Are The Polls Skewed?

October 1st, 2012 by Lee Eldridge

Just a quick post today. I’ve said for nearly a couple months that I believe many of the polls to be skewed. That democrats are getting oversampled compared to republicans, especially in some of the recent state polls. It’s become a big enough story in recent weeks that virtually all of the pollsters have been posting columns detailing why their polls are not skewed.

For instance, read this article from Frank Martin of Gallup. The defenders of the polls make several insightful points. That doesn’t make them right.

Some on the right, such as Dick Morris, have gone so far as to accuse the pollsters of distorting their polls on purpose to dampen republican enthusiasm. I don’t believe this. I do believe that much of the media is rooting for President Obama to win a second term, and are happy to report that the polls are showing Obama with a clear advantage in many of the swing states. And are just as happy to ignore the potential oversampling of democrats in the polls.

I made two points a few weeks ago about why the polls might be distorted. One, I believe that liberals are more inclined to share their opinions than conservatives. This has only been a personal belief, and not one that I’ve researched. And two, that it’s likely that republicans are declining poll requests as they are suspicious of the pollsters and the media.

This morning I happened upon an article by Michael Barone on AEI’s website. You should read the full article. Here are a few excerpts:

In addition, it’s getting much harder for pollsters to get people to respond to interviews. The Pew Research Center reports that it’s getting only 9 percent of the people it contacts to respond to its questions. That’s compared with 36 percent in 1997… Are those 9 percent representative of the larger population? As that percentage declines, it seems increasingly possible that the sample is unrepresentative of the much larger voting public. One thing a poll can’t tell us is the opinion of people who refuse to be polled.

While this doesn’t specifically back my point that republicans are refusing to be polled, it’s an interesting stat. And if you’re a reader of my blog, you know I love stats.

Barone went on to explain:

It may be that we’re seeing the phenomenon we’ve seen for years in exit polls, which have consistently skewed Democratic (and toward Barack Obama in the 2008 primaries). Part of that is interviewer error: Exit poll pioneer Warren Mitofsky found the biggest discrepancies between exit polls and actual results were in precincts where the interviewers were female graduate students. But he also found that Democrats were simply more willing to fill out the exit poll. Which raises the question: Are we seeing the same thing in this month’s polls?

Which would seem to support my point that liberals are more likely to share their point of view than conservatives. Especially if there’s a female grad student asking the questions. 🙂

And I wish I had saved it, and now I can’t find it, but last night I saw a poll that showed a majority of republicans (I believe the number was 66%) believe that the polls are intentionally skewed to favor democrats. Conservatives don’t trust the media, and apparently don’t trust pollsters either.


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