04/10/12 — Predictions: Don't read too much into polls, especially this year

View Archive

Predictions: Don't read too much into polls, especially this year

It has been going on for months -- pollsters handicapping first the Republican nomination and more so lately, the presidential race.

If you are trying to judge what is happening in the political world by what you read in the polls -- good luck.

There is a little known secret about polling -- it is not always the most accurate predictor of what the outcome of anything will be.

In the fine print of most polls, you will see something called a margin of error -- and it is usually not small, anywhere from plus or minus 3 to up to 5 or 6 percent.

That means some of what you are reading might be simply a guess.

And there is another factor, too. What do you do when you get polling calls? Do you respond or do you hang up? What do you think would motivate someone to answer the questions? And whom do you think would mostly likely be caught at home during the day to answer these queries?

Answer those questions and you will see why many people question the motive behind any poll -- and wonder about the intrinsic value of the information gathered by them.

But polls can skew an election. If voters think the results are gospel, they could make a bad decision and stay home.

If you want a gauge of the current political climate, do your own poll. Ask around. Talk to people you meet and those you know. Find out what they see as the top issues and the concerns they have about each candidate in the race.

After you are done with your research, you will have as accurate a predictor of the upcoming election as almost any pollster.

Published in Editorials on April 10, 2012 10:51 AM