A Small Victory on Polling Transparency
by Chris Bowers, Sat Mar 19, 2005 at 08:44:12 AM EST
This resulted in a very poor campaign narrative during the Presidential general, which I believe inaccurately stated that Bush had a sizable lead in September and that Kerry had a sizable lead in mid-October as the commercial media seized upon the polling information most likely to support either claim. As far as I could tell, neither was the case. I argued that weighting by party ID revealed a more stable campaign narrative that itself was consistent with the total depth and breadth of all polling available. It is the responsibility of the media to provide the public with an accurate snapshot of the Presidential horserace, and I believed that reporting Party ID numbers, registered voter numbers, and the totality of all polling information was necessarily to achieve that desired accuracy.
The ultimate goal is not necessarily for there to be more uniform polling that all weights by party ID, but for there to be better reporting on polls in the media at large. This requires pollsters to be more transparent about their methodology and survey internals, rather than to change their methodologies. By releasing their party ID figures along with their survey reports, Pew and Gallup have done just that. Now the ball is in the media's court. Good for Pew and Gallup. Thank you to Ruy Teixeira, Mystery Pollster, Steve Soto and DemfromCT for their work on this topic. A better informed public has always been the goal, and their efforts have helped to achieve this.
This is a step in the right direction. Now, if only we could get polling firms to publish registered voter numbers along with likely voters until the last two weeks of an election, and to report on the breadth of all polling data available. Of course, the latter might require commercial media outlets to end their exclusive contracts with commercial polling outfits, something that will be far ore difficult for either side to accept. Still, if it results in better reporting and a more nuanced, accurate campaign narrative, it will be for the good of the nation. We need to report all of the polls, all of the internals, and all of the caveats. We have come this far, so there is no reason to stop now.