2016 presidential election

Four Different Pollsters, Four Different Results

Political polling can vary widely based on factors such as who is interviewed and the weighting pollsters give to likely voters, white voters, Hispanic voters and black voters.

Political polling can vary widely based on factors such as who is interviewed and the weighting pollsters give to likely voters, white voters, Hispanic voters and black voters.

Wariness of presidential political polls is warranted. The New York Times conducted an experiment that involved four different pollsters evaluating the same data set, which produced four different results.

Hillary Clinton received 42 percent support in two of the four polls and 39 percent and 40 percent in the other two. Donald Trump topped out at 41 percent in one poll, 39 percent in another and 38 percent in the other two. The Times “benchmark” poll had it 41 percent for Clinton and 40 percent for Trump.

The experiment highlights how polling, even by credible pollsters, can vary widely within the acceptable norms of polling. Critical variables include a representative sample, sampling error and basic assumptions. The latter accounted for the variance in the Times experiment that centered on the same 867 poll responses.

The most significant variables in the pollster analysis of response data: predicting the percentage of white, Hispanic and black likely voters in the November 8 general election.

When white voters reached 70 percent and Hispanic voters fell to 13 percent, Trump came out ahead by a percentage point.

When white voters were estimated at 68 percent and Hispanic voters at 15 percent, Clinton prevailed by 3 percentage points.

These choices weren’t random. Different pollsters relied on different models or sources of data. For example, the pollster who predicted the biggest lead for Clinton used self-reported intentions for likely voters, traditional weighting and Census data. The pollster who gave the nod to Trump relied on voter history to determine likely voters, a weighting model and voter files.

Their varying decisions on these questions add up to big differences in the result,” according to Nate Cohn in The Upshot report on polling. “In general, the pollsters who used vote history in the likely voter model showed a better result for Mr. Trump.”

Laid bare, the experiment shows “there really is a lot of flexibility for pollsters to make choices that generate a fundamentally different result. You can see why we say it’s best to average polls and to stop fretting so much about single polls.”

Tom Eiland is a CFM partner and the leader of the firm’s research practice. His work merges online research with client communications and engagement efforts, and he has a wide range of clients in the education, health care and transportation sectors. You can reach Tom at tome@cfmpdx.com.

Voters Express Exhaustion Over Campaign Coverage

A Pew Research Center poll shows a majority of Americans are already exhausted from all the news media coverage of the 2016 presidential election – with four more months of campaigning still to go.

A Pew Research Center poll shows a majority of Americans are already exhausted from all the news media coverage of the 2016 presidential election – with four more months of campaigning still to go.

Voters feel exhausted from media coverage of the 2016 presidential election, but not because of too much attention paid to candidate positions on important issues.

A new Pew Research Center Poll conducted from June 7 to July 5 finds 59 percent of respondents worn out from election news with four months of campaigning yet to go. But almost the same number of respondents say they feel shortchanged by the amount of coverage focused on policy questions.

Forty-four percent of respondents think there has been too much attention paid to candidate comments and 43 percent say the personal lives of candidates has also gotten too much ink and air time.

Some 45 percent of respondents believe the candidates' experience level has been overlooked. That view is especially strong among respondents identifying themselves as Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents.

Those expressing the most exhaustion with election coverage are younger adults, women, whites and independents, Pew Research says. Almost two-thirds of 18 to 29 year olds said they are worn out.

A separate Pew Research poll in June gleaned that 65 percent of registered voters felt the presidential campaigns had failed to focus on important policy issues. That view held across party lines. So it is little wonder that Pew Research found 55 percent of respondents thought media coverage of the actual issues was thin.

Respondents had mixed views about coverage of candidates' moral character (30 percent too much, 34 percent too little, 33 percent just right) and who is leading in the polls (37 percent too little, 46 percent just right, 13 percent too little).

An earlier Pew Research survey found relatively strong interest among voters in the 2016 presidential campaign. The amount of coverage is less likely to weigh down close followers of the election (41 percent) and more likely to fatigue those who are barely paying attention (69 percent).

The next few weeks will be chock-full of political coverage as Republicans and Democrats hold their national conventions to nominate their standard bearers. But the 2016 Olympics start in August, which could provide a short reprieve before a barrage of political TV ads begin in the fall.