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Insights: Articles on Public Opinion and Survey Research

A small selection of articles from the pages of our newsletter, The Polling Report:

The Man Who Supposedly Cost George H. W. Bush the Presidency
Ross Perot cost George H. W. Bush the presidency. Or so some reporters and pundits would have us believe. Twenty years on, the legend of Perot-as-spoiler is still with us. Pollster Tim Hibbitts wonders why.

Harry Reid: Withstanding the Wave
"Incumbents who garner positive ratings from fewer than four in ten voters and who post double-digit deficits in match-ups against opponents (in public polls) are not supposed to win...." Pollster Mark Mellman and media strategist Jim Margolis describe how Nevada Senator Harry Reid beat the odds.

The Rise of Robopolling in Calif. in 2010 and Its Implications
Mark DiCamillo, director of The Field Poll, describes the ways in which IVR polls and the surveys conducted by Field differ, and explains why he views results from IVR pollsters with caution.

Court Decisions and Trends in Support for Same-Sex Marriage
Noting that "the tone of the national debate would likely change significantly if support for gay marriage can no longer be written off as a minority viewpoint," Patrick Egan and Nathaniel Persily sift national and state-level poll data for clues about the trajectory of public opinion on this issue.

Delegate Selection and the Democrats' End Game
As the Democratic presidential contenders approach the final laps in the 2008 race for their party's nomination, delegate selection experts Tad Devine and Anthony Corrado explain the rules of the road.

How to Forecast an Election (And How To Win One!)
"The power of the betting markets in assimilating the collective knowledge and wisdom of those willing to back their judgment with money has only increased in recent years as the volume of money wagered has risen dramatically," according to Prof. Leighton Vaughan Williams. "Indeed, by 2004 the Intrade market model went stratospheric in predictive accuracy as the market favorite won the electoral votes of every single state in that yearís U.S. presidential election."

The Case For Publishing (Some) Online Polls
"[T]he trust we have in opinion polls and the different methods they use (whether in person, telephone or online) should be based on empirical evidence of their track record," writes Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll. Taylor lays out the evidence compiled, over the last several years, by Harris Interactive.

A Presidency On Life Support
Less than a year after his reelection, is President Bush's political capital depleted? John Kenneth White analyzes recent polling trends and post-war historical patterns.

The Iowa Poll and the 2004 Caucuses
J. Ann Selzer, director of The Des Moines Registerís Iowa Poll, "offers a bit of Tuesday-morning quarterbacking, describing how our analysis of Iowa Poll data fit the eventual caucus results."

The Clinton Factor in the 2000 Presidential Election
Should Al Gore have run away from -- or with -- Bill Clinton? Thad Beyle examines the poll evidence, state by state.

The National Annenberg Election Survey 2000
100,000 interviews, the National Annenberg Election Survey is the most comprehensive academic survey ever conducted on American political attitudes and behavior. Kate Kenski of the Annenberg Public Policy Center provides an overview of the findings.

The Lewinsky Affair and Popular Support for the President
Richard Brody discusses why, in the face of scandal, Bill Clinton received the best job ratings of his presidency in 1998.

Myth and Reality in Reporting Sampling Error: How the Media Confuse and Mislead Readers and Viewers
Humphrey Taylor explains why a little knowledge is a dangerous thing when it comes to sampling error and supplies a short list of caveats for pollwatchers.

Incumbent Races: Closer Than They Appear
What you see is not what you get in many preelection ballot tests involving incumbents. Nick Panagakis's analysis of why incumbent polls so often appear off the mark changed how political professionals interpret election polling.

Voices of Victory: Focus Group Research in American Politics
"Most pollsters know what voters think, but too few understand how voters feel," notes Frank Luntz. "Unlike traditional quantitative research, focus groups are centrally concerned with understanding attitudes rather than measuring them." A pioneering practitioner of the art of the political focus group, Luntz recaps its use in recent election history, describes state-of-the-art methods, and discusses the limitations of the technique.

Using the Internet for Election Forecasting
In an article written prior to the November 1998 elections, Gordon S. Black and George Terhanian describe an experiment designed to put Internet opinion research to the test by attempting to forecast the outcomes of statewide races using surveys administered via the web.

Courtesy of the National Council on Public Polls:

How Come Pollsters Never Call ME?
Answers to questions about survey research that pollsters are often asked by members of the public, prepared by the National Council on Public Polls.

Accuracy of Election Polls
An NCPP analysis of 2002 statewide election polls.


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