David Frum

10.09.12

Polling is Bunk

Commentary's John Podhoretz gives polling a well-deserved dose of concern trolling:

The key hidden fact is that fewer than one in 10 respond to those who try to poll them.

People who screen their calls, hang up on people they don’t know or end the survey because they don’t have time to take it make up more than 90 percent of those phoned by pollsters.

Then there are issues with cellphone users and those who communicate pretty much solely by texts and e-mail, and the like.

All we can be sure of, in the words of the peerless Internet humorist Iowahawk, “political poll results accurately reflect the opinions of the weirdo 9 percent who agree to participate in political polls.”

What yesterday proved is that all bets are off. We’re judging the state of this contest with junk data, and we need to stop. Until pollsters can figure out how to avoid all these crazy mood swings and white noise, they should be put on political and pundit probation.

Let's put it this way. I worked for Gallup for a summer in college. On a purely anecdoctal basis (one influenced by thousands of phone conversations) most of the people who agreed to take the tracking poll were either: 1) very lonely, sad souls; or 2) very motivated, opinionistic voters. To further pile on, the tracking poll was about 20 minutes long. If you didn't complete the entire thing, it didn't count.

So yes, I'm on board with J-Pod. Polling is bunk.

And when Master of the Polls Nate Silver describes current polling as "volatile," might be best for people to chill.