Blogs » Your Advocate: an editor's blog » How accurate is polling in 21st century?


I don't know anyone who answers telephone polls in the age of caller ID and cell phones. If that's the case, how accurate are all of the political poll results being tossed around?

Polling experts tell us they can create a random sample, poll those people and gauge public opinion within a small margin of error. Polling is a time-honored tradition in media coverage, although many criticize such horse-race coverage for diverting attention away from the actual campaign issues.

A Pew Center study in 2010 found that one in four American households have cell phones only. I would expect this percentage has climbed considerably in the past two years, making it even more difficult for pollsters to reach their sample audience.

Nonetheless, the media keep trotting out these poll results as if they have some meaning, e.g., the race is tightening, one candidate's lead is wider, then -- gasp -- that gap is narrowing. All of this strikes me as just noise.

But, hey, I don't want to take away your fun if you're a fan of polls. A colleague alerted me to a website called, which collects and averages political polls across the county. Of course, how valuable is this collection if all of the polls are flawed? And the nationwide popularity poll means little because the presidential race is decided by electoral votes.

So don't ask me who is going to win. All I can say with confidence is that Mitt Romney will win the Crossroads. That opinion, though, is not based on any scientific polling.