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The United States election process and the impact of political pollingPolitical polls...

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magnotta | Student, Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted June 4, 2012 at 10:56 PM via web

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The United States election process and the impact of political polling

Political polls are a prevalent voting tactic for candidates running for election. Unfortunately, political polls tend to be unreliable at times; they yield inaccurate information and provide a poor indicator of public opinion. Polls inherently rely upon statistics, and for this reason, provide the illusion of numerical certainty. The accuracy of political polls is undermined when considering the deliberate manipulation of question order, interview bias, sample audiences, repetition and wording bias. However, polls remain ubiquitous in national publications.

With the media, as well as the majority of the voting population, taking the results of various political polls into account, do you feel as though the United States relies too heavily on the inaccurate data presented in modern political polls?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 4, 2012 at 11:46 PM (Answer #2)

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I do. Given that some people tend to believe whatever they see on television and Internet, some simply take the things which are reported as factual. Unfortunately for these people, they do not understand the technicalities of what a poll offers. Overall, these polls offer a hypothesis as to what may come, not what will come.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 4, 2012 at 11:49 PM (Answer #3)

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No, I do not think so.  It may be that polls have lost their value because of some of the things that you mention, but I do not think that Americans rely on them too heavily.  I think that many politicians use polls in ways that are not supported by the science.  But everyone knows that politicians and others with a "dog in the fight" will twist anything to their own advantage.  Therefore, we don't give the polls they cite that much credence.

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mwalter822 | Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted June 5, 2012 at 1:23 AM (Answer #4)

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It's hard to say since we rarely actually see what makes certain polls inaccurate. You have to take the polling information as an aggregate indication and not rely on just one or two polls to influence your opinion.

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 5, 2012 at 2:44 AM (Answer #5)

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I agree that most people don't give polls all that much thought. One exception might be exit polls on election day, though. When they are released before polls close, as they sometimes are during presidential elections due to time zone differences, they might keep people at home if they knew their candidate was losing by a large margin.

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dano7744 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted June 11, 2012 at 12:41 PM (Answer #6)

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No, I do not think so because different camps look at these polls in a different light. I think some camps ignore the polls all together. A poll does not make the candidate because they are just tools. Some will argue the reliability and usefulness of these tools.

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lffinj | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted June 15, 2012 at 1:58 AM (Answer #7)

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I do not think all polls are inaccurate.  For example, a pollster, Rasmussen, came very close in accuracy in projecting Obama's win in 2008.  Historically, polls were not accurate, but I think as time goes on, pollsters have become better at achieving accuracy.  Do I think that some polls are misleading, biased and worded to achieve certain answers?  Absolutely.  In some respects, polls do give an overview of the mood of the nation, such as whether the country is going in the right direction.

I think exit polling on election night can hurt the democratic process.  Someone may not go and vote if they think the election has already been decided.  This is unfortunate, because exit polling has been wrong and we should not count on polling to decide whether we should vote or not.  It is our civic duty to do so.

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