Saturday, August 24th, 2019

Poll dancing with FiveThirtyEight

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Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website always has interesting reading on polling (and I’m not saying it just because they linked to me.) If you’re a consumer of political polls like I am then you’ll want to read about FiveThirtyEight’s poll of pollsters.

In their responses, most pollsters predict Republicans will win the Senate by a narrow margin. Many say fewer people are responding to polls this year, compared to 2012, and more expect greater polling error — that is, the difference between what the latest pre-election polls show and actual vote margins — in the upcoming election, than expect less error. And yet, the results also show how little the pollsters agree on.

For me, the most interesting numbers are those showing poll participation is down:

Fifteen pollsters told us their response rates for election polls this year and in 2012.2 The average response rate this year is 11.8 percent — down 1.9 percentage points from 2012.3 That may not sound like a lot, but when fewer than one in seven people responded to polls in 2012, there wasn’t much room to drop. It’s a decline of 14 percent, and it’s consistent across pollsters — 12 of the 15 reported a decline, and no one reported an increase.

These results are consistent with what pollsters have reported for years: that people are harder to reach by phone, and are less likely to want to talk to strangers when they are reached. Here, the pollsters show just how quickly response rates have fallen in only two years.

Tomorrow there will be more results from the Marquette University Law School Poll. Consider this some food for thought before then.

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