Why You Shouldn’t Trust Polls


Polling titan Gallup has decided to withdraw
from the US presidential primaries and may even sit out the general election. Perhaps
it’s not too surprising, given that they predicted Mitt Romney would beat Barack Obama
in 2012 and instead he lost by about a 4 point margin. Over the past few decades, polling
has become increasingly inaccurate. With the upcoming 2016 election it’s important to
know, why do polls get it wrong so often? Well, there are a number of reasons why polling
accuracy has declined. For one, cell phones are on the rise, while fewer and fewer people
use landlines. Why would this be a problem? Cell phones can’t be autodialed according
to the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act. In order to call someone’s cell phone,
a live person needs to be the one to do it. For every thousand respondents, it takes about
20,000 calls to random numbers, most of which are non working numbers. This is incredibly
expensive and as a result, some polls don’t include cell phones. And since younger people,
lower income Americans and minority groups often only use cell phones, they are extremely
under-represented, compared to older, white people who still rely on landlines. Another problem with polling is the reticence
to even state an opinion. Polls now have extremely low response rates. Back in the late 1970’s,
an 80% response rate was considered acceptable. By 2012, the Pew Research Center reported
that that number had dropped to 9%. Some say this is due to fears over privacy and confidentiality.
It’s pretty tough to determine the pulse of a nation when relatively few people seem
interested in sharing their opinions. But polling inaccuracy extends past the phone
line. Internet polls come with their own set of problems. Most significantly, they do not
account for a relevant group of responders. While 93% of 18-29 year olds in the US use
the internet, in the 2014 midterm elections, only 13% of that age group showed up to vote.
Meanwhile, more likely voters have considerably lower rates of internet use, rendering online
polls a poor representation of public opinion. Another huge issue is the influence of early
polling. Early polls tend not to correlate with final results, as most respondents have
not had the time to learn about new candidates or issues. But those early polls are frequently
the only source of information available for preliminary media coverage. So uninformed
polls leading to glorified coverage causes a cyclical interest level. Potential respondents
see the media talking about early poll frontrunners, which influences them to voice a stronger
opinion, and thus possibly skew future polls. We’ve already seen this happening in the
2016 primaries. For example, online polls showed that Bernie Sanders was the winner
of the first Democratic debate. However in more traditional phone based polls, Hillary
Clinton came out ahead. But inaccurate polling isn’t just a problem
in the US. The most recent election in the UK predicted that the conservative party would
barely win by 1% which could have wreaked havoc on parliament, but election results
saw them winning by about 37% to the opposition’s 31%. With so many issues surrounding polling
methods, it’s best to take them with a hefty grain of salt. While polling isn’t as reliable as it used
to be, you can make up your mind for yourself about upcoming presidential candidates by
watching our playlist. If you want to see more of a tongue-in-cheek take on politics,
check out my channel Newsy News. Thanks for watching TestTube! Don’t forget to subscribe
to our channel so you don’t miss out on new videos.

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