Accuracy of Political Polling
14 Oct 2019

Accuracy of Political Polling

Political Polling

There has been a lot of buzz in the media about a Fox News political poll that claimed that most Americans are in favor of impeachment. Before we can continue, this comment is about the survey and analysis, not about politics. The political beliefs of Provoke Insights will not be included in this post!

Mary Kay Linge from the NY Post wrote an article yesterday saying that a Fox News Political Poll was incorrect and that it skewed higher among democrats. Then Ms. Linge re-based the data to match the current number of affiliated Democrats in the United States. As a result, the figures showed that the number of Americans that are in favor of impeachment does not make up the majority.

How to Accurately Re-Base

Now, Mary Kay Linge, the thinking was correct, but you cannot just re-base the numbers like that. Firstly, Linge uses numbers by Gallup to re-base, but she does not provide the date of the study or the name of the study that she obtained the data from. For example, the survey she was comparing could have been a few years old or only surveyed a small number of respondents. For something like party affiliation, we would check the number of people registered with each party by state rather than another poll. This way, you know your numbers are accurate. Otherwise, we would look at non-profit data sites such as Pew Research for the information.

When conducting a political poll, you need to make sure that all of your quotas are accurate. So, we look at the US Census and make sure that the poll is in proportion with the US Census in regards to age, gender, income, ethnicity, and geography. Then, you can make sure it is accurate in regard to party affiliation.

What Question Are You Asking

The survey question is important. You need to ensure that the questions accurately line up. For example, someone may have registered as a Republican a long time ago, but today considers themselves an Independent. Therefore, look to see if the question wording says, “do you consider yourself..“ or if it says.. “are you registered as..”. While this may seem like a nuance, it is a vital part of polling correctly.

As many political polls have certain party affiliations or are created for a news station that is left or right-wing leaning, we have to always go back to the source and question how the data was collected. Often, we find that polls are conducted too quickly or include party-biases. As a result, the data may not be as accurate as we like.

Going back to Ms. Linge’s feedback, we think she wanted a quick rebuttal rather than looking at the data accurately. Was the survey wrong? We went to Braun’s website to read the poll, and unfortunately, it was not on the site. The best way to see inaccuracies is to understand the methodology, sampling practices, and the data to see if something is skewed.

For more information, you can read the article here. Also, go to American FactFinder to easily access census data. 


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