Does political polling accurately represent the views of a nation?

Asked on by magnotta

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is a very difficult question to answer because polls do and do not accurately represent the views of a nation.

They accurately represent the views of the nation because any poll that is done well is randomized and has an adequate sample size.  This means that the results will approximate what everyone in the nation would have said, within the stated margin of error.

But the problem is that the questions may not really get to people's true beliefs.  That is, the questions may not be asked in such a way as to really be able to uncover what people think.  For example, someone might be asked whether they approve or disapprove of something and the answer might be somewhere in between.  They might be asked if they support tax increases, and the answer might be something like "yes, but only if they go for certain types of spending."  That is not usually an option on a survey and so the survey doesn't get to the person's true feelings.

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