NRL News

Pollsters defend methods that assume more Democrats than Republicans will vote in 2012

by | Sep 25, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

Some things ARE inevitable, one of which is that pollsters, especially those that work with media outlets, would eventually strike back at charges that many of their polls are severely skewed against Mitt Romney. The basic criticism of their methods—which we have talked about on many occasions at NRL News Today—is simple: by including more Democrats (often times many more Democrats) than Republicans, they are polling an unrepresentative sample of who will vote November 6.

The response, which appeared in a National Journal article today, is equally simple: “Pollsters counter that the results they are finding reflect slight changes in public sentiment — and, moreover, adjusting their polls to match arbitrary party-identification targets would be unscientific.”

In other words, when these pollsters come up with numbers for the electorate that are much closer to the one that turned out in 2008 (a heavily Democratic year) than 2010 (when Republicans did so well), it’s because they are catching changes (a big shift toward the Democratic side) that critics are not. So, take that.


As Ed Morrissey points out this morning, “If so, then Gallup and Rasmussen have both missed it.  Both organizations routinely do general-population polling for partisan identification.  In fact, the latest state-by-state polling from Gallup (August 2012) shows that the shift has gone the other way.”

Gallup’s Lydia Saad wrote

“Thus far in 2012, the two major parties have been closely matched nationally in terms of the absolute number of states each can claim as politically favorable, representing a dramatic change from 2008 and 2009 when the Democratic Party had an overwhelming advantage on this score. This doesn’t translate directly into likely election outcomes, given differences that can exist between the party leanings of adults versus registered voters, as well as differing turnout patterns and voting behavior of Republicans vs. Democrats in some states.”

The National Journal’s article, written by Steven Shepard, is quite balanced. It gives the critics (most Republicans) their due, pollsters space to defend their methods, and even includes one Republican pollster who thinks the numbers are pretty accurate.

But he also writes about a new site which has re-weighted many public polls, resulting in a big lead for Mr. Romney, which arguably is just as unrepresentative as giving President Obama a big lead.

Perhaps the most important point comes near the very end where Shepard writes

“The pollsters continue to stand by their results, but the complaints are nevertheless getting through. Marist’s [Lee] Miringoff, for instance, was lambasted by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt earlier this month over a poll in Hewitt’s native Ohio that the radio jock deemed ‘biased’ for its 10-point party-ID advantage for Democrats. Miringoff admitted to National Journal that he is now taking note of the party-identification results in the polls he is conducting.”

Categories: Polling