Pollsters sometimes match a “generic” Republican or Democratic candidate against an incumbent, or use a generic ballot to forecast which party is ahead in congressional elections. How to read these polls.
In every campaign cycle, pollwatchers pay close attention to the details of every election survey. And well they should. But focusing on the partisan balance of surveys is, in almost every circumstance, the wrong place to look.
A new analysis of Pew Research Center pre-election surveys conducted this year finds that support for Republican candidates was significantly higher in samples based only on landlines than in dual frame samples that combined landline and cell phone interviews. The difference in the margin among likely voters this year is about twice as large as in 2008.
Data from Pew Research Center polling this year suggest that the landline-only bias is as large, and potentially even larger, than it was in 2008.
With fully a quarter of the U.S. adult population now relying solely on cell phone service, pollsters and other survey researchers face a difficult decision as to whether to include cell phones in their samples. A joint study by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Internet & American Life Project takes an up-to-date look at the potential biases in findings based on landline-only surveys.
Perhaps the best way to think about public opinion and its relationship to politics and policymaking is that the American public is typically short on facts, but often long on judgment.
Despite such challenges as a growing wireless-only population, possible racially-related response bias and greater-than-usual difficulties in forecasting turnout, polllsters' methods were evidently adequate to the task.
The latest study of Pew Research Center election surveys analyzes the effects of conducting both landline and cell phone interviews. While the addition of cell phones had at most a modest effect on estimates of candidate support in individual surveys, when looked at in the aggregate clear patterns emerge.
Findings from Pew Research Center polls over the year told the story of the longest -- and one of the most exciting -- presidential elections in U.S. history as well as recording the public's reactions to other major events ranging from the pope's visit, to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the onset of a mega-economic downturn.