Uselessness of Polls


There is rarely a day when we are not being told by the media about the latest poll results about any kind of issue, be it nationwide, statewide or local. And like the vast majority of people, we read them and waste no time thinking about them, there is seldom a poll that is at best being acknowledged or talked about for more than a day. There are more important things in life!

In this context, one has to wonder why these various polling firms are ignoring this and just keep on polling, asking the same or different people questions about issues, topics and political candidates. Do they, these pollsters, really believe that we like to know on a daily basis how the nearly twenty presidential candidates are doing in the latest polls? Especially this early in the race with the earliest primaries still nearly five months away and the general election slightly less than fifteen months away.

When we take a closer look at these polls, the sample sizes for the vast majority are at or below a thousand people asked. And then we get with that some accuracy factor of plus/minus 3 to 4 percent, whoopee. In a country with a population of 300 million people, those polls should be taken seriously, right? We don’t think so! Do not get us wrong here at ‘Back to Common Sense’, we do not care that they are polling daily.  However, our question is: Why do the collective media outlets think that we, the population, care about those results and in fact, cannot get enough of them?

Let’s be serious. Does it at this point in time really matter that, for instance, Hillary Clinton is up by 15 or 20 points over Barack Obama in the polls? Or that Rudi Guiliani is ahead in nationwide polls on the Republican side on a certain Wednesday in June or July 2007? These poll results are truly useless to anybody except as advertisement for the campaigns of the various candidates. And yet, they do their own polling and, based on the results of other polls, either believe them or make fun of them as being totally unreliable. So much for that important fact!

Another significant element of polls is the way the questions are posted. Over the many years of nationwide polling these firms have developed ways to make the respondents answer in ways that can tremendously influence the outcome of such polls. We do not think that we have to explain that here. All we are saying is that polls can be and are being manipulated in the way the questions are stated and the cross section of those being polled. Therefore, these early polls are meaningless and we shall treat them as such: Useless! Not until clear choices are in front of people, in other words, when it comes down to the two final presidential candidates or even the presidential tickets in either major party can we expect some kind of approximate accuracy from the polling firms. Especially from those who are using a method of ‘roll-over polls’, this is where they poll daily and combine the results to get firmer results and detect trends, be they upward, steady or downward for candidates. We believe that point in time to be about eleven months away after the Democrat and Republican Party conventions next summer. We will talk polls then!

This article and others on Back to Common Sense are designed to provoke further thought and investigation.   It is not the intent for the articles to be politically biased. Sources are referenced in each article to encourage readers to delve into the supporting material.  We welcome all readers to participate with their point of view either in support or contrary with additional information sources.


One Response to Uselessness of Polls

  1. […] polling companies will share their totally useless poll results with all of us. As stated in “Uselessness of Polls”, a previous column on this website: Who cares at this […]

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