I live in rural Minnesota and have done some calling for local politicians. Political parties can't even get their contact lists right, I can't imagine a polling entity being any more accurate.

    Even within rural areas like this it is almost impossible to get a handle on who is for or against whom. In this divisive political environment people are not speaking their minds because they are afraid of being singled out and of hostility. This alone pretty much guarantees that polls will not be accurate.
  • by Big Sean O (317186) on Friday September 17, 2004 @06:26PM (#10280972)
    Lots of people remember the Chicago Daily News headline, but this story harkens back to the 1948 race.

    Back in 1948, Thomas Dewey (he-of-the-new-york-state-thruway-fame) was polling ahead of President Truman. No one expected that Truman would win. However, after the votes were counted, Truman won.

    Afterward it was discovered that extra Truman support came from urban and rural poor, the people who didn't have phones, and therefore they weren't polled.

    There was even a third-party candidate back then: Strom Thurmond, the "Dixiecrat [rotten.com]" who bailed on the Democratic party because Truman had the gall to support civil rights reforms (like integrating the military). "Ol' Lizard King", as I like to call Thurmond, apparently felt it was okay to secretly father children with "Negroes" (although he preferred a different N-word [stromwatch.com]), but southern states shouldn't have to give up segregation.

    Of course, back in 1948 you had two decent, qualified people running for president, today we're lucky if we get one.
  • Notes on polling (Score:2, Insightful)

    by medcalf (68293)

    First, I think that today's poll likely overstates Bush's gain, but I think that there is a definite gain. And I think that it can be explained thus: the two polls from last week that show a virtual tie ended on Monday and Tuesday respectively. Today's poll ended after the forged memos broke open.

    It should be noted that people under 25 are disproportionately conservative, though not disproportionately Republican - there have been several surveys exploring this.

    It should be noted that Republicans dispr

  • Doesn't Matter (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dr. Transparent (77005) on Friday September 17, 2004 @08:34PM (#10281828) Homepage Journal
    Statistically speaking if you poll about 1200 people with a statistical representation of the populous (i.e. race balance that reflects the population, party affiliation ratios that match, etc.) you will get within 4% of perfectly accurate. The weird thing about statistics is that if you poll about 1000 or so people at any time you're mostly likely to get that equal balance whether you try to or not.

    The real kicker about polls isn't so much who's asked, but what they're asked. Small variations in wording on the surveys result in very different answers by those being polled.

    Polls are pretty accurate, but what's reported isn't always an accurate representation of what was queried.

    • Statistically speaking if you poll about 1200 people with a statistical representation of the populous (i.e. race balance that reflects the population, party affiliation ratios that match, etc.) you will get within 4% of perfectly accurate

      Certainly. The problem is you just glazed over the phrase "statistical representation" without a passing thought. Getting a random sample from a population is an extremely difficult thing to achieve. Getting even CLOSE to a random sample from a population is rather c
  • Polls have had problems like this for years. For example, what about the millions of people who simply *are not home* to accept phone calls? This problem didn't suddenly spring into existence with the advent of cell phones, it just made idiots like Breslin understand the problems better.
  • And overseas voters (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dcmeserve (615081) on Friday September 17, 2004 @10:13PM (#10282387) Homepage Journal
    This is because they poll only landline phones, ...

    There's another group too, *totally* unaccounted for by the polls: Americans living overseas. Here's a couple of factoids:

    - There are currently about 5 million Americans of voting age living abroad. Their opinons are not showing up in any of the polls, but they can still vote absentee. And they are likely to vote in much higher numbers this time.

    - Americans with passports are supporting Kerry 3-to-1 (don't remember the reference; may have been mentioned on NPR).

    I got the first point from this site [electoral-vote.com] a few days ago. The front page keeps changing, so here's the text:

    I have it on good authority that overseas voters are registering in huge numbers this time, maybe double or triple 2000. I was told that the number of people who showed up at the Democratic party caucus in England earlier this year was 10 times what it was in 2000, ditto in other countries. Americans overseas vote in the state they last lived in, even if that was decades ago. There are about 7 million overseas Americans and probably about 5 million are over 18. In Florida, it was the overseas absentee ballots that swung the election. I believe that something like 8% are military, but the rest are students, teachers, artists, government workers, business executives, spouses of foreign nationals, missionaries, retirees, and more. What is significant here is that these people represent a lot of votes and are not included in any of the polls. Nobody knows if they are largely Democrats or Republicans, but their votes could be one of the big surprises of this election. if anyone has any actual data (as opposed to speculation) on this group, I'd be interested.

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