Ignore those Gallup polls

September 19th, 2004 – 3:29 pm
Tagged as: Uncategorized

Last week, while both the Pew and Harris polls had the Bush vs. Kerry battle as pretty much a dead heat, Gallup (who provide their poll results to, among others, CNN, USA Today, CBS News and the New York Times) was showing a 55%-42% lead for Bush. Where does that difference come from? It’s caused by a big bias in one of the major assumptions used in every Gallup poll being done for this election.

Because the Gallup Poll, despite its reputation, assumes that this November 40% of those turning out to vote will be Republicans, and only 33% will be Democrat. You read that correctly.

If you read the rest of that article, you’ll see that this distribution doesn’t jibe with the realities of who voted in the 2000 elections (39%D/35%R/26%I) or in 1996 (39%D/34%R/27%I), and that the Gallup organization apparently has no basis for this idea that in 2004 more Republicans will go to the polls than have voted in the last two Presidential elections, or that a significant number of Democrats will decide to stay home this time around.

The real problem here is that Gallup is spreading a false impression of this race. Through its 1992 partnership with two international media outlets (CNN and USA Today), Gallup is telling voters and other media by using badly-sampled polls that the GOP and its candidates are more popular than they really are. Given that Gallup’s CEO is a GOP donor, this should not be a surprise. But it does require us to remind the media, like Susan Page of USA Today, who wrote the lead story on the poll in the morning paper, and other members of the media who cite this poll today, that it is based on a faulty sample composition of 40% GOP and 33% Democrats.

[via Atrios]

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