Presidential polling potholes
One of the nation's leading public opinion pollsters, Scott Rasmussen also is a best-selling author and political analyst. The founder and president of Rasmussen Reports spoke to the Trib regarding the challenges pollsters face in the concluding weeks of a presidential campaign.
Q: How easy is it for presidential polls to go astray?
A: Well, the theory of polling is very easy, but the actual implementation obviously is a lot more challenging. If you were to put it on a scale of difficulty, polling a national presidential election race is much easier than polling a state primary (or a) special election or those sorts of things. I'm fairly confident that by the campaign's final week, we will all have a pretty good idea of how the election will turn out.
Q: Are there any common polling mistakes that occur in a presidential campaign's home stretch?
A: There are a lot of mistakes in the analysis of polls. Sometimes people will take a particular number out of context and build stories around it that really don't merit the attention it (gets). One of the best examples of mistakes so far this year has been the obsession about the gender gap. There is a gender gap. Democrats do about 12 points better among women than they do among men. But there's nothing unusual about that. Barack Obama had a 12-point gender gap over John McCain four years ago. So sometimes a story line like that perhaps gets taken out of context.
Q: What trends will you be examining in the campaign's final weeks?
A: The first thing we'll be looking for is any sense of a real lasting breakout. If you look at likely voter polls over the last couple of months, they all show the race 1 or 2 points apart. If either candidate can open up a sustained lead beyond a couple of points, that obviously would be a significant thing.
Also, one of the things we are keeping a very close eye on right now is the generation gap. Adults under 30 still strongly favor the Democrats. President Obama is still going to do very well among voters under 30. What's interesting, though, is that among voters over 65, Mitt Romney so far is dramatically outperforming John McCain's (2008) totals, and in fact among seniors they are pushing about a 20-point advantage in Romney's direction right now. That's an area the Democrats obviously are hoping to work on with the Medicare issue, and it's going to be one of the more significant things to watch out for between now and Election Day.
Q: Can any direct correlation be made between President Obama's job approval rating and the percentage of the vote he's likely to receive on Election Day?
A: Absolutely. In 2004 on Election Day, our tracking polls showed that George Bush's approval rating was just over 50 percent, and he got just over 50 percent of the vote. If you were to compare President Bush's and President Obama's job approval numbers over the summer (of their re-election campaigns), they were fairly close.
For President Obama, it's not quite where he wants to be but it's not so terrible that he's out of it.
If he gets a couple of good economic reports that have people feeling a little bit better by October heading into November, his numbers should move up enough to give him a victory.
If that doesn't happen, we could be in for a long election night.
Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media (412-320-7857 or email@example.com).
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Burnett writing incredible final chapter
- Alvarez’s walk-off single lifts Pirates over Padres
- Pirates notebook: Four players selected for All-Star Game
- $11.13M project to close section of Pittsburgh’s Mifflin Road
- Torn thumb ligament puts Pirates’ Harrison on 15-day disabled list
- Crazy Mocha owner likes comfort, says shrewd decisions foster growth
- Pair charged with prostitution-related offenses in South Greensburg
- Chicora man charged after entering East Franklin home
- Former McKeesport Area players continue pickup game tradition
- New Ken police arrest cobbler robbery suspects
- East Allegheny school consolidations affect preschool programs