Why we average polls

September 19, 2016 - Ames, IA.

Here’s the NYT pollster, who gave the same set of data to four different pollsters. Guess what happened?

Well, well, well. Look at that. A net five-point difference between the five measures, including our own, even though all are based on identical data. Remember: There are no sampling differences in this exercise. Everyone is coming up with a number based on the same interviews.

Their answers shouldn’t be interpreted as an indication of what they would have found if they had conducted their own survey. They all would have designed the survey at least a little differently – some almost entirely differently.

But their answers illustrate just a few of the different ways that pollsters can handle the same data – and how those choices can affect the result.

So what’s going on? The pollsters made different decisions in adjusting the sample and identifying likely voters. The result was four different electorates, and four different results.

I remember trying to explain polling variables to C&L readers, and got raked over the coals by people calling me a shill because I said polls showed Hillary winning.

2 thoughts on “Why we average polls

  1. It’s a shame C&L got infested with the purity police. I got run off for defending Hillary. The sexism was what you’d expect at Breitbart.

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