Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Is traditional polling going the way of the corner bowling alley?
By Kevin “Coach” Collins
Many of us can remember when small towns and even big city neighborhoods almost always included a bowling alley, a dry cleaner, a drive-in movie and more recently a travel agency. Finding these establishments today is a tall order. The latest evidence regarding traditional political “horse race” polls suggests that this phenomenon might be degrading them as well.
Last October, in a burst of honesty, the Gallup Company-which is granddaddy of polling firms-decided it had had enough. It could no longer overcome the duel barriers of widespread cell phone use and resistance to answering pollsters’ questions. Consequently, Gallup announced it would no longer poll in the traditional manner.
At almost the same time, Pew released the results of a massive study of how people answer poll questions very differently depending upon their method of response. The example they used was that those who were asked questions about their support for Donald Trump by a live person were as much as nine points less likely to say they were supporting the Republican candidate than those answering the same questions posed to them on line. It is fair to say the traditional way of polling is tottering on the edge of a cliff and about to fall off.
Earlier this month, two online polls that grabbed attention appeared in social media. One presented itself as being posted by NBC and the other as being posted by CBS. The numbers of respondents they got skyrocketed with support for Trump off the charts. Immediately the usual suspects howled and complained that these were “fake,” “unscientific” polls. Maybe in the sense that they were rip offs of the two networks they were “fake” and “unscientific” but compared to what? These online polls have huge samples of usually 100,000 or more respondents while traditional polls talk to about 1,000 with demonstrably wrong over and under sampling of various groups depending upon what they want the poll to say.
Enter the UPI/CVoter on-line poll; a strictly on-line poll of 200 respondents per day that the agency feels has a 3% “credibility interval.” It currently has Trump down just .7 % having moved up from 3 points down in the past 3 days.
Where this leaves the traditional polls and their gross over and under sampling is anyone’s guess. What is sure is that at some point, because they have abused their position on the public stage, they will fade away like the bowling alley that used to be on the corner.
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