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Robo-Polls: Taking Cues from Traditional Sources?

  • Joshua D. Clinton (a1) and Steven Rogers (a2)

After the 2012 Republican New Hampshire primary, 159 poll results were released prior to the subsequent nomination contests in the Republican presidential primary. More than two-thirds of these polls relied on interactive voice response (IVR) software to conduct the interviews. We evaluate the ability of polls to predict the vote-share for the Republican candidates Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich. We find no overall difference in the average accuracy of IVR and traditional human polls, but IVR polls conducted prior to human polls are significantly poorer predictors of election outcomes than traditional human polls even after controlling for characteristics of the states, polls, and electoral environment. These findings provide suggestive, but not conclusive, evidence that pollsters may take cues from one another given the stakes involved. If so, reported polls should not be assumed to be independent of one another and so-called poll-of-polls will be misleadingly precise.

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Mark Blumenthal . 2005. “Toward an Open-Source Methodology: What We Can Learn from the Blogosphere.” Public Opinion Quarterly 69 (5): 655–69.

Linchiat Chang , and John A. Krosnick . 2009. “National Surveys via Rdd Telephone Interviewing versus the Internet, Comparing Sample Representativeness and Response Quality.” Public Opinion Quarterly 73 (4): 641–78.

D. Sunshine Hillygus . 2011. “The Evolution of Election Polling in the United States.” Public Opinion Quarterly 75 (5): 962–81.

Sara Kiesler , and Lee S. Sproull . 1986. “Response Effects in the Electronic Survey.” Public Opinion Quarterly 50 (3): 402–13.

Thomas E. Patterson 2005. “Of Polls, Mountains: U.S. Journalists and Their Use of Election Surveys.” Public Opinion Quarterly 69 (5): 716–24.

Nora Cate Schaeffer , and Jennifer Dykema . 2011. “Questions for Surveys: Current Trends and Future Directions.” Public Opinion Quarterly 75 (5): 909–61.

Herbert Weisberg . 2005. The Total Survey Error Approach: A Guide to the New Science of Survey Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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PS: Political Science & Politics
  • ISSN: 1049-0965
  • EISSN: 1537-5935
  • URL: /core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics
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