Don't Believe Everything You Hear About Polls | Connecticut Public Radio

Don't Believe Everything You Hear About Polls

Apr 4, 2016

The polling industry is in transition. Fewer people consider it their civic duty to participate -- less than ten percent today compared to 80 percent two decades ago -- and pollsters haven't yet figured out how to effectively capture public opinion using cell phones and online surveys. 

Yet more polls pop up every year. Each pollster uses a different methodology, which can result in wide deviations in quality. 

Aggregators like Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight can help separate the wheat from the chaff, but it's difficult for the average voter to differentiate the good polls from the bad, partly because many pollsters keep their methods private.  

People seem to believe polls reported by the media. They may base their vote on what a trusted poll says about the viability of a particular candidate, unaware that a poll may not accurately reflect public opinion. Perceptions take hold, get spread through social media, and before you know it, the perception turns into reality. Are polls good for our democracy?


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Colin McEnroe, Chion Wolf, and Greg Hill contributed to this show.